The Story of Alta Ski Resort

By Lorenzo Pighini

Skiing serves as one of Utah’s main forms of recreation, and locals believe the state possesses “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”  However, mass public skiing wasn’t always readily available to Utahns. In the fall of 1938, the development of Alta, what is now known as one of the most elite ski resorts in the world, began. Within a decade, Alta had become a nationwide attraction. The story of how Alta came to be is quite remarkable, and certainly imperative to the growth of one of Utah’s most coveted historical pastimes.

Before skiing in Utah reached mass popularity, it was used as a means of travel throughout Utah’s rugged mountain terrain. According to A. Joseph Arave, the first Utah skiers included trappers, miners, and others who relied on skis as a means of transportation. Gradually, it became a recreational activity for those looking to tour the mountains and by the late 1920s, these tours, as well as ski-jumping meets, began to attract thousands of Utah residents. Due to the growing interest and demand in skiing, several small ski areas were developed using simple tow rope and T-bar systems. All the while, The Alta Winter Sports Association was building Utah’s first ski lift and what would eventually become one of Utah’s finest ski resorts.


Ski Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The New York Times reports that after Alta was destroyed by fire and avalanches in the early 1900s, the lone resident of the town was the self-declared mayor George Watson. Watson agreed to give 1,800 acres of land to the United States Forest Service. With the help of Watson and the Forest Service, the Association was able to obtain land to construct the resort. The Association raised $10,000 in order to construct the lift, and was able to obtain a permit to construct the chairlift in the fall of 1938. An aerial mining tramway was then purchased from a pair of mining men, and the Association converted the machinery into a lift. It was named The Collins lift and it scaled the mountain a total of 2,740 linear feet.


Alta Photograph Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

After the success of constructing Utah’s first operational lift, Alta’s popularity skyrocketed. New lifts were constructed in the early 1940s, and while many ski resorts nationwide shut down throughout the duration of World War II, Alta remained open and offered recreational relief to soldiers based in Utah. The Utah Chronicle reported on February 6, 1941, that University of Utah students were able to take tri-weekly bus trips sponsored by the student ski club to the resort. As Alta began to expand year after year, so did the number of visitors. According to Anthony Will Bowman, between 1964 and 1965, over 230,000 visitors went to Alta between the months of December and April.

As ski resorts have become Utah’s largest tourist attraction, as well as one of the state’s most profitable industries, Alta Ski Resort still possesses some individuality among other local resorts such as Park City and Canyons Resort. Alta is one of only six resorts in the National Ski Area Association where snowboarding isn’t allowed. Alta has also stuck to fundamental values of skiing, focusing its efforts on providing a quality skiing experience on unmatched terrain, rather than selling out for profit or joining a massive corporate conglomerate. This refusal to adapt has allowed Alta to preserve its integrity and remain the most historical ski resort in Utah.

Lorenzo Pighini is a Chicago native majoring in communication and minoring in business at the University of Utah. He moved to Utah to pursue an education and to experience world-class snowboarding.


Arave, A. Joseph. “Skiing in Utah,” Utah History Encyclopedia, Utah Education Network.

Bowman, Anthony Will. “From Silver to Skis: A History of Alta, Utah, and Little Cottonwood Canyon, 1847-1966″ (Master’s thesis, Utah State University, 1967).

“Ski Manager Plans Bus Trips to Alta,” Utah Chronicle, February 6, 1941, 2.

Jake [no last name]. “SkiUtah License Plate.” Ski Utah, November 20, 2007.

DeLeo, William. “Alta, Utah Historical Timeline.”

Diliberto, Gioia. “Earning It; A Ski Area Without the Extremes,” New York Times, March 22, 1998.

Photo Gallery. Alta Historical Society.


The Origins of Snowboarding in Utah


Snowboarding began in 1965 with the invention of the “Snurfer.” Sherman Poppen, an engineer and father in Michigan, invented the first prototype of a snowboard as a toy for his daughter by attaching two skis together side by side and putting a rope at the very front of the board for control. (TransWorld, Part 1) Not long after, snowboarding took off nationwide, and it wasn’t long before fanatics made it out to Utah for the lightest snow on earth.

Although it’s not mentioned much in Utah’s history books, Utah has been a home to snowboarding, and a dominant destination for the sport since the early 1970s. Alta Ski Area, one of the oldest ski areas in the US, started out as a small mining camp in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon in the 1920s and 1930s. Alta opened its doors to skiers in 1936, and years later in the 1970s became the first ski area in Utah to allow snowboarders to ride the slopes, with Snowbird Ski Resort close behind. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”)


Dimitrije Milovich rides his Winterstick snowboard. Photo by Alan K. Engen. Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

