Carbon County residents enjoyed skiing at local resort in 1940s
|The now sleepy town of Clear Creek was quite abuzz during the winter and early spring of 1947 when the only Carbon County ski resort opened.|
The cold winter weather has set in and many Carbon County residents are taking off to Colorado or Northern Utah to go skiing. But at one time, Carbon County had operated a local ski resort.
The year was 1946 and a handful of skiing enthusiasts were determined to have a resort close to coal country. In fact, the resulting runs were located near the portals to the mine in Clear Creek.
Opening a resort now would require permits, probable purchases of land, an environmental impact statement, more permits, enough money to fight a lawsuit by environmentalists to stop the development, more permits and on and on.
But in the late 1940s, all opening a ski resort apparently took were some guys with axes, some surplus mining machinery and a willingness to work hard.
Th Dec. 5, 1946 edition of the Sun Advocate reported that 15 "of the more ardent enthusiasts of the sliding slabs spent last Sunday swinging axes to clear trails and the proposed" runs.
Most of the enthusiasts were members of a group called the Coal Mountain Ski Club.
At the time, the state of Utah was preparing for a centennial celebration; one commemorating the arrival of Mormon pioneers in the Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847. The hundred year celebration of that anniversary had spilled over to many different kinds of activities in the state, in a similar fashion to what the Winter Olympics did to Utah in 2002.
Most counties in the state had some type of organization that was set up to put together observances and Carbon County was no different. It had a "centennial committee" and of course each committee had sub-committees and directly involved in this ski resort idea was the "centennial committee's sports committee" headed by a person whose name is even well known today in Castle Country; Pres Summerhays.
Summerhays, more well known for his coaching career at Carbon High where his 1951 team won the Class A high school football championship than for outdoor winter sports, was also an avid ski enthusiast, and one of the planners of the new resort.
He was also in the center of planning an event that would take place when the resort eventually was in operation; a skiing competition called the Centennial Ski Meet that was to take place March 9, 1947.
The weekend after, the group cleared many of the trees and saplings from the new run, they began to install a ski tow. The tow was reportedly created with the help of the Utah Fuel Company, which ran the mine in Clear Creek. According to Clark Hunt, whose uncle John Burton was one of those helping to create the skiing hill, a large electric motor out of one of the mines was used to power the "T-Bar" ski lift that skiers used to ride to the top of the run that had been created. Hunt also reports that at one time there was a skiers' cabin at the base of the ski hill where people could relax.
Lights were also added that first winter so that skiing could be done at night. Even today, night skiing is not something that is provided for at many resorts.
The buildup to the race was fairly large. Almost every week a small snippet or a photo with a cutline was published in the Sun Advocate, showing various scenes of people working on the runs and those already sking on it.
According to a website that highlights the old resort, Bill Llewelyn, a Clear Creek resident at the time, remembers a lot about the run and what went on at the site.
Llewelyn reported that the first ski tow was a rope tow that was acquired from the Brighton ski resort in Big Cottonwood Canyon near Salt Lake. He said that just about everyone in Clear Creek had something to do with the resort and helped to build it in some way.
He also reported that the skiers' shack at the bottom of the run was a cook shack to make food for skiers and that his mother and many other women in the town worked there on weekends.
|This is the crowd and how it looked at the Centennial Ski Meet that was held at Clear Creek in March of 1947. A large number of people showed up from all over the state not only to participate in the race but to watch it as well. Clear Creek was not a sleepy town that day.|
As for the Centennial Ski Meet, it actually took place on March 8 and 9. It was reported that a special train took 200 people from Helper to Clear Creek for the events. The total for the round trip was $1.82 per person.
The event attracted skiers from all over Utah, with the winners of the mens and womens divisions being from Salt Lake. However, some Carbon County skiers took high places in the races.
That first year was apparently very successful, with many local people continuing to go to the resort until late into the spring.
In fact, interest became so great that Carbon College started to set up a ski program at the school.
People went to the resort, but also spent a lot of time practicing on the hills in Pioneer Park in Price.
But despite the continued operation through local interest and some of the heaviest winters Utah has ever known since records have been kept, the resort started to wane after the first year.
The winter of 1948, in particular, was a record-setting year for snowfall.
During the next few years, there was only slight mention of the resort in the local press.
There were a few other races, but nothing ever approached the success of the centennial event.
By 1952, the resort in Clear Creek was out of operation.
Equipment breakdowns and operational costs compared to revenues generated at the resort apparently took a toll, according to later reports.
The reality of running a solvent operation eventually caught up with the dream and Carbon's only ski resort, passed into history.
Editor's note: Kathy Hamaker provided part of the information for the article. Readers with Internet access may visit www.lofthouse.com/USA/Utah/carbon/ccskiing.html.