Editors note: This is a three part series that Gardner and Willie Locke of Joseph wrote about the history of the Eagle Cap Ski Club of Wallowa County that was formed in 1937and is still in existence today.
As a reintroduction of the Eagle Cap Ski Club at the Ferguson Ridge, eight miles East Joseph, to the people of Wallowa County, I thought it would be a good idea to present a history of skiing in this area by Gardner Locke. Gardner, as many might recall, was one of the past presidents of the ski club and one of the many local residents of the area essential toward getting the T-Bar at its present location on Ferguson Ridge offering a very high quality of snow sports to our community.
One of the more amazing things about this volunteer Ski Area all is the involvement of such a wide variety of people at different times thru-out its history and how that was really the ticket towards its success even to this date. Please keep this in mind as you read through this summary of the history of cheap skiing as a source of entertainment for the locals' idea of enjoying themselves in this area
The Ski Club has gone through a number of phrases of development starting about 1937. Each phase was the result of an individual or group of individuals having a desire to ski and wanting to make skiing here more accessible. Nowhere in its history did there seem to be a profit motive beyond making skiing more possible, hence more enjoyable. The Ski Club is a part of Wallowa County that is typically "Wallowa County."
This story is written expressly for the members of the Club and especially for those who contributed to its development. There are so many interesting things that went on over the years it would be a shame to just let them disappear as time goes on.
At present, in gather at the lodge at Ferguson Ridge after a day of skiing, there is no greater pleasure than to listen to a small group recalling strange things happenings of the past. It is not unusual for this small group to grow as people gather around to listen and laugh , people that have nothing to do with the Club , people from Portland even.
I dedicate this story of the Eagle Cap Ski Club to all the people who made it happen.
Gardner Locke, 1993
1939-Rope two built and set up on Stanley Hill with Model A Ford motor.
1942-Skiing discontinued due to WW I I.
1948-Tow moved South to slope at end of what is now called ski run road.
1950-Anthony Lake Tow motor and drive assembly acquired and tow set up on better location on same slope. Club incorporated.
1971- Easement for use of hill for rope tow obtained.
1977- Old T-bar Lift purchased from Sweitzer Basin Ski Area in Idaho and hauled home.
1983-Rope tow moved to Ferguson Ridge. Old area abandoned.
1985-T-bar lift installed at Ferguson Ridge.
1987- new lodge built at Ferguson.
There is some information on what happened in the early years because of a "Captain's Diary" which was kept and is now in the Wallowa County Museum. Also, there are a few people still around, like Grace Bartlett, who were involved then and a few, like Tome Butterfield, whose folks were involved.
It all started when a group of people who liked to ski would appoint a volunteer, called "The Captain," to locate a good place to ski each Sunday. They would all gather at this chosen spot and ski all day and picnic and have a great time. There was no ski tow or packer. In order to ski down you had to climb up. If a packed slope was wanted everyone spent some time packing it with their skis.
I need to say something about Cressie Boner who is mentioned several times in the Captain's Reports and was one of the early ski enthusiasts. She and her husband had a lot to do with the club in the early years. I knew her as Cressie Green. I remember Cresses working in the Agricultural Stabilization Control office about 30 years ago and she would be the one you raised out in the Elk Mountain Area (she was Cressie Weaver then) and used to ride to a little school house which was on land we run cattle on now and put her horse up in the barn there. When she rode into town it took four hours and I was impressed because it took me at least six the time the front end dropped out of my pickup and I had to ride home.
One time I was in the office trying to sign up for something and a plump little guy in a suit came dancing past us toward the exit. As her went by he sang out to Cressie "have a nice day" and she said kind of low voice, "I had other plans." You couldn't fool Cressie. I used to see her up around the Ferguson Ridge are skiing especially during the week when no one was around and it was quiet.
A big step forward was made in 1939 when a permanent location was selected and a rope tow constructed. The location was on Stanley Hill, about two miles south of Joseph and a little south of where the Buhler Ranch is now. The tow consisted of a continuous rope motivated by a Model A Ford engine. In 1948 the Tow was move a little South to a slope at the end of what is now known as Ski Run Road. The first location left something to be desired so, in 1950 these ambitious lads seeked-out another location just a couple hundred feet away with a more northern exposure with better skiing potential, purchased a new Plymouth Motor, and assembly from the Anthony Lakes Ski Area. Additional assemblies and motors were installed further up the hill so the area obtained more vertical feet, but as things turnout, it wasn't to be! Someone stole-away with some of the parts to the additional motor and sheave assemblies and the area remained as it were. The incorporation at this time was to minimize risk to the active members and to sell shares to others to obtain funds for improvements. The incorporators were Clyde Fisk, Jack Cathcart, Max Hayes, Warren Boner, Jack Dixon, Stan Farris, Lester Ruud, Harold Klages, Kirk Hayes, Dan DeBoie, and others. . . .
Through the fifties and sixties these people provided a very pleasant and unique little ski area where you could enjoy a weekend afternoon riding the lift and listening to the guys yodeling as if in some way off Bavarian land. If someone were to injure themselves or have a rather common personnel equipment failure, these guys would gather together whatever spare parts they had and put you back together as if it were part of the fun.
It was a very friendly community oriented atmosphere where lots of youngsters got a taste of the glamorous life of skiing, which only the more affluent in other parts of the world got to appreciate.
Next week we will publish another part of the "History of the Eagle Cap Ski Club" by Gardener Locke, until then we'll start to realize all the people involved in this endeavor.
Each and every week on Sunday at 12 o'clock noon from now until the snow flies a small group of people will be up at the Ferguson ski hill preparing the area for the new ski year. Everyone and anyone having a little spare time to create a better ski area and help solve the ongoing problems are welcome to participate in anyway they wish either on Sunday or during the ski season.
Please contact us at 432-5252, 426-6581, or 432-2401.