With a newfound sport on the rise and an open market demanding snowboards, a young man by the name of Dimitrije Milovich found his way to Utah and set out to invent the first snowboard without a rope for the rider to hang onto. (TransWorld, Part 1) With the help of famous surfboard shaper Wayne Stoveken, Milovich invented the first snowboard that used plastic for the base and metal on the edges of the board to help grip the snow. (Winterstick Advertisement) Milovich started out testing his prototypes at Snowbird and at Alta Ski Area. (Although Alta was willing to let Milovich test his newly designed equipment there, the area subsequently closed to snowboarders in 1984. It has yet to reopen to anyone but skiers, despite being on public land.) By 1971, Milovich had a couple of patents for his state of the art “snow surfboards” and had opened a shop to sell his aptly named “Winterstick Swallowtails” in none other than Salt Lake City, Utah. (TransWorld, Part 1)

Although the sport of snowboarding continued to grow, not only in Utah but also across the country, some skiers weren’t very happy to share the slopes with this newfound sport and the culture that followed. After a skier crashed at Stratton Mountain, a resort in Vermont, and sued the ski area, management was forced to create ski-at-your-own-risk laws and ban all non-traditional skiing sports. Snowboarding as well as telemark skiing were both considered too dangerous, and resorts started banning both all across the country. With few snowboarders willing to hike mountains to be able to ride, Milovich had to close the doors of his Winterstick stores in Utah in 1982.

But Milovich wasn’t done with owning a business. He and a man named Dwain Bush opened a windsurfing shop named Milosport. Later, it became a snowboard shop when the sport started to get back into the mainstream in the late 1980s. (Scheuerman, “Snowboarding”) Milosport is now the most popular snowboard shop in Utah, and has led the pack for snowboarding’s revolution in Utah since 1988.

After years of battling resorts for the return of snowboarding, in 1986 Beaver Mountain in Logan, Utah, was the first resort in Utah to open back up to snowboarders. (Halcomb, Part 1) After the sport of snowboarding stayed in the backcountry and off of the resort slopes for years, places like Brighton Resort, Powder Mountain, Sundance Resort, Snowbird, and many others started to see the return of snowboarding on their slopes. Although resorts all over Utah were welcoming back snowboarders, it wasn’t without stipulations. A rider certification card was required to use a snowboard at most resorts, to indicate that the rider could turn and stop without harming any skiers. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Leading the pack in the fight to bring snowboarding back to resorts across the nation was a man named Dennis Nazari. Nazari was born in California and moved to Utah with his parents as a kid. Although Nazari spent most of his childhood in California, he was quick to pick up skiing and eventually snowboarding in Utah. After searching many ski shops in town, Nazari was able to locate and buy a snowboard at a local ski shop in Salt Lake City, which he rode primarily at Alta Ski Area, until they banned snowboards on Christmas Day of 1984. (Sheehan)

After Alta banned snowboarding, Nazari started the Southwest Surf Skiers Association, a program designed to get snowboards back on the slopes of resorts in Utah. (Halcomb, Part 1)

The SSSA was a program dedicated to educating people about the safety measures of snowboarding, and certifying that snowboarders could safely ride down the hill of a resort without injuring anyone else on hill. Nazari would drive up to Logan on the weekends to educate and certify riders. The rider would get an A, AA, or AAA, depending on how good they were at maneuvering their snowboard, with AAA being the best. (Halcomb, Dennis Nazari) After developing the idea of the rider certification card, Nazari brought snowboarding back to resorts all over Utah. (Sheehan)

Although snowboarding was becoming popular again in 1986, Milovich’s doors were still closed, which meant no one had anywhere to buy a snowboard. So in 1987, Dennis Nazari opened up a shop called Salty Peaks to cater strictly to snowboarding and the people interested in the sport. Not only did the shop sell the only snowboard gear available in Salt Lake City, but Nazari also started an official shop snowboarding team, dubbed the “Salty 8,” Utah’s first snowboarders to be sponsored for riding. All this was helping to make Salt Lake City and the rest of Utah a major hub for the culture and the sport itself. (Scheuerman, “Re-search”)

Utah is home to a very large ski and snowboarding community, so much that the license plates even claim the state has the “Greatest snow on earth.” Snowboarding’s culture and industry will continue to grow around the world as well as in Utah, while creating jobs at resorts, shops, local businesses, and elsewhere in Salt Lake City. With an industry booming and more people moving to Utah for the snow all the time, snowboarding will always have a home in Salt Lake City.

Stephen Konkler is a senior at The University of Utah, majoring in communication and minoring in design.


Erin Halcomb, “Dennis Nazari, an interview by Erin Halcomb,” March 28, 2012, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 1,” November 8, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Erin Halcomb, “Josh Scheuerman, an interview by Erin Halcomb, part 2,” December 6, 2011, Everette L Cooley Collection, Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Paul J. MacArthur, “Snowboarding, It’s Older Than You Think,” International Skiing Association, December 1, 2016,

Josh Scheuerman, “Snowboarding in Utah: An Adolescent Sport Grows Up,” Sports Guide, Winter 2009, 10-14.

