Going Downhill For 70 Years
White Pine Base Cabin. Photo by Cub Feltner.
by Mary Thompson
December 15, 2009
The 2009-2010 winter season marks the 70th anniversary of White Pine, one of the oldest ski areas in Wyoming. In the 1930ís, the US Forest Service enlisted the help of Alf Engin to scout potential locations throughout the west for ski area development. As a result of Enginís recommendation, two trails were cut by the CCC in 1938 and a rope tow, lodge and a base cabin were built from the cut lodge pole pine. Ski lift operations began in the winter of 1939-1940. Adults paid $ 1.00 to use the rope tow and children skied free.
Early pictures given to the resort by Cub Feltner, show Model Tís parked at the base of Sonnyís Hill as it was called, and dozens of people of all ages can be seen enjoying the beautiful setting. In one photo, a sign nailed to a tree near the base of the lift reads: "Please be considerate of others".
The early history of alpine skiing in Sublette County is colorful, and hearty residents play a huge role in this interesting story. The Skinner brothers, for instance, were very talented skiers. Their father Clem made downhill skis for all the boys using fir and oak, if he was lucky enough to have oak boards. There is a single surviving ski hanging in the present base lodge that Clem made for one of his sons. The bindings were made from leather horse harness scraps and rubber inner tubes. We thank Donna and Monte Skinner for this wonderful relic.
Sonny Korfanta tells lively tales of trekking up to Fortification Mountain, when deep snow prevented travel by car. The skiers would be snowbound (intentionally?) in the log lodge for several days. The lodge offered relatively cozy protection and featured a stone fireplace and a wood cook stove. The concrete foundation and old stove parts can be seen at the site today. Two original outhouses remain standing. Interestingly, the top patrol shack was built by Jim and Lee Straley in the early 1970ís and it is still in use today.
White Pine is planning an anniversary celebration later in the season and everyone will be welcome. Locals who have tales to tell of their experience at White Pine, whether involved as an operator, staff or patron, will be asked to record their memories and bring any pictures to the event to help keep the White Pine story alive.
Photos by Cub Feltner, courtesy White Pine Ski Area & Resort