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Skiing on Mount Shasta

Snowman's Hill

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Location

Today Snowman's Hill is known for its sledding and toboggan run, but in the 1930s it was famous for its ski jumping. The Mount Shasta Snowmen was organized by local merchants in early 1931, as illustrated by a letter from Niles Pease dated February 7, 1931 that mentions the "recently organized winter sports club, called the Mount Shasta Snowmen" and a February 6, 1931 article in the Klamath News entitled "Mt. Shasta Snowmen Organize in Order to Promote Sports."

Map of Snowman's Hill
Map showing location of Snowman's Hill
Image courtesy of the Sisson Museum

When Snowman's Hill first opened during the 1930-31 winter season, it was described as being located on the summit between Mount Shasta City and McCloud on the Shasta-Lassen Highway off the Pacific Highway. Today it would be described as being located on Highway 89 across from the exit to the Mt. Shasta Ski & Board Park, less than ten miles off Interstate 5.

Winter Sports Activities and Amenities

While Snowman's Hill was best known for ski jumping, many different winter sports were available here. In addition to having Class A, B, C, and D ski jumps, the Hill offered cross-country and downhill skiing as well as toboggan and sled runs. At least one of the jumps was built utilizing a natural hill and became one of the most popular ski jumps in the western United States. Both Snowman's Hill and the Snowmen's club were very popular. The Mount Shasta Snowmen frequently sponsored dances as fund raisers.

Snowman's Hill ski pass
On Snowman's Hill near Mt. Shasta, California circa 1933
Postcard by Eastman's Studio courtesy of Debbie Harton

During the first several years of operation there were not any mechanical devices that assisted the skiers in moving upslope.

Shevlin Pine logo courtesy of Heritage Junction of McCloud In the fall of 1932 a warming hut, Snowman's Lodge, was built with Shevlin siding in order to serve hot meals and beverages on the weekends (Mount Shasta Herald, October 27, 1932 in the 65 YEARS AGO column of the January 28, 1998 issue). In 1933 the Mountain House Beer Garden opened at the base of Snowman's Hill (Mount Shasta Herald, July 13, 1933).

The Mount Shasta Snowmen were active during the summer as well. They helped J. M. Olberman build what is now called Olberman's Causeway at Horse Camp, hiked to glaciers on Mount Shasta, shot off fireworks from the summit on the 4th of July, and made excursions to places such as Pluto Cave, Castle Crags, and Mount Eddy.

The Snowmen's Logo

Snowman's Hill ski pass
1932 Snowman's Hill Season Ski Pass
Image courtesy of Dick Whitaker

Lloyd Sal Dane, a local business owner in Mount Shasta City, designed the Snowmen's emblem. The logo is a wry, rather fit, snowman. This snowman has legs, of course, so it can ski jump. The Medium-sized wooden sign of Mount Shasta Snowmen's logo. snowman keeps its arms spread out in true ski jumper fashion. An early ski pass (see above) has the snowman on skiis. In later years the Snowmen's snowman received a new pair of skiis.

In 1933 the Mount Shasta High School shop class made a wooden cutout sign about 15 feet tall and 6 feet wide in the shape of the Snowmen's snowman and placed at the intersection of Highway 99 and the Shasta-Lassen Highway. This huge sign was popular as a backdrop for group pictures (Mount Shasta Herald, October 5, 1933 in the 65 YEARS AGO column of the September 30, 1998 issue). In 1935 the snowman sign "received a new dress" from the local painter Phil Carnine. The sign is still in existence today.