Josh Scheuerman, “Re-search and Destroy: A Brief History of Snowboarding’s Roots in Utah,” SLUG Magazine, March 2001, 6-7.

Sheehan, Gavin. “Salty Peaks.” City Weekly, August 242009.

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 1.” TransWorld Snowboarding,

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 2.” TransWorld Snowboarding

Advertisement for Winterstick, Newsweek, March 1975.

Lagoon, the Roller Coaster, and the Kilee King Investigation, 1989


In the late 1800s, Utah’s beloved amusement park, today known as Lagoon, was located in a different area along the shores of the Great Salt Lake, along with other “recreational resorts.” Not only was Lagoon’s location different back in the day, but its name was too. The resort was called “Lake Park,” and was open to the public on July 15, 1886. “It was one of the most attractive watering places in the West.” (127 Years) However, in 1893, the Great Salt Lake began to recede, leaving this once wonderful paradise surrounded by “a sticky, blue mud that was miserable to swimmers and guests.” (127 Years) This nasty inconvenience, among other reasons, basically forced Lake Park to switch locations and relocate to its current address in Farmington in 1896. The new home of this park was situated on the banks of a nine-acre lagoon, two and one-half miles inland from its original location, providing the park with its new name: Lagoon. (127 Years)

Department of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The thrill ride, Shoot-the-Chutes, was popular in 1896. Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

The same year of its relocation, Lagoon presented its first thrill ride, Shoot-the-Chutes, which is similar to today’s Log Flume ride. Later, in 1921, one of the most well known rides of this amusement park was finally introduced and “the roar of the Roller Coaster began.” (127 Years) “Almost 90 years old,” Arave writes, “the Lagoon Roller Coaster remains one of the most popular attractions at the park and is one of only a few wooden coasters between Denver and the West Coast.”

According to Lagoon’s press kit, a fire in 1953 destroyed the front of this coaster. It was rebuilt the following year, and sections of the Roller Coaster have been rebuilt each year since then. In that same press kit, Lagoon ensured the ride was, and would be, safe for the community. “The tracks are walked and thoroughly checked over each day before being put into use for the public.” (127 Years) As true as this may be, there have still been a few accidents, even fatal incidents, which occurred on this very ride. However, it seems that in all of those situations, Lagoon was not at fault. Arave writes that those deaths were caused by the “patron’s own negligence or recklessness.” In fact, the odds of being killed on one of these rides are about two chances in 43 million. (Arave) Rep. Blaze Wharton, D-Salt Lake, “compliments Lagoon’s safety record and doesn’t think, given information about the recent accident, that inspections could have prevented the deaths.” (Deseret News, June 25)

In the specific case of Kilee King, a 13-year-old girl of Bountiful who died on the infamous wooden Roller Coaster in 1989, investigation proved that no criminal negligence was involved. (Rosebrock, June 14) According to a June 29 story in the Deseret News, the Farmington police detective who investigated the incident found that the death of this teenage girl was a “fluke combination of her physique, actions and the laws of physics.” (Rosebrock, June 29) King was a slim, 5 feet 3 inches tall girl who only weighed 71 pounds. “In effect, it was a quirk of physics, combined with what the girl did and her height and weight,” said Detective Sgt. Jeff Jacobson after investigation of the incident. (Rosebrock, June 29)

Deseret News reporter Joel Campbell wrote on June 11 that Kilee King died at the park after falling from the front seat of the ride’s carts. “Witnesses said that the girl stood up from beneath a locked retraining bar, lost her balance and fell to a grassy area beneath the coaster.” According to that same article, the coaster had just gone over the curve of its second hill when she lost contact with the cart. The girl pushed herself up against the safety bar as the cart was at the peak of the hill, raised her arms above her head and lifted up off her seat as the cart took its ordinary “downward plunge.” The momentum from her forward and upward motion caused her to slip from under the bar, falling 35 feet to the ground. (Deseret News, July 29) The South Davis Fire Department officials said the girl was pronounced dead before any emergency medical personnel had arrived. (Deseret News, June 11)

The victim was the daughter of J. Wayne and Susan King. After the terrible incident, Susan filed a lawsuit against the amusement park, charging it with negligence. (Deseret News, July 29) According to Deseret News reports on July 29, 1989, Mrs. King stated that the design and operation of the park’s roller coaster was dangerous and that the lack of sufficient safety restraints is what had allowed her daughter to be thrown from the ride. Lagoon officials choose to not disclose much information about the lawsuits filed against the park, but according to Detective Jacobson’s findings, this was not the case. (Deseret News, July 29) According to Deseret News reporter Don Rosebrock, King had a season pass to Lagoon and had ridden the roller coaster multiple times prior to the deadly accident.

Department of Special Collections, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

A postcard view of Lagoon. Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah.

