Snoqualmie Pass History

The Northwest tradition of skiing on Snoqualmie Pass began in the 1920's and 30's, even before the 1937 opening of the Snoqualmie Summit Ski Area. These ski pioneers were a hardy group of world-class ski jumpers who hiked up hill, and competed on a jump built by the Seattle Ski Club near Beaver Lake Hill. Interest in the sport by both jumpers and spectators grew rapidly and in 1933 the Seattle Parks Department applied for a permit from the United States Forest Service to establish a ski hill at Snoqualmie Pass.

Summit West

At the same time, Ski Lifts, Inc. founder, Webb Moffett, obtained permission from the Forest Service to construct a rope tow at Snoqualmie Pass. When World War two broke out, Moffett and his partners continued to operate Snoqualmie Summit, now known as Summit West, gambling that Northwest skiers would maintain their enthusiasm for skiing. The gamble paid off and devoted skiers pooled their gas ration coupons to continue skiing at the fledgling ski area. Encouraged by this success in the face of wartime adversity, Moffett focused on developing the area after the war. In an innovative move, Snoqualmie Summit became the nation's second night skiing area when Moffett installed old gas station lights so that his employees could ski after the paying customers had gone home. Soon, customers started staying after dark to ski under the lights and night skiing was truly born. Today, The Summit is still one of the nation's largest night skiing areas.

Thunderbird, Snoqualmie Summit’s first chairlift, was installed in 1954. Additional chairlifts and numerous buildings have been added over the years since Thunderbird was installed.  The last chair installation was the Pacific Crest quad-chair, installed in 1997. A few short years later, Summit West was the first of the four base areas, known collectively as The Summit at Snoqualmie, to add a heated outdoor plaza complete with the now popular fire-pits. Affectionately referred to as “The Beach”, the concept of creating outdoor gathering places proved to be an important theme for The Summit and two additional base areas, Alpental and Summit Central, received their own distinctive plazas in subsequent years.

Summit Central

Summit Central's beginnings date back to 1948 when Ray Tanner purchased 350 acres of privately owned land east of Snoqualmie Summit and opened a new ski area named Ski Acres. The first year Ski Acres operated two rope tows. The following year Ray built the first chairlift in Washington State. This was the beginning of a long, but friendly, competition with neighboring Snoqualmie Summit. In later years, when the collective areas changed from “The Pass” to the new name, The Summit at Snoqualmie, Ski Acres name was changed to Summit Central.

In 1980, Webb Moffett’s Ski Lifts, Inc. acquired Summit Central, combining the two largest ski areas on Snoqualmie Pass into a single operation. In 1988, Summit Central expanded with the construction of the Silver Fir Triple chairlift, east of the existing ski area.

Summit Central now serves as the ‘hub’ of The Summit’s winter operations.  It operates 7days and 6 nights a week during the winter season and serves as ground zero for The Summit’s extensive terrain park and pipe program which has gained national recognition within the last 3 years. Summit Central also features the widest variations in terrain with steeps, flats and the beautiful glade runs of Silver Fir, now serviced by a new high-speed chairlift, Silver Fir Express.

Alpental

Alpental was built in 1967 by two Tacoma businessmen, Bob Mickelson and Jim Griffin. Before making the commitment to build a brand new ski area, noted mountaineers Jim and Lou Whittaker hiked up the proposed runs to see if the terrain was suitable for skiing. Their conclusion was a surprise - they thought the terrain was too steep! The hook was set for the challenge of Alpental.

In one busy summer, three chairlifts and a base lodge were built. The first season began in early December, 1967, and was officially opened by Governor Dan Evans. Alpental’s first two seasons were tough, and the original partnership was expanded to include 5 more Tacoma-based businessmen. The twin financial burdens of avalanche control and maintenance on the Alpental Road forced the Tacoma partnership to sell the ski area to Westours, Inc., a subsidiary of the cruise ship company, Holland America. Westours' hope was to create viable "off-season" employment for its employees who worked summers in Alaska. Their plan proved unsuccessful, and Westours sold Alpental to Ski Lifts, Inc. in 1983.

Over the years, Alpental’s popularity grew among Seattle’s adventurous skiers and snowboarders, who particularly enjoyed its 500 acres of backcountry. Legends have been born at Alpental, among them, Olympic Gold Medalist, Debbie Armstrong who grew up skiing its steep slopes, learning to race under the tutelage of legendary Ski School Director and coach, Ingrid Simonson. Debbie’s name was etched forever in Alpental history when the main run down was re-named “Debbie’s Gold”. The primary access double chair was also named after Debbie.  The name  was only changed in 1998 when the double chair was replaced with a high-speed quad-chair. The new chair was named “Armstrong Express” to honor not only Debbie, but the entire Armstrong family. Alpental changed significantly with the addition of “Armstrong Express”. Hordes of budding racers, backcountry-bound skiers and thrill-seeking snowboarders alike took advantage of the express quad’s quick ride up to Alpental’s challenging slopes.

