The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - 58

History of Skiing on
Mt. Hood
by Emilio Trampuz
Newsletter Editor, Mountain High Snowsport Club,
Portland, Oregon
Mt. Hood, also known by its Native American Multnomah Tribe name Wy'East, is the tallest mountain
in Oregon (11,240') and the one with the longest ski season in the United States, with the Palmer
snowfield above Timberline Lodge open for skiing until Labor Day.
Oregon's population started to grow significantly after 1843, when the Oregon Trail began bringing
thousands of new settlers each year. The first settlers drove their wagons only as far as The Dalles, and
from there they took boats or rafts down the wild Columbia River. In 1845-1946, the first road was established
around the south side of Mt. Hood, that led from The Dalles to Oregon City. It was built by
Samuel Barlow with the help of a crew of about 40 people. It is known as Barlow Road. It was a very
rough road, in places more like a forest trail than a road. But, it was a toll road and for about 70 years was
the only way to get around the south side of Mt. Hood.
In the fall of 1849, a detachment of the First United States Mounted Rifles was forced due to weather
Hjalmar Hvam, ski racer, and inventor
of the first safety binding, is shown with
his wife, Vera, in 1936.
Timeline: Mt. Hood
Ski History
1850 - Sondre Nordheim of Telemark,
Norway discovers birch tree roots can be used as
heel bindings, allowing skiers to jump and turn
for the first time.
1870 - Sondre Nordheim designs first
sidecut ski, the " TELEMARK SKI " ,
a narrow-waisted ski that facilitates turning
in soft snow.
1882 - Norske Ski Club, Berlin, New
Hampshire formed first ski club in America.
It is still active today.
1894 - Mazamas Mountaineering Club
founded on Mt. Hood.
1900 - Mazamas take first Norwegian
snowshoe (skis) trip to Mt. Hood. This event
sparked the start of Mt. Hood skiing.
1925 - Mt. Hood Loop Highway completed
after 5 years of planning and 5 years of
construction work.
1925- Hood River Ski Club holds cross country ski
race from Cloud Cap to Kirby ranch. Race was
won by Mark Weygandt, a local mountain guide.
to abandon a large number of wagons along Barlow Road, while traveling west toward Oregon City. They
left their wagons at the site that became known as " Government Camp " on the south side of Mt. Hood. Government
Camp later became a hub for skiers, offering lodging, restaurants, information and transportation
to the ski areas.
Government Camp is now a small ski town at the base of Mt. Hood and surrounded by ski areas. It
is located 3 miles south and downhill from the Timberline Ski Area. On the upper end of town is the
small Summit Ski Area. Across highway 26 is the Skibowl Ski Area. The Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Area is
about 11 miles further east (circling the mountain in a counter-clockwise direction), and another 14 miles to the
northeast is the small Cooper Spur Ski Area. Yes, that's a total of five ski areas on Mt. Hood!
Skiing on Mt. Hood had its beginnings about 50 years later, around the year 1900, when the Mazamas
climbing club members decided to try putting on skis for the descent after a climb. An excursion from
Portland to the mountain in those early days involved a whole day of travel east along the Columbia River
to Hood River; and then south to Mt. Hood. People climbed a bit, took one run down on skis and spent
the rest of the day traveling back to Portland.
Skiing really started to take off after 1924, because of two factors. The first road, known as the Mt.
Hood Loop highway, was built, making access to the south side of Mt. Hood easier. At the same time,
several Norwegian Nordic skiers settled in the area and brought a lot of attention to the sport by showing
off ski jumping. They first built a ski jump on the south side of Multorpor Mountain, just two miles from
the town of Government Camp, but they soon realized their mistake because the snow would melt and
get mushy too easily on south-facing slopes. This was not cold Norway. This was a milder Oregon climate.
So, they soon relocated their ski jump to the north side of Mutorpor Mountain (which is now known as
Skibowl East). Ski jumping events attracted hundreds of spectators. It got so crowded it was difficult to find
a spot to park your Model-T car in the town of Government Camp and then walk to the jumping hill.
Among the Norwegians, the most famous one was Hjalmar Hvam, a ski racer and jumper who won
many competitions and also invented the first safety binding. After breaking his leg, in 1939, he patented
his Saf-Ski binding, which was probably the first releasable binding in the world. He sold quite a lot of
them from his ski shop in Government Camp. His advertising slogan was: " Hvoom with Hvam and have no
fear " .
Before 1937, when Timberline Lodge was built, there were no lifts anywhere on or around Mt.
Hood. In those early days, all trails began in Government Camp. People had to climb up before they
could ski down. In addition to the nearby Multorpor Hill, people established trails heading up Mt. Hood
to where the tree line ended. The trails still exist and are skied to this day, including the Alpine Trail, The
Glade Trail, and Blossom Trail.
In 1916, the locals built a cabin, called Timberline cabin, where they could rest before skiing back
down to Government Camp. This was 21 years before Timberline Lodge was built about a mile east of
Timberline Cabin. The cabin was used until about 1953, and only its foundations and part of a chimney
are still visible today.
Timberline Lodge was built between 1936 and 1938. It was constructed by the Works Progress Administration,
built and furnished by local artisans during the Great Depression, and inaugurated by pres58
FWSA 90th Anniversary Booklet / 1930 - 2020

The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Far West Ski Association Turns 90

Index
The Far West Ski Association Turns 90 - Cover1
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