Being a part of the LDS church, King’s passing was a topic of discussion during one of her church’s meetings. “We discussed the fact that her spirit had left her body, that she was still living…. We explained she will continue to live and they [young people whom she was friends with] should not be fearful and they would see her again,” stated Bishop Sherman Fuller, in an article written by Deseret News on June 12. “There was an air of peace.” Friends and neighbors remembered King as “vivacious, energetic and a natural leader.” She was thought of as someone whom everybody liked. (Deseret News, June 12) She was the type of person who did not care about what others had, “maybe they weren’t as popular or energetic. She tried to bring those people forward. She tried to involve them,” said Fuller in the article. (Deseret News, June 12) One of her “lifetime” friends, Katie Gardiner, was one of the people whom she “went out of her way to make feel accepted by a group of friends.” (Deseret News, June 12) Another one of King’s friends, Jeremy Christoffersen, said, “Next year in eighth grade I will think about her a lot and that she is gone. We spend a lot of time together. I used to go to Lagoon a lot with her. We went to a restaurant as a presidency. She was always laughing and smiling…. I still don’t understand what happened on the roller coaster.” (Deseret News, June 12)

The park itself remained opened after this accident, but the ride was shut down for inspection. (Rosebrock, June 14) However, “two studies, using research by doctors, scientists, astronauts and engineers, say amusement park rides are very safe.” (Deseret News, Jan. 21) J. Clark Robinson, a worker at Lagoon for 27 years who was president of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, said that the studies “have brought to light scientific proof that our rides are safe.” (Deseret News, Jan. 21)

People should not worry about accidents when visiting Lagoon, because cases such as Kilee King’s are very uncommon. Over the 127 years that Lagoon has been running and available to the public, there have been 16 deaths overall, including incidents not involving any of the rides themselves (such as heart attacks). Nearly half of those were caused by “the patron’s own negligence or recklessness.” (Arave) So it is, however, important to know how to keep yourself safe when riding these rides, in order to avoid a tragic accident. There are just some things that cannot be controlled by a safety restraint.

Johanna M. Melik is a junior at The University of Utah, majoring in mass communication.


Joel Campbell, “OFFICIALS PROBING DEATH OF GIRL, 13, WHO FELL FROM ROLLER COASTER,” Deseret News, June 11, 1989.

Joel Campbell, “KILEE WAS HAPPY AND CARING GIRL FRIENDS RECALL,” Deseret News, June 12, 1989.

Don Rosebrock and Joel Campbell, “BOUNTIFUL GIRL’S DEATH NOT THE 1st ON LAGOON’S WOODEN ROLLER COASTER,” Deseret News, June 13, 1989.


Joel Campbell and Ray Eldard, “LEGISLATOR WANTS INSPECTIONS OF CARNIVAL, PARK RIDES,” Deseret News, June 25, 1989.



Lynn Arave, “Lagoon questions data on injuries,” Deseret News, August 15, 2000.

Lee Davidson,“2 studies declare roller coaster safe,” Deseret News, January 21, 2003.

Arave, Lynn. “It’s About Fun: A History of Lagoon Amusement/Theme Park.” The Mystery Of Utah.

127 Years of Family Fun!” Lagoon Corp. Media Resources.


Treasure Mountain, Park City: The Combination of Mining and Sport


Treasure Mountain, a ski area in Park City, Utah, opened on December 21, 1963, with the longest gondola in the United States. The launch of this magnificent facility promised to bring the boom back to the quiet mining town. Park City, with its second bonanza in a century, was about to become a popular year-round destination. The opening of the Treasure Mountain Resort had a huge effect on bringing back life to Park City after the silver rush had subsided.

Before the Treasure Mountain Resort was even a dream, Park City “was first called Parley’s Park, but changed to Park City in 1872. The local silver mines prove[d] to be very rich, and mark[ed] the start of boom times for Park City. … Mining remained an important industry into the 1950s.” (“Park City, Utah”) With silver mining declining, the need to find something that could fill the mountains and city streets with people again was pressing. “As the local mining industry slowed down, United Park City Mines look[ed] to diversify and [began] work on Treasure Mountain Resort (now Park City Mountain Resort) in 1958.” (“Park City, Utah”)

Architectural rendering that appeared with "Crews Alter Park City Scene," The Salt Lake Tribune, August 4, 1963.

