Main Chair Vertical Drop: 1,200'
Top: 4,300'Base: 3,100'
Area was pioneered in 1951 when the Washington State Parks Commission gave
a permit to the Mt. Pilchuck Ski Club
to develop a ski area.This project experienced
some difficulty and the Washington State Parks Commission obtained a special
use permit from the USFS to develop and maintain a ski area at the ultimate
location, with the area located on both state and federal land.The
area was opened by John Colter and his
mother in 1956 with one rope tow.In 1957 a low
snow year permitted the area to operate for a single day.In
1958 the Frankhauser family took over
the operation and built the day lodge located at the parking lot at the
3,000’ foot level.This was the year it became legally
In 1962-63, Dick and Sal Werner and Pilchuck Park Lifts became the area owner and three rope tows were in place.Two were located near the area which was to be the base of the main chair, and one high speed lift ran up the main lift slope, on the west side of the cleared run. At this time, one could ski for $3.50 per day. The main Riblet chair arrived for the 1963-64 season and met a snowfall that was 52 feet deep at the top and 14.5 feet at the lodge.The area was buried and closed for three weeks until ways were shoveled for the chairs. This chairlift had loading stations at the bottom and the middle of the chair.
Two years of hill grooming work in 1965 and 1966 were followed by the 1967 installation of the lower chair which extended down gentler slopes below the lodge.Lighted for night skiing, this chair extended the usability of the area for beginners, ski instruction and longer hours of operation.The area was operated 1970-71 by Franz Gabl and Dick Moberg and was then taken over by Heather Recreation, Inc., led by Steve Richter and Joel Burke.An extensive building program added a new lodge, bierstube and equipment rental facilities above the parking lot.Although most of the skiing was in the area bounds, locals did occasionally hike up from the upper terminal located close to the “Little Pilchuck” promontory and traverse to ski snowfields on the mountain’s Larrison Ridge to the east, ending up returning to the base area around the 3000’ foot level.
shortages led to a limited season in 1976 and operating permit renewals
became a factor in continued operations.The USFS
was unwilling to support an extended renewal of the special use permit,
and the Parks Commission was ineffective in securing a land exchange that
might permit the entire operation to be located on state park property.
Heather Recreation, Inc. was unable to receive assurances of a longer-term
lease on the area and was forced in 1979-80 to dispose of the lift equipment
that it had stockpiled for expansion into the west side bowls and to remove
the two existing chairs.This lift equipment all ended
Skiing personalities associated with the area were:
George Savage, the early
Steve Richter, ski instructor, ski school director and ultimately area operator with his close associate Joel Burke, two of the fine skiers coming from this small ski area.Steve was on the Northwest Demo Team and an 8th Interski Team member.
Franz Gabl, the Austrian silver medallist in the downhill during the 1948 Olympics (and a veteran of the German Eastern Front) who teamed up to run the area for the 1970-71 season with Dick Moberg, a Tenth Mountain Division veteran of the WWII Italian mountain campaign.
Christianson, area manager during 1966, who ran the
dedicated Mt. Pilchuck Ski Patrol was
led from 1956 to 1980 by Jim Steak, Bob Orr, Pete Morton, Manny Chaus,
Del Poindexter, Jerry Hautamaki, Everett
Thompson, Reuben Gonzales, Louis Payne, John Goldthorpe
and finally Timothy Berndt.Their first aid facility
located next to the main lodge was a center of the area’s skiing community.Pilchuck
also produced a Ski Patrol that was feared at every patrol competition.
No team, including
Baker and Dale Potvin moved from Pilchuck
Bob LeBarron moved from ski instructor to several years on the circuit as equipment tech for Hank Kashiwa, US, Olympic and Pro Skiing champion.
What I liked about Pilchuck’s skiing
the area closed, people won’t understand the challenge involved in skiing
skiing fast, the rolling terrain, rough structure and constantly changing
fall line presented complex challenges.I went directly
I also had some fun days with Rich Hjortskiing the cliffline on both sides of The Funnel, where you were never sure whether you were going to be skiing a steep run or finding a large cliff.This wasn’t far off the run but it was definitely not in a ski area.
---Bob O’Callahan (Sq)