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Skiing on Mount Shasta

Old Ski Bowl

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The Ski Bowl is a cirque formed by glaciation during the Pleistocene. Green Butte, on the west side of the bowl, is one of the most prominent landforms. Along Sargents Ridge, an arete, the Thumb Rock cirques and Shastarama Point are also impressive features.


Panorama of the Old Ski Bowl
Photographs by Linda Freeman, June 23, 2001

The development of the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl required extensive effort and cooperation between many public and private agencies. One of the first necessary steps was the construction of a new fourteen mile highway from Highway 99 to the Ski Bowl along a route formerly called the Mount Shasta Snowline Road (Mount Shasta Herald, May 15, 1930). Then Senator Randolph Collier, director of the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl corporation, helped assure this was approved by the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads in 1956 (The Dunsmuir News, May 22, 1956). The new highway was named the Everitt Memorial Highway after John Samuel Everitt, Supervisor of the Shasta National Forest who lost his life in the Bear Springs Fire on Shasta in 1934 (Mount Shasta Herald, September 6, 1934). The new highway, constructed in two phases, cost $980,000 and was completed in October 1958 (The Dunsmuir News, October 16, 1958). Power also had to be brought to the region, with COPCO receiving the bid to install power lines to the ski area (The Dunsmuir News, June 27, 1957 reprint). Two springs supplied the water, which was stored in a 60,000 gallon tank and gravity fed to the facilities (Mel Borgersen & Associates, April 1971).

The Ski Bowl is located on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and so the land had to be leased in order to develop a ski area. In October, 1955 the Mt. Shasta Chair Lift Development Committee obtained the funds necessary to hire Heron Engineering Company of Colorado to conduct a survey and prepare a report for the Forest Service (Siskiyou Daily News, October 25, 1955). Heron Engineering submitted the report, entitled "Prospectus for Winter and Summer Development on Mt. Shasta in the Shasta-Trinity Forests, California," to the Forest Service in July 1956. The Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl corporation had formed in March of 1956 and they were awarded the bid for the development (Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl report for Grand Opening, September 1, 1958).

Location of proposed ski lift in the Ski Bowl and tramway to Shastarama
Location of proposed ski lift in the Ski Bowl and tramway to Shastarama
Original photo taken during a snow survey on January 17, 1958
Dunsmuir News Photo

The parking lot of the Old Ski Bowl is located at 7,800 feet. The lodge built to accompany the biggest ski bowl in the United States was designed by Tak Enomoto to be as "cool and beautiful as carved from the snow." The Ski Bowl Lodge, as well as the lift, was completed by the fall of 1958. The first lift carried skiers from 7,850 feet to over 9,200 feet for a run of 6,400 feet (Mel Borgersen & Associates, April 1971). From the beginning, a second lift was planned to Shastarama Point, but this project never came to pass.

Postcard of Lodge at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl courtesy of Debbie Harton
Lodge at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl
Postcard of Lodge at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl courtesy of Debbie Harton

The Heron Engineering Company of Colorado received the bid to design and build the double chair lift. They first hired Aaron Richardson to build the access road for the thirty towers and have cement hauled in (Mount Shasta Herald, July 18, 1958). Dan Padilla, manager of a local building supply company, supplied the building materials and the Ralph Smith Mill in Mount Shasta supplied some of the specialty lumber for the lift (news article entitled "Role of Diamond Gardner in Ski Bowl Job Told", no date or source available). A newspaper article dated August 21, 1958 showed the steel towers of the lower terminal with a bull wheel and its 16,000 pound counterweight. In early October 1958, the 1-1/2 inch cable had been spliced and installed, power had reached the site, and the lift was inspected (The Dunsmuir News October 2, 1958; San Francisco Chronicle, October 12, 1958).

Postcard of chair lift at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl courtesy of Debbie Harton
Green Butte Chair Lift at Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl
Postcard courtesy of Debbie Harton

The original lift ran along the east side of Green Butte and was later named the Green Butte Lift after a new 2,000 foot long lift named the Panther Creek Chair was installed on the east side of the Ski Bowl in 1973. The Penny Royal T-bar, constructed prior to the 1964-65 season, was located in the forested area south of Green Butte between 7,390 feet and 7,990 feet for a run of 3,000 feet (Mel Borgersen & Associates, April 1971; various old Ski Bowl documents and clippings from USFS). An advantage of the new T-bar was that if the uppermost part of Everitt Memorial Highway was closed, the facilities could still be reached via the T-bar, which was located further down the road. It also provided access to Powder Bowl, a cirque on the west side of Green Butte (L. Lyman, personal communication June 26, 2001).