United Park City Mines was granted a loan large enough to fund the construction of a ski lift, activity center, mountain restaurant, horseback-riding facilities, and a camping center. The product of this grant would be a new ski mountain resort, Treasure Mountain, nestled in the heart of Park City. “In 1963, Park City qualifie[d] for a federal loan from the Area Redevelopment Agency. The government [gave] $1.25 million and, with other contributions, a total of $2 million [was] used to start Treasure Mountain Resort. A gondola, a chairlift and 2 J-bars [were] installed.” (“A Little Park City History”)

In fact, the construction of Treasure Mountain exceeded expectations of the mining company that built and owned it. The first year that Treasure Mountain was open, there were almost 50,000 skiers that were logged with lift passes costing $3.50 per day. (“A Little Park City History”) After the ground on which Treasure Mountain would be built was broken in May 1963 (Ringholz 14), the media raved about the possibilities of the new resort saying that “by the time work is finished, Park City will have recorded its second bonanza in a century — the first a mining boom, this one a recreation boom.” (“Crews Alter”)

The major benefit of this “second bonanza” was that it brought visitors and locals alike to participate in the year-round resort skiing and summer activities, breathing new life into an old mining town. As opening day crept closer, the gondola and some of the lifts were opened for brief periods of time to test them out and start to show off the property. The first people to try out these lifts were Nancy Ryan and Ben Clark, “both University of Utah students, the first skiers not affiliated with the resort or work crews to ride to the top of Pioneer Ridge, upper terminal of the 2-1/2 mile long tramway.” (“Park City Tramway”)

On December 21, 1963, Utah’s newest ski resort was formally opened when Mayor William P. Sullivan cut the ribbon and declared that the event was comparable to the discovery of silver in the Park City area. (Hampshire, 321) The Summit County Bee & Park Record reported that “the long awaited grand opening of the Treasure Mountain Recreation Center was most appropriately celebrated at 9 am Saturday morning December 12, in the breezeway of the beautiful new center when Park City’s Mayor William P Sullivan cut the ribbon and declared the 10,000 acre recreational facilities open to the public to enjoy to its fullest.” (Hurley)

Many prominent people came to attend this event, including politicians Senator Frank E. Moss, Senator Wallace F.  Bennett, and representatives for Congressman Laurence J. Burton and Representative Sherman Lloyd. Festivities included a gala reception with music by the Park City High School Band that was hosted by the United Park City Mines President John M. Wallace. A special breakfast, social hour, and an inspection of the center were provided to the honored guests following the primary festivities. (Hurley) In a stroke of genius, the architects for Treasure Mountain Resort also included center houses for lockers, administration offices, a day care center for children, a ski rental and repair shop, and ski school headquarters. (“Local News”)

According to the Summit County Bee and Park Record, “the full impact of the years of planning this great project, and the brains and ability and man-hours of skilled workmen of many trades have all come to a most wonderful completion in the west’s newest and finest play land, Treasure Mountain’s Year Round Resort in Park City.” (Hurley)

Treasure Mountain was the beginning of a new experience in skiing in Utah. The revolutionary new resort hosted two J-Bar Tows, and the prospector double chairlift was Utah’s longest lift to date. It served 4-1/2 miles of slopes, stretched 1-1/4 miles and raised 1,300 vertical feet. Treasure Mountain also installed “the $636,000 gondola tramway, [the] feature attraction of the multi-million dollar ski complex rising here will be open for its first customers Thursday morning. …The tramway is designed to carry 92 four-passenger cabins… The gondola is the longest of its type in the United States. It is in two sections, stretching up the mountains for two and a half miles, serving some 18 miles of ski trails.” (“Gondola Lift Rolls Today”)

The new technology constructed in this mining town was awe inspiring to the local population. Rhea Hurley described the newest attraction: “The gondola ride is an experience ‘out of this world’ and must be taken to be fully realized and appreciated. One realizes they are not on a plane, nor a ‘flying machine’ of any sort, and are tempted to feel their shoulder blades to see if wings have sprouted while they are still here on Mother Earth.” (Hurley) The attraction of the gondola was revolutionary to the time and opened the doors to skiing much more terrain than before. Also, having the longest gondola in the United States prompted outdoor enthusiasts from around the country to come enjoy the new Treasure Mountain.

Following the opening of Treasure Mountain, one article noted key changes in the Park City area, including media coverage, revenue, and population. The most notable media coverage events that followed the opening of Treasure Mountain for the Park City area included: a 1966 Sports Illustrated magazine article, Park City’s television station TV45 began broadcasting in 1986, and in 1995 Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Winter Olympic Games where more than 40 percent of the events were held in Park City at the Utah Olympic Park, Deer Valley, and Park City Mountain Resort.” (“A Little Park City History”)

Due to the construction of Treasure Mountain in Park City, later renamed Park City Mountain Resort, the popularity of the resort made it a primary location where the events were hosted for one of, if not the greatest, series of international media events in the world, the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In addition to the media popularity, money began to pour into the community as people came from far and wide to play in the newly built skiing playground. With 500,000 skiers a day attending the Park City Ski Area in 1974 and a day pass that cost $26, revenue was up and continued to increase as the years rolled on. (“A Little Park City History”) And last but not least, the population was dynamically affected. Statistics showed that the population in Park City was a grand total of 164 in 1870. Statistics showed that the construction of Treasure Mountain and the development of the area increased people traffic in dramatic numbers. In 1990 the population had jumped considerably with resident population at 5,000 and skiers within the resort measured at over 850,000. (“A Little Park City History”)

Park City evolved through the building of Treasure Mountain. Although there were already hills to ski, the introduction of the United States’ longest gondola, the Treasure Mountain center, ski school, and other attractions brought a pulse back to the slowly fainting silver mining town.

