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Ski Lodge History

Northwest Skier
Oct 18, 1963, p. 1:
"New Chairlift Transforms Pilchuck, Savage School Director" *
A new chairlift at Mt Pilchuck this season will transform one of the Northwest's older ski areas "from a rope tow area to a full-sized mountain." A new 4,000-foot long double chairlift is being completed from the 3,100 foot level to 4,300 feet on Mt Pilchuck. Dick Werner is executive vice president of Pilchuck Park Lifts, Inc., and Wendy Carlson is area manager. George Savage is ski school director. The 12-1-61 issue (p.4) reported on a drive to raise capital for this chairlift and includes some background on the ski area. The 10-16-64 issue (p.5) has a display advertisement for the expanded area. The 3-17-67 issue (p.4) has a Mt Pilchuck profile and the 3-38-69 issue (p.31) says "Mt Pilchuck excels in courtesy." The chairlift below the lodge was apparently built between 1967 and 1969. The 10-24-69 issue describes "interim facilities" (portable buildings) added at Pilchuck.

Dec 19, 1965, Pictorial p. 6
Johnston, Richard, "Mt Pilchuck Ski Area--It Grows by Degrees"
The Mt Pilchuck Ski Area was originally a small clearing near the bottom of the mountain operated by the Everett and Pilchuck Ski Clubs. Mt Pilchuck was designated as a state park 15 years ago. In 1958, the state constructed a lodge that includes rest rooms, snack bar, and eating facilities for skiers. A chairlift (4,000 long and 1,200 feet high with a mid-station) was put into operation in the fall of 1963. This article includes photos of skiers, facilities, and scenery at the area.

Oct 30, 1970, p. 3:
"Mt. Pilchuck ski area sold"
Mt Pilchuck ski area has been sold to two avid Bellingham skiers, Dick Mahlberg, a 10th Mountain Division veteran, and Franz X. Gable, former Austrian Olympic silver medalist. The 2-19-71 issue (p.9) describes Mt Pilchuck operation under their management.

Jan 5, 1979, p. 2:
"The Dilemma at Mt. Pilchuck"
When operators of the Mt Pilchuck ski area applied for an extension of their lease, the Forest Service rejected their expansion plans. Ski area spokesman Gary Barrett said that in order to be economically viable, the area needs to expand. "If our ten-year operating plans allow for expansion, then we won't get a lease renewal. On the other hand, if we can't expand, we can't operate. It's a double bind." The area did not operate in 1977-78 and does not expect to operate in 1978-79, due to uncertainty about its lease.

In the 2-20-79 issue (p.2) Joe Nadolski of the Forest Service offered the agency's view of the problem. "It's not that we don't want to see skiing up there. It's just that we haven't seen much skiing there since the area opened. That's the major reason for rejecting the lease renewal and expansion proposal. It's a low altitude area and it's often that there's no snow. We weren't responsible for Pilchuck's closure the past two seasons; the weather did them in." The area opened in the 1950s when a private ski club from Everett leased the land. By 1956, the operators received a special lease permit good for thirty years. Pilchuck applied for an extension of the lease to run for another twenty years and the Forest Service rejected it, maintaining that the area is inherently poor for skiing.

Written Communication, 15 March 2002 To Lowell Skoog
Robert O'Callahan sent me information about skiing at Mt Pilchuck, based on his own recollections and on the 1980 writeup by Goldthorpe and Berndt. This information later appeared on his website at
http://www.roc-cfo.com/Pilchuck.htm.

The Mt Pilchuck ski area was located 34 miles east of Everett in Mt Pilchuck State Park. There were two double chairs (one above and one below the lodge) and four rope tows. The top of the upper chair was at 4,300' and the bottom of the lower chair was at 2,500'. Lift passes were $1-2 in 1958 (with one rope tow) and $3.50 in 1962-63 (with three rope tows). In 1963-64, when the upper chair opened, there was fifty-two feet of snow at the top of the lift. The lower lift, installed in 1967, was lighted for night skiing.

The area was operated in 1970-71 by Franz Gabl and Dick Mahlberg then taken over by Heather Recreation, Inc., led by Steve Richter and Joel Burke. An extensive building program added a new lodge and other facilities. In the late 1970s, problems renewing the ski area operating permit led to the area's closure on May 30, 1980.

The author mentions noteworthy people associated with the area including ski school director George Savage, instructor and eventual area operator Steve Richter, 1948 Olympic silver medalist Franz Gabl, and 10th Mountain veteran Dick Mahlberg. In the 1970s, the Pilchuck Ski Patrol was the team to beat in regional patrol competitions. Finally, the author recalls the personal challenge of skiing at this area. He went directly from Mt Pilchuck to a season at Aspen in 1972, where he won Dick Barrymore's pioneer freestyle mogul contest on the Ridge of Bell, Ajax Mountain: "With the area closed, people won't understand the challenge involved in skiing Mount Pilchuck's main chair. The forested areas and clearings on both sides of the chair were effectively off limits because of the upper chair cliff line. The cliff line was only milder at The Funnel, where skiers could generally negotiate the terrain, with that section of the run followed by a short gentler section before The Headwall cliff line and a major cross-slope ravine separating the top half from the lower half of the chair. The lower section of the main chair posed interesting problems, as the sharply-ravined slope was webbed by creek drainages. The awesome wet snowfalls, unpacked steep grades and frequent rains provided often-difficult snow surfaces. With no choice of named runs on the main chair which was free of trees in a wide swath under the chair line, the area might appear simple from a map until actually skiing it fast and non-stop. At that point the rolling, rough and constantly changing fall line presented significant challenges."