WENATCHEE — Buried in our Tuesday weather story was the news that Mission Ridge Ski Area would open Friday, along with a lot of other ski areas in the region.
The skiers and snowboarders are itching for those lifts to start hauling them uphill. Mission is among the highest, elevation-wise, of the Pacific Northwest ski areas, thank goodness. It needs it, being some 50 miles east of the Cascade summits.
It took time to recognize that. Back in the late 1930s the Wenatchee Ski Club thought that Wheeler Hill would make a good ski course, given the amount of snow those days. By 1950, it was obviously too low, and the state parks director was persuaded to buy the Weeks property in the Squilchuck. I had a part in that. Another decade went by when Wilmer Hampton, a civic engineer and a Class A ski jumper, studied the Squilchuck from the very top, concluding it would make a good ski area. A committee from the local chamber of commerce, which included Archie Rolfs and Clair VanDivort, took on the job of deciding whether to support Hampton or a competing idea above the Stemilt Upper Reservoir. They chose Squilchuck.
Don Kirby’s history of the first 20 years documents all the decision-making. For instance, the ski group hired an engineer from Seattle, who recommended that the parking be on top of the mountain, an idea quickly refused, along with the engineer. The county commissioners and Forest Service Supervisor Ken Blair joined to build the five miles of road from the state park to the ski area base. Unfortunately, Wilmer Hampton, who had been selected to manage the area, died unexpectedly. His brother Walt was selected in his place the year the ski area opened, 1966.