Snow Day!

While it can make the morning commute an even bigger headache, this week’s sudden snowstorm has been a blessing to those hoping to hit the slopes this weekend. In honor of the beautiful yet sometimes pesky snow, take a look at Summit West circa 1962!

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Double Chairlift and new Skihaus Restaurant, Lodge, and Gift Shop

At a height of 3,865 feet, Summit West, also known simply as Snoqualmie, is the family and beginner ski slope at Snoqualmie Pass. Operated by the same company as Alpental, Summit East, and Summit Central, it features two quad chair lifts, one triple chair lift, four double chair lifts, two doube chair lifts, and one handle-tow lift.

Public use of the area dates back to 1933 when the City of Seattle operated a city ski park named Municipal Park. Seven years later locals objected, saying that Seattle was too far away from the area (about 46 miles) to claim it as a city park. The city relented and sold the park to Ski Lifts, Inc. who changed the park’s name to Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area. Shortly after, the new owners installed a rope-tow.

Although business was spotty during the war years, Webb Moffet, the owner of Ski Lifts Inc., focused on developing the area to attract more visitors. Nighttime skiing arrived in the late 1940s when Moffett installed gas station lights along the slopes to allow employees the chance to ski after hours. Soon paying guests were staying for nighttime skiing as well, making Snoqualmie the second place in the country to offer this type of skiing.

Snoqualmie Summit continued to grow throughout the 1950s. Thunderbird, the summit’s first chairlift, opened in 1954. Two years later, Thunderbird Restaurant opened at the top of the summit, offering skiers warm food and majestic mountain views. The completion of Skihaus, a restaurant, lodge, and gift shop, completed the Summit’s status as a wintertime tourist destination.

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SNOQUALMIE SUMMIT SKI AREA, WASHINGTON, 46 miles from Seattle on Highway #10, is a popular resort with its double chairlift (shown in foreground), three PomaLifts, twelve rope tows, Thunderbird Restaurant at top of chairlift and new SKIHAUS — recently completed fabulous lodge.

Ski Lifts, Inc. operated Summit West and its surrounding summits through 1998, when it sold to Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. Thunderbird Restaurant closed in 1990, due at least partly to the lack of running water and indoor plumbing.

Although renovated and hardly recognizable if not for it’s sharply sloped roof, Skihaus still exists. Now Webb’s Restaurant, it continues to serve thousands of hungry skiers every season.

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Airplane Curve Snowshed, 1950s

This 1950s-era postcard shows a Tri-5 Chevrolet traveling eastward on Highway 10, presently I-90.
This 1950s-era postcard shows a Tri-5 Chevrolet traveling eastward on Highway 10, presently I-90.

To improve safety on what was then Highway 10, the State Department of Highways planned for two snowsheds to be built over sections of the westbound lanes, totaling 1,800 feet. Bids for construction were called in February of 1950, and were awarded to C.V. Wilder Co. and Gaasland Co. Inc., both of Bellingham, WA. Construction began in the fall and progressed quickly due to the use of precast construction. The project was scheduled to be finished by November 1, 1950 at a total cost of $1,120,000.

The snowshed pictured on the postcard above was the larger of the two. Located at Airplane Curve, about a mile west of the Summit, it spanned 1,300 feet, was 15 feet high, and had a pavement width of 24 feet. It was demolished sometime in the early 1980s, but the concrete retaining wall remains.

A modern-day view of the Airplane Curve showshed from Google Maps.
A modern-day view of the Airplane Curve showshed from Google Maps.

The smaller snowshed at Lake Keechelus, only 500 feet long, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995. After 64 years of service, it was dismantled and recycled as part of the I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East Project. A time-lapse of the removal can be seen here.

U.S. HIGHWAY 10 just west of the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. Snowsheds protect the highway in this critical slide area insuring year round uninterrupted use. The long range program of four-laning this popular cross state highway is fast nearing completion.
U.S. HIGHWAY 10 just west of the summit of Snoqualmie Pass. Snowsheds protect the highway in this critical slide area insuring year round uninterrupted use. The long range program of four-laning this popular cross state highway is fast nearing comple