Exhibitions and Tournaments

Two of the Engen brothers performing first double-jump on the Hill, early 1930s
Two of the Engen brothers performing first double-jump on the Hill, circa 1932
Photograph courtesy of Sisson Museum

The Mount Shasta Snowmen's club began organizing exhibitions and tournaments beginning with the 1931-32 ski season. The first Professional Ski Jumping Exhibition was held on January 23-24, 1932. Performing were Alf Engen, who had recently made a new world record with a 266 foot jump at Salt Lake City and who won a total of 16 ski championships during his career; his brother Sverre Engen, the youngest professional ski jumper at the time; Lars Haugen, a seven-times National Ski Jumping Champion (1912, 1915, 1918, 1922, 1924, 1927, 1928); and the Snowmen's own Sig Ulland, who was the 1938 United States National Ski Jumping Champion. The Southern Pacific Railroad brought sightseers to Mount Shasta while the McCloud River Railroad ran a special train between Mount Shasta and McCloud, dropping off observers at Snowman's Hill. A concert was given by the Snowman's 50-piece concert band in the afternoon prior to the ski jump, and a dance was held at the Weed Hippodrome afterwards.

The first official tournament held at Snowman's Hill was the California Professional Ski Jumping Championship held on February 18, 1933. It was declared one of the best shows "ever staged on the Pacific Coast," (Mount Shasta Herald, February 23, 1933) although attendence was not as high as expected due to a week's delay of the event. The professional ski jumpers included world champion Alf Engen, Lars Haugan, Hvalor Hvalstad, Sig Ulland, Ted Rex, and Steffen Tragstad. There were also amateur events, including a 100-yard race for young boys and girls with Helen Carlberg winning first place; a 200-yard race for older girls and ladies, with Norma Glenn coming in first and Mrs. Glenn in second place; a half-mile "free-for-all" race won by William Glenn; a three-mile race for men and boys, won by Robert Hvam; a downhill race, won by Larry Evanson; and Class A, B, and C ski jumps, won by Robert Hvam, Fisk Lambert, and Arthur McMurry, respectively. Like the previous year's event, the Snowmen's band held a concert prior to the contest, but this year they had a new grandstand. Food was being served at the new Snowman's Lodge and a dance was held at the Weed Hippodrome that evening. Shortly after this event Johanne Kohlstead of Norway agreed to an exhibition ski jump on March 30, 1933 (Mount Shasta Herald, March 30, 1933 in the 65 YEARS AGO column of the March 25, 1998 issue).

Women's ski jumping world champion, Johanne Kolstead from Norway, performing exhibition ski jump at Snowman's Hill, March 1933.
Women's ski jumping world champion, Johanne Kohlstead from Norway,
performing exhibition ski jump at Snowman's Hill in March 1933.

Image courtesy of Dick Whitaker

Events of this sort were also held in 1934 and 1936. The event on February 1-2, 1936 was declared "the West's greatest ski meet" and "the greatest ski event ever staged in Northern California, if not in the west" in the Mount Shasta Herald the week before and after the event. Snow conditions were not great that year, resulting in "a number of thrilling spills" (Mount Shasta Herald, February 6, 1936). Sig Ulland took first place in the Class A jump, Arthur McMurray took third place in the Class C jump, and Bobby Wetzel took third place in the Class D jump.

World War II's Impact on Snowman's Hill

MPG videoclip of ski jumping at Snowman's Hill in 1942.
MPG videoclip of ski jumping at Snowman's Hill in 1942
Courtesy of the United States Forest Service.

The War, along with changing fads, brought a temporary end to the winter sports center at Snowman's Hill (Christman, 1985). The traditional fall work crews, however, were still in place during the 1950s. Three Snowmen attended a class at Squaw Valley to learn the "new parallel skiing techniques" (Mount Shasta Herald, January 8, 1953 in the 65 YEARS AGO column of the January 7, 1998 issue). A T-bar was installed in 1956 and night skiing in 1957 (Sisson Museum, June 2001).

Skiing on Snowman's Hill in the 1950s
Skiing on Snowman's Hill in the 1950s
Photograph courtesy of Sisson Museum

After the development of the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl in 1959, the Mt. Shasta Ski Bowl Ski Club and the Mount Shasta Snowmen merged into one group incorporating the Snowmen's label (Mount Shasta Herald, December 3, 1959). The January 7, 1960 Mount Shasta Herald article Snowmen to Sell Rope Tow at Snowman Hill heralded the end of an era for Snowman's Hill. However, the site is still enjoyed to this day by sledding enthusiasts.

 

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