“The storied village offers skiers and sightseers a gay mood which is a carry over from its famous boom town mining days. Remember December 21, 1963. It’ll be an historic event for Park City, Utah and the intermountain area.” (“Local News”) That day proved to be the beginning of a skiing dynasty in the West, with Park City at the top of it all.

Natalie Durham Hawkes is a senior at The University of Utah, graduating in mass communication in 2012.


Mike Korologos, “Crews Alter Park City Scene,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, August 4, 1963.

“Gondola Lift Rolls Today,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, December 12, 1963.

Mike Korologos, “Park City Tramway Carries Pay Load,” The Salt Lake City Tribune, December 13, 1963.

“Local News,” The Summit County Bee & Park Record, December 19, 1963.

Rhea Hurley, “Stupendous, Unbelievable Treasure Mountains Consensus,” The Summit County Bee & Park Record, December 26, 1963.

David Hampshire, et al., A History of Summit County (Salt Lake City: Utah State Historical Society, 1998).

Raye Carleson Ringholz, Diggings and Doings in Park City (Salt Lake City: The University of Utah, 1970).

A Little Park City History,” Old Town Guest House.

Philip F. Notarianni, “Park City,” Utah History Encyclopedia, The University of Utah.

Treasure Mountain Inn,” Park City Real Estate.

Park City, Utah,” Western Mining History : Reliving the Industrial Revolution of the West.

The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Building of Zion National Park


Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

Zion National Park is one of the United States’ natural hidden treasures and would not be the utopia that it is today without the efforts put forth by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Also known as the CCC, this program was created to help sustain jobs and to give opportunity to the young unemployed men of the United States as well as to improve public lands during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Signed as a national park in 1919, Zion is one of Utah’s best-kept secrets and the first national park of the state. Mukuntuweap Canyon, which was the original name for Zion Canyon, was the  “cool habitat that became the home for the first people of Utah … around 11,000 B.C.,” writes David Oswald in his book, A Journey Through Mukuntuweap: The History of Zion National Park. Located in the southeast corner of the state, Zion is a spectacular Park that can only be accessed by one double-lane state road, which is closed to public traffic in the summer months. Instead, visitors ride park-run busses that help keep the park almost emission free, clean and pristine. One thing that is more than likely forgotten by the visitors who come to the park is the history and how it came to be. Zion not only has a rich history of Native American culture but also an opulent history that involves the growth sustainability of the United States as a country.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt established the CCC on March 31, 1933. The organization was created to fight against soil erosion and declining timber resources by utilizing unemployed young men from large urban areas across the country. It is said that “the speed with which the plan moved through proposal, authorization, implementation and operation was a miracle of cooperation among all branches and agencies of the federal government. It was a mobilization of men, material and transportation on a scale never before known in time of peace.” (CCC Legacy) After establishment the program boomed, and held great public support with hundreds of thousands of young workingmen enrolling every day.

Zion Canyon, Zion Lodge, circa 1930. Photo courtesy of the Special Collections Department, J. Willard Marriott Library, The University of Utah.

The Zion Camp was established in June 1933 and began to flourish not too long after. A newspaper ad from the Garfield County News on September 9, 1941, ran with a title, “Openings Announced in Zion CCC Camp.” An excerpt reads, “During this period of National Emergency there is a great demand for trained workers and the Civilian Conservation Corps performing its share of training young men for better jobs.” It gave insight into the demand for workers and the scarcity of position openings at the camps during their peak years. During the nine years that the CCC spent creating Zion, members “built and improved many of the Zion Canyon’s trails, created many of the parking areas, fought fires, eradicated invasive plants, helped build campgrounds, built park buildings, and reduced flooding of the Virgin River.” (NPS)

The booming year for the CCC camps was 1935 and by the end of the year, there were over 2,650 camps operating in all states. In total, $322,682 was spent expanding the Zion National Park through the CCC, according to Wayne K. Hinton in his 2011 Utah Historical Quarterly article. California had more than 150 camps, each housing over 6,000 people. CCC enrollees were performing more than 100 kinds of jobs and skills. Some of the specific accomplishments of the Corps included 3,470 fire towers erected; 97,000 miles of fire roads built; 4,235,000 man-days devoted to fighting fires; and more than three billion trees planted. (CCC Legacy)

For payment, the men were given somewhere to sleep, food to eat and clothing to wear, and made about $30 a month. Most of them kept $5 and the remaining $25 was sent home to their families. (Oswald) Topics regarding the “hearty Army meals and menus,” the clean hospitality that was given to the workers, as well as the hefty budget that was dedicated to running the camps can be seen in an article from the Kane County Standard on February 15, 1935. The reporter writes, “When the American boy of today goes into the woods he takes his appetite with him no less than his older brother took and appetite to war in other days.” Men gained an average of “9 ¾ pounds” after working in the camps for only three months, according to an article form the Iron County Record published on March 8, 1934. This information was noteworthy news because of the Great Depression in which the rest of the country was rationing food and supplies. Working for the CCC was not only beneficial to the country, but also for the workingmen who got the opportunity to enroll.

