Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project Home
Goldthorpe and Berndt - The Mount Pilchuck Ski Area Story
John Goldthorpe was Mt Pilchuck Ski Patrol Director from 1976-78. Timothy Berndt was Patrol Director from 1978-80. The Mt Pilchuck ski area was born in 1951, when the state parks commission gave a permit to the Mt Pilchuck Ski Club to develop a ski area. It's not clear what, if any, facilities the club installed at the time, but the authors write that "in 1953 a lack of snow caused the closing of the ski area." Following this attempt, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission (WSPRC) obtained a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to develop and maintain a ski area at Cedar Flats. The Mt Pilchuck Ski Area, under this new agreement, was launched by John Colter and his mother in 1956. The area began with one rope tow. The Mt Pilchuck Ski Patrol was started that year.
In 1958 the day lodge was constructed. Also in 1958 the entire area legally became the Mt Pilchuck State Park. Creation of the park involved a land exchange agreement between USFS and WSPRC, but the exchange never took place. This led to problems later. By 1963, Pilchuck had three rope tows. The main chairlift was built for the 1963-64 ski season and the lower chairlift was added in 1967, giving Mt Pilchuck Ski Area one of the largest vertical rises in the Northwest. The authors describe a pattern of snowfall extremes, with lean snow years and years with too much snow to operate. Ownership of the mountain concession rights changed hands several times, the final owners being Steve Richter and Heather Recreation, Inc.
The winters of 1977 and 1978 were poor snow years. In 1976-77, the area was open 2-1/2 months and in 1977-78 just three weeks. 1977-78 was the last winter of operation of Mt Pilchuck Ski Area. The following year, in 1978-79, the ski area was passed back and forth between USPRC and USFS, with each agency blaming the other for lack of movement on a concession-lease agreement. Finally, due to uncertainty over their ability to renew the lease, Heather Recreation, Inc. decided not to continue operation. The authors write that it was the inability of government entities to get together and make a decision that really killed the area, not poor snow conditions or financial problems of the ski area operators. The authors also blame Governor Dixy Lee Ray for working to kill the state's only winter recreation park.
Return to the Alpenglow Ski Mountaineering History Project home page