When the Ski Bowl first opened on January 12, 1959 thousands of skiers flocked to the slopes. The headline for the January 29, 1959 issue of the Mount Shasta Herald was "Over 6,000 at Ski Bowl During Last Weekend." The February 5, 1959 issue claimed "Ski Bowl Guest Total Rises With Each Weekend." The February 19, 1959 issue showed a picture of chartered buses from the Bay Area waiting for Everitt Memorial Highway to be cleared after the record-breaking storm. The high skier turnouts continued in 1960. The "Sitzmarks" column of the January 14, 1960 issue of the Mount Shasta Herald stated, "A large crowd of ski enthusiasts dotted the sloped of the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl Saturday and Sunday...", including the Australian Olympic ski team. The following week's issue (January 21, 1960) claimed "1,300 At Ski Bowl Over Last Weekend." Available records of skier turnout from the early years of the ski area are shown in the table below.

Season
November
December
January
February
March
April
Total
1961-62
--
5557
3768
3680
2745
4726
20476
1962-63
286
15379
4985
11284
7590
4377
43901
1963-64
2289
6781
4722
6624
5599
--
26015
1964-65
1879
3539
4333
6561
5474
--
21786
1965-66
3031
3970
1316
4500
4223
5310
22350
1966-67
3234
5395
2688
4790
4250
1993
22350
1967-68
--
2609
1478
5804
8841
3783
22515
1968-69*
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
17850
1969-70*
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
27225
1970-71*
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
NA
31370

Source: An Area Evaluation and Proposed Master Plan Program
Prepared for the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl Corporation by Mel Borgersen & Associates, April 1971
and *Ticket Sales Use Figures reported to Supervisor's Office on March 17, 1972

Although hopes were high for the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl, the 1962-63 season is the only one that returned a profit for the stockholders of Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl (Mount Shasta Herald, March 29, 1973 issue in 25 YEARS AGO section of March 25, 1998 issue). The first era of developed skiing in the Ski Bowl on Mount Shasta came to an end with the October 29, 1971 fire that destroyed the $250,000 lodge. The headline article in Redding's Record Searchlight, entitled "Shasta Ski Lodge destroyed by fire," noted that "the fire is the latest bad news for the corporation's 1,500 stockholders." A smaller lodge was rebuilt and the facilities reopened around Thanksgiving of that year, but it was the last year for Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl.

The 1971-72 ski season opened not only with a new lodge but with a new name as well, Ski Shasta. Another chair lift, the Panther Creek Chair Lift, was installed in 1973. Various articles indicated that skiing was good in the early 1970s. In November 1972 "nearly 1,100 skiers made the winter opening of Ski Shasta the largest in many years" (Mount Shasta Herald, November 23, 1972 issue in 25 YEARS AGO section of November 26, 1997 issue). The March 29, 1973 issue of the Mount Shasta Herald (in 25 YEARS AGO section of March 25, 1998 issue) stated that "The Ski Shasta ski area set a record for gross income this year so far, according to an announcement by the manager Monday. So far the receipts have exceeded those of 1962, the only year the old Ski Bowl showed a profit." In December 1974, "Crowds of skiers were drawn to the Ski Shasta slopes...and drew a near record of 2,300 skiers over the weekend..." (Mount Shasta Herald, December 12, 1974 issue in 25 YEARS AGO section of December 8, 1999 issue). January and February issues of 1976 also indicated skiing was good.

In January 1978 an avalanche took out the Green Butte Chair Lift, ending the second ski development on the mountain, Ski Shasta. The Old Ski Bowl, as it is commonly called, is now favored by backcountry boarders and skiers during the winter and hiking enthusiasts in the summer.

1959-1978 Ski Bowl MPG Videoclips courtesy of Lutie Lyman
1959-1978 Ski Bowl MPG Videoclips
Courtesy of Lutie Lyman
 

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