Learn more about Alpental's early history in the words of co-founder Jim Griffin here.

View the comprehensive video featuring the amazing story of how Alpental was built in the words of the original founders, Bob Mickelson and Jim Griffin.

Summit East

Summit East's origin dates back to the late 1930's when it was first operated as the Milwaukee Ski Bowl. The area was later renamed Hyak, and operated by a succession of owners. In 1992, Ski Lifts, Inc. purchased the Hyak Ski Area from Pac West. The area boasts incredible scenery, glade runs, and consistent fall-line skiing. A series of cross-over trails allow alpine skiing from Summit East to Summit West via Summit Central, a distance of approximately three miles. Summit East is also home to the infamous snowboard event, the “Holy Oly Revival” which is traditionally hosted in the shadow of the famous “Olympia” beer can/water tower.
Privately operated cross country skiing operations began at Hyak as early as 1974. In 1982, The Summit Nordic Center was built at the base of the Silver Fir triple-chair and, as it has from the beginning, the Summit Nordic center offers skiers 50 kilometers of machine groomed cross-country trails. The Nordic Center has found its true home back at Summit East and has been located there now for several years.

In Recent Years

In 1997, the Moffett’s Ski Lifts, Inc. was purchased by Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc., the fourth largest ski resort company in the United States. Under the Moffet’s stewardship, all four of the Snoqualmie Pass ski areas had been consolidated under one umbrella.  Booth Creek owned and managed The Summit at Snoqualmie for ten years, ushering in a new era of service for the area’s skiers and snowboarders.  In January of 2007, CNL Lifestyle Company, LLC, a Florida-based real estate investment trust, purchased and subsequently leased The Summit at Snoqualmie back to Booth Creek Ski Holdings.

In October of 2007, Michigan-based Boyne Resorts became the lease-holder and management company for The Summit. at Snoqualmie.  Boyne Resorts brought a wealth of experience to The Summit  as well as relationships with sister resorts including: Cypress Mountain, British Columbia, Big Sky Resort, Montana, Boyne Mountain and Boyne Highlands, Michigan, Brighton, Utah, Sugarloaf and Sunday River Resorts, Maine, Loon Mountain, New Hampshire and finally, close to home, Crystal Mountain, Washington.

Milestones

  • 1933 - Seattle Parks Department applies for a permit from the United States Forest Service to establish a ski hill on Snoqualmie Pass.

  • 1937 - First rope tow installed at Snoqualmie Summit, the area now known as Summit West.

  • Early 1940's - Gas station lights installed on hill, making Snoqualmie Summit the nation's second night skiing area.

  • 1948 - Two rope tows installed at Ski Acres (what is now Summit Central).

  • 1949 - Washington's first chairlift is installed at Summit Central.

  • 1967 - Alpental opens for its first season with all its chairlifts and the main lodge constructed in one summer.

  • 1980 - Summits West and Central (formerly Snoqualmie Summit & Ski Acres) combine into a single operation.

  • 1983 - Ski Lifts, Inc. purchases Alpental from Westours (Holland America).

  • 1984 - Alpental racer Debbie Armstrong wins a Gold Medal in Giant Slalom at the 1984 winter Olympics. The main double chair and run are re-named after Debbie's accomplishments.

  • 1988 - Summit Central expands east with the installation of the Silver Fir Triple chairlift.

  • 1992 - Ski Lifts, Inc. purchases the Hyak Ski Area (Summit East) from Pac West.

  • 1997 - Booth Creek Ski Holdings, Inc. purchases all of The Summit ski areas from the Moffetts and Ski Lifts, Inc.

  • 1998 - Two high-speed quad chairs are installed: Central express at Summit Central and Armstrong Express at Alpental.

  • 2003 - First annual “Holy Oly Revival” snowboard event takes place at Summit East.

  • 2006 - CNL Lifestyle Company, LLC, a real estate investment trust purchases all of Ski Lifts, Inc. assets from Booth Creek. Booth Creek becomes the management company and lease-holder for The Summit.

  • 2007 - Michigan-based Boyne Resorts becomes the lease-holder and management company for The Summit at Snoqualmie.

  • 2007 - Silver Fir Express is installed replacing the Silver Fir triple chair.

  • 2008 - Forest Service approves The Summit's Master Development Plan, allowing for future resort improvements and expansion.

  • 2010 - Summit East begins expansion project.

  • 2011 - Summit East's Hidden Valley opens, allowing access to the back side of Summit East.

  • 2012 -Marks the 75th Anniversary for Snoqualmie.  Silver Fir Lodge project begins.