Eagle Cap Ski Club - The move to Ferguson Ridge

An old chicken house near Elk Mountain is loaded onto Dan Stein's truck by members of the Eagle Cap Ski Club in preparation for the trip to Ferguson Ridge where it became the ski area's shop. Submitted photo

Editor's note: This is a summary of the remaining segment of the "History of Skiing in Wallowa County." Last week we left off with the purchase of a T-Bar Lift from Sweitzer, Idaho, and its transport back to the Joseph airport. Now rises the problem of where to put it - at the old ski run site on the west side of the lake, Wing Ridge, or Ferguson Ridge?

"When things looked as though you were at the bottom of a pit with no place to go, someone would kick in a ladder."

That statement describes many situations the Eagle Cap Ski Club faced on the way to developing a ski area.

The old site on the west side of Wallowa Lake had a number of problems including lack of area for future expansion and encroaching neighbors.

Wing Ridge, another prospective site, had awesome snow and terrain potential but there was a devastating drawback dealing with the U.S. Forest Service. They agency no use for our little boot-strap operation without lots of financial dept and flush toilets.

It seemed that Ferguson Ridge, owned by Boise Cascade at the time, was our only hope ... and they weren't very interested in dealing with us either. Enter Dave Monschke (our ladder) of Joseph Forest Products who traded with Boise Cascade toward the use of the area by our ski club. Yet in 1983 problems persisted because even though the club had an an area, they didn't have a clue about getting the T-Bar installed, including the huge financial undertaking and no future security in retaining the area.

Ray Hockett mentioned starting off just erecting the existing rope tow, and that's all that took to getting things rolling again.

The 1984-85 ski season was a good one with more than the usual amount of snow. Runs had been cleared to the top of the hill in preparation for the T-Bar installation. Sometimes skiers would be pulled to the top of the slope behind the snow packer (the rope tow went up only half way). Thus they could imagine the improvement in skiing the T-Bar would make and keep inspired.

T-bar installation

Lots of problems still existed, like how in the world to develop Ferguson Ridge with no money. All of our lenders took the first exit out of any serious obligations with us and the costs of erecting a T-Bar seemed astronomical. In February 1985, the property came up at a sheriff's auction and a group of 10 people purchased the hill (280 acres) which was called the 10-280 Corporation. This was a major breakthrough for the ski club and allowed the owners to make a serious commitment toward starting construction of the T-Bar lift (another ladder). Memberships to the Eagle Cap Ski Club were sold to raise funds for construction. A hand full of individuals decided to do the erection themselves because having anyone else do it was going to require liability insurance which would be very expensive. Engineering and placement of the towers for the purposed lift line was commenced with Vern Russell's, Ralph Swineheart's surveying assistance, and a firm in Austria designed the exact placements of the towers and their angles off vertical.

Many were among the crew who erected this outfit, each with their own special experiences contributing to the goal of having a T-Bar ski lift. The additions of Gardner Locke, Jim Russell, Dan Stein, Dave Samon, Kerry Serals, Charlie Kissenger and many others to the existing crew help resolve problems as construction commenced.

Hillocks lent their truck-cranes for erecting the towers as Dan and Harold assisted with their bulldozers. It was quite a sight to view concrete trucks being lowered to tower foundation on fairly steep terrain with Harold's Cat hitched to them for stability. Almost all the truck drivers had their doors open with one foot on the running-boards. Fred Cassady wired in our communications and safety systems.

Other problems arose when it was apparent that we didn't have enough of the right sheave assemblies to fit our assortment of towers. Ron Jett renovated a bunch of the outriggers from the towers so these assemblies could be adapted. New cable had to be tracked down and purchased when it was found much of the stuff on hand wasn't going to work either. Then, splicing the cable together became an ongoing education of which local loggers Ron Kellerman and Mike Wiedeman joined in at different times.

One Saturday a bunch of heavy road building equipment showed up. It was Moffit Bros. Construction who heard we needed a road and parking lot built. They found a nearby gravel pit and went to work. By the following Wednesday the excavating was complete, a first class job.

Now everything was set except for power. We had been talking to Pacific Power for sometime about this matter but when it came right down to it we were left to our own devises. A used generator with Cummins diesel engine was located in Portland and a hurried trip was made to buy it and bring it back. The person it was bought from (it was a junk yard) was very sympathetic and threw in some electrical gear. John Hillock spent many hours, off the payroll, making sense of all this stuff and hooking it up.

We were in business! A beer can was hitched to the first tee assembly clamped onto the cable and run around the lift to make sure it would get back. It did. Much jubilation.

It was Feb. 22, 1986, and with Ted Winchel's newly constructed outhouse, we were ritz of homemade ski areas.

In December of 1986, after another new cable was installed, there was very little snow on the ground, so Charlie Kissenger decided to construct a new lodge with materials left over from various job sites. Doug McDaniel donated a lot of building material, which had been given to him for the use of his land by the U.S. Forest Service. And in the same year they dragged an old chicken house in from Elk Mountain to use as a work shop. Jack Snyder wired-up these buildings up to be used from either a portable or the main generator.

Every year, especially during the fall when people have more time and before the snow falls, improvements have been made on the buildings, equipment, and ski slopes. There are many people that have not been mentioned - like Bud Zollman who ran Bud's Hardware and either did not charge us for stuff or charged the wholesale price. Bud was an active National Ski Patrol member for a number of years at "Fergie".

The people that served on the Eagle Cap Ski Club Board of Directors during the years of construction 1983 to 1989 were - Shiela Bohnenkamp, Tom Butterfield, Kris Bales, Doyle Connall, Bob Eddy, Dan Gover, Ann Hayes, Kirk Hayes, Gail Keffer, Charlie and Paul Kissenger, Harold Klages, Ron Layton, Lowell Lewis, Gardner Locke, Jerry McNamee, Bill Naughton, Jim Russell, Dan Stein, Rich Wandschneider, and Ted Winchel.

This is the conclusion of the history of skiing in Wallowa County. Hope you enjoyed it. By chance you want to be a part of this fine group of individuals, please feel free to join us at the area eight miles east of Joseph each Sunday at noon as work parties prepare the ski slope for the up coming year.

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