“Ski Spill” was painted by Esther Webster, a local historical figure, in 1938.

“Ski Spill” was painted by Esther Webster, a local historical figure, in 1938.

BACK WHEN: Local history contest encourages youth interest in the past

OUR PAST AFFECTS our present and future.

Though we feel the influence, we often don’t see the connections.

The Hands on History Contest, sponsored by the North Olympic History Center, encourages students in sixth through 12th grades to dig into an aspect of our local history and share it with the citizens of Clallam County.

Scholarships are awarded for the best work in junior and senior categories each year. Students consistently tell us they enjoy the program for their own personal interest and growth through the experience.

We are extremely proud of these young people for their hard work and for their interest in keeping local history alive.

I sat down recently with one of our winners, Peter Zelenka. Peter is a two-time scholarship winner and is entering eighth grade at Stevens Middle School. Peter was awarded $500 scholarships for each of his papers.

Peter Zelenka

Peter Zelenka

Peter loves to snowboard. He has been snowboarding since he was very young.

“The snow sparkling in the sunlight is a beautiful sight to behold,” he said.

He learned from his father that Deer Park was formerly the local ski area. This made Peter wonder, “Why did they move the ski area from Deer Park to Hurricane Ridge?”

Peter decided to answer that question and share his findings through the Hands On History contest.

To find the answer Peter searched the internet, researched the resources available at the North Olympic History Center’s Resource Library and received personal help from Roger Oakes, author of “Skiing in Olympic National Park” (2014).

Peter was given the opportunity to review Oakes’ files on the subject and speak with him. Peter said he asked Oakes a lot of questions.

Peter said he found the whole process interesting, fun and challenging.

The topic interested him. Reading all the stories was fun.

Fishing out all the information and choosing the material to put in his report was one of the most challenging parts.

Some excerpts are:

“Deer Park was named in the late 1800s because of the deer that the hunters found in the meadows. In 1936, Leo White, a local industrialist, borrowed a motorcycle engine and installed a rope tow for skiers to travel uphill. This lift went 20 mph and cost 75 cents to ride. By 1941 the thriving Deer Park Ski Area included practice slopes, a downhill run, a class B jump, several short courses and a 1,000-foot rope tow that towed skiers up 300 feet in elevation.

“Ski Spill” was painted by Esther Webster, a local historical figure, in 1938.

“Ski Spill” was painted by Esther Webster, a local historical figure, in 1938.

“So, why did the National Park Service decide to move the ski area away from Deer Park? One reason is that Deer Park had remarkably light snowfall and the slopes were exposed to the sun, restricting the length of the skiing season. Also, the parking lot could only fit 50 cars so not many skiers could enjoy the slopes.

“When the officials were thinking of a new ski area they had three different parts of the park in mind. These were Hurricane Ridge, Upper Sol Duc Basin, and Seven Lakes Basin.

“Each potential ski location had its advantages and disadvantages so none of them were perfect.

“Hurricane Ridge was not at the top of the list for being the new ski area for a couple of reasons. Hurricane Ridge is a small, windswept ridge that is way up in the Olympic Mountains. Also, the proposed ski slopes were short and ran immediately into thick woods. The slopes were steep and harsh and ski patrol would have a hard time getting injured skiers up them. Water was also not available and would have had to be shipped up from Port Angeles.

“The Upper Sol Duc Basin had lots of steep slopes and rolling terrain giving it an 800-foot drop in half a mile. This area seemed the most ideal and could fit 5,000 skiers easily. The slopes would have had shelter from the bowl and had a stunning view of Mount Olympus and the Bailey Range. Unfortunately, they would have to build a 10-mile road to make the area accessible.

“The third location was the Seven Lakes Basin. Seven Lakes Basin is located right over the ridge from the Upper Sol Duc Basin. The conditions there were very similar to the ones in the Upper Sol Duc Basin. However, several more miles of road would have to be added.

“Clearly, the Upper Sol Duc Basin probably would have been the best choice for a ski area in terms of quality of skiing. However, when the research was done, in 1946-48, the Region Four Winter Use Committee decided to upgrade Deer Park for the time being. In 1957 the new Hurricane Ridge Road was completed with the intent of increasing public use in order to block persistent attempts by lumbermen to open the heart of the park to timber cutting.

“Hurricane Ridge officially became the new local ski area in 1958 and former Deer Park lift operators moved their lift operations to Hurricane Ridge.”

Peter wrote, “For me, I am glad overall that the National Park Service moved the ski area to Hurricane Ridge. It is nice to have a fair amount of snow, and steeper slopes. Deer Park Ski Area had relatively mellow slopes with many ups and downs. But above all, it is nice to have the area so close to Port Angeles.”

Peter said he liked learning things his teachers and parents might not know and then having the opportunity to teach them. He said it was fun to learn something that is not contained in the school curriculum and share that information with others.

Peter is thinking of going for a third scholarship in high school.

To learn more, read Peter’s entire work and the works from our other five scholarship winners, at tinyurl.com/PDN-History- Contest-2019.

It is so delightful and encouraging to read the very good works done by young local scholars.

Our Hands On History scholarship program gives our young people an opportunity to both teach us about our history and possibly to receive a scholarship for their work.

I invite young scholars and parents to visit the North Olympic History Center’s tent at the Clallam County Fair, where they can learn about the program and sign up.

You can also learn about this program on our website at www.clallam historicalsociety.com.

________

John McNutt is a descendant of Clallam County pioneers and president of the North Olympic History Center Board of Directors. He can be reached at woodrow [email protected].

A sign for the Deer Park Ski Pass for a 1938 ski competition.

A sign for the Deer Park Ski Pass for a 1938 ski competition.

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