The men spent all week completing backbreaking jobs around the park, including building the 1.1-mile tunnel through a solid mountain. But they still had the energy to spend time taking hikes throughout the park on the weekends. One example of this is from the diary of Belden Lewis, a CCC enrollee who worked in the park from 1934-1935.

“I went on a long hike. First to West Rim, then on the way back Widdison and I went to Angels Landing and signed our name in the autograph book. The hike was at least 25 miles long round trip and we were tired.”

These places that Belden mentions are some of the most popular hikes in the Park and today are very frequently traveled trails, which were created by the CCC. “The main roads and trails of the canyon were built, including the trail to The Narrows by the men of the CCC.” (Larson) The men worked extremely hard on creating the beautiful park that we see today, but also had the amazing opportunities to explore the park themselves.

The CCC did wonders for Zion and almost the entire park holds the history of this hard time for the United States. When the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work in Zion was ended in 1942, many of the men were able to transition from structured CCC life to the structured life of a military man as they fought in World War II. The CCC was essential in the creation of Zion and without their work it is hard to say what would have became of the canyon, if anything.

Today, more than 2.5 million curious patrons visit Zion National Park annually, and many hope to catch a glimpse of the sun rising on the Towers of the Virgin. In the summer months, busy sightseers crowd the paths like sidewalks in New York City during rush hour, and walk upon trails created by the CCC. Zion National Park holds nothing less than the jaw-dropping landscapes and awe-inspiring cliff faces one would assume. There is nothing like it in the world and without experiencing this veiled sandstone treasure with your own eyes, you cannot say that you have seen the earth’s natural true beauty.

Amy D. Wilde is a senior at The University of Utah. She is majoring in mass communication and minoring in international studies.


“Openings Announced in Zion CCC,” Garfield County News, September 9, 1941, 1.

“Supt. Patraw Praises CCC,” Kane County Standard on February 15, 1935, 1.

“Men of CCC Camp in Good Condition,” Iron County Record, March 8, 1934. 1.

“CCC Camp Now Located at Zion Nat’l. Park,” Iron County Record, August 2, 1934. 1.

Wayne K. Hinton, “Getting Along. The Significance of Cooperation in the Development of Zion National Park,” Utah Historical Quarterly (2000): 313.

Karl A Larson, “Zion National Park—Park with Some Reminiscences Fifty Years Later,” Utah Historical Quarterly (1969): 408I.

David Oswald, A Journey Through Mukuntuweap: The History Of Zion National Park (Scotts Valley: CreateSpace, 2009).

J.L. Crawford, Zion National Park: Towers of Stone (Albion Publishing Group, 1988).

Zion National Park Museum, “The Diary of Belden Lewis,” 1934-1935.

National Park Service, “Civilian Conservation Corps,”

“CCC Brief History,” Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy,

Deseret News Follows Developing Ski Industry, 1970-1973


The Rocky Mountains have given Utah a resource for recreation and have become a selling point for tourists from all over the globe. Skiing has a long history in Utah and started gaining national and global recognition around the start of the 1970s. Resorts started to spring up in the mountainous areas in the northern and southern ends of the state, joining the veteran resorts such as Alta, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, and Brian Head farther south. The Deseret News made an effort to attract both local and non-resident skiers to come get a piece of the action.

Prior to the Utah ski industry boom “ tourism expenditures increased over 30 percent in the Rocky Mountain Region in 1960-65,” which was a good indication that there was a bright future for a ski industry in Utah. (Rugh, 447) The impending revenue that was on the horizon forced Utah’s government to look into expanding ski resort accommodations and facilities in order to handle an expanding cliental.

Skiing presented a new industry for the local government to develop and visibility in local newspapers played a major role in the development. An article in The Western Historical Quarterly describes how state branding helped in “Utah’s transformation from a rural backwater to a world player in the tourism enterprise.” (Rugh, 446) The coverage of the booming ski industry in The Deseret News during the early 1970s displays boosterism tactics that attempted to help bring people up to the Rocky Mountains to experience the expanding facilities offered by the numerous resorts.

The Deseret News has delivered the news in Utah since 1850, following Utah through many changes and advancements. (Lythgoe) The growth of the ski industry in Utah and the revenue it brought in through tourism was a topic covered in the countless pages of grey paper. Looking at articles in The Deseret News during the beginning of the 1970s gives insight into how the paper attempted to bring people from outside the state and local skiers to Utah resorts as they expanded to new heights.

