News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Fireside event to feature lost ski areas

Early Oregon skiers didn’t have any of the luxuries afforded today’s boarders and skiers, but ski they did, at a number of ski hills.

Discover those hills and their histories on Tuesday, February 18, when lifelong Bend resident and former mayor Steve Stenkamp shares his photos and history at the Three Sisters Historical Society Fireside Stories Evening, “Lost Oregon Ski Areas.”

Stenkamp grew up on the east side of Bend during the 1960s and graduated from Bend High in 1975. A retired career firefighter, Stenkamp has researched and documented forgotten ski areas around Oregon, some that had to be hiked up in order to ski down; others offering rope tows and poma lifts.

In the early 1920s, Lava Butte south of Bend was the favorite ski hill due to its steep slope, good snow, and fairly easy access. The north side of the butte held snow later into the year. In the beginning, skiers had to hike up and later a rope tow was added. There was also a small ski jump. Night skiing was made possible by placing burn barrels along the side of the butte.

Attendees at the historical society event will hear stories about the ski jump built on Pilot Butte in 1965 for competitions. Skyliners Ski Club was founded in 1935 by four Scandinavian log mill workers. The club established a ski hill along Tumalo Creek west of Bend, including two rope tows, one long and one short, and a warming hut. Over the years, a ski jump was added as well as a lodge and ice skating. The community and local businesses were very supportive of the ski hill, even purchasing a bus to take kids to the hill from downtown.

A number of other organized ski areas dotted the map of Oregon, some lost to the annals of time, others enlarged and now operating under different names. Many of the early ski areas in the 1920s-1940s were established by parks departments, the U.S. Forest Service, or local ski clubs. A number of those were nothing more than runs cut through the trees, with the later addition of tows, ski jumps, and eventually lodges.

Some of the early Oregon areas included: McKenzie near McKenzie Pass; Idlewild, 16 miles north of Burns; Tilly Jane on the north slope of Mt. Hood on Highway 35; Windy Hill, near Government Camp; Mary’s Peak, 24 miles from Corvallis; Crescent Lake; and Sky Trail Ski Area, 12 miles south of Ashland.

Doors will open at 6 p.m. at the FivePine Conference Center, with Stenkamp’s presentation starting at 7 p.m. General admission is $10, with current TSHS members admitted for free as part of their member benefits. Those wishing to join may do so prior to the presentation. Fees are $25 for individuals and $40 for a couple or family. There are three more Fireside Stories Evenings scheduled for 2020 in March, April, and October.


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