In 1970 the ski industry in Utah was reaching new revenue heights in the millions and the local economy was cashing in. The number of visits to ski resorts doubled between 1966 and 1971, from 442,000 to an estimated 862,000. (Wikstrom, 219) An article published in The Deseret News on March 24, 1970, noted that “new [ski] facilities are much needed” as the number of skier increased. This article voiced the need for the expansion of resorts and developments in new areas.

There was a long skiing heritage in Utah, dating back to the first resorts established in mining territories like Brighton and Park City in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Despite the skiing history the amount of non-local recognition was small and the mountains were utilized mostly by locals through the 1960s. The Deseret News reported on December 11, 1970, that actor Robert Redford had felt the power of the Rocky Mountains. The article describes a written feature including photos by Robert Redford about skiing in Utah and the treasures it offered, noting that the “vast Wasatch range have remained undiscovered by the majority of skiers.” The feature, “Robert Redford on Skiing in Utah,” displayed color pictures of the locations offered in Utah with descriptions of each area. This article gave Utah a well-known voice that advocated venturing to the ski resorts in the state.

The Deseret News on December 17, 1970, reported that the Intermountain Ski Instructor Association honored a local ski legend, Sverre Engen, for his work as a teacher of the sport and an early filmmaker of Utah skiing. He was an advocate of bringing people to Utah for the skiing locations and was praised in the article by stating that the “Wasatch wonderlands have never bad a better booster.” This article shows that movie stars and local skiing legends were both promotional selling points utilized by The Deseret News.

The Rock Hill Herald reported on March 12, 1971, about Snowbird’s new accessibility through a tram system that was the “ first tram in Utah and one of the largest in North America.” The article described the difficult accessibility of the mountain when it stated that it had been “popular with ski buffs affluent enough to use a helicopter as a chairlift.” The article also described the huge lodge projects that were being erected in Little Cottonwood Canyon stating, “Snowbird’s building program will accommodate 5000 people,” which showed the promise of further expansion in the ski industry.

An article published by The Deseret News on November 27, 1971, noted that “for visitors skiing is believing.” The article quoted then American Airlines president George Spater claiming that when “ a skier comes back from Utah and tells his friends about great skiing, they listen.” This was one of the first relationships between airlines and ski resorts. Spater continues saying that “ the proposed merger with Western Airlines would strengthen American’s ability to attract more people to Utah.” Gaining the support of airline companies in marketing and advertising gave Utah’s ski industry an new ally that could prove to be valuable in bringing people to the state in order to utilize the local ski resorts.

The Deseret News published an article on April 5, 1972, noting that skiing was perceived as the “least impressive recreation in Utah.”  The comparison against other neighboring states put Utah below neighboring states on the list of recreational tourism location. The message in the feature suggested that a new image and promotional efforts were necessary for expansion in Utah’s ski industry. The Deseret News reported on November 2, 1972, that “getting up the mountain is a snap” and recreation in Utah is a great ski location. The article noted resorts like Alta, Park City, and Park West along with the more southern region, and reported that “Robert Redford dug the area so much he put a ski resort there.” The Deseret News played a part in 1972 in attempting to change the state’s image in order to draw new skiers to Utah slopes.

An article published by The Deseret News on February 5, 1973, reported on the ski industry’s business growth. The article quotes Al Geibel, owner of the Rustler Lodge at Alta, who stated, “business is good—very, very good.” Geibel goes further and claims that “almost 100 percent of new business has been from out of state,” which helped pay for the new lodges that were under construction at the time. The article shows how different articles in The Deseret News were attempting to provide a positive image for the ski industry and Utah in general.

The increasing business occurring in the Utah ski industry was reported by The Deseret News on November 23, 1973, noting that “Utah’s ski industry showed a net profit of $18,000,000, in 1972.” This rise in profits and Utah Ski Association’s nationwide recognition showed that the industry was on the right track. The article also noted that non-resident skiing visitors “ increased 40 percent.” The article also hopes that resorts don’t “turn their collective backs on the all-important local skier.” This article shows the upswing in the ski industry and its contribution to Utah’s economy while keeping focused on local ski enthusiasts.

Looking at the move toward a successful ski industry, The Deseret News reported on September 15, 1973, that Utah’s ski industry “has been discovered” and will continue to prosper. The ski conditions of the Rocky Mountains were noted as “another factor in Utah’s ski success.” The article also shows how the airlines profited, stating that their revenue had grown “as much as 300 percent in skier traffic this past winter,” showing the symbiotic relationship between the industry. The feeling of the article is that Utah skiing had finally arrived and had a bright future.

My research on The Deseret News coverage on the ski industry was focused on the progression of the industry. Although the media aren’t always the driving factor behind industries, the ski industry was impacted by the newspaper’s coverage directed toward local and non-residential skiers. The Utah ski industry utilized the resources at hand and created an industry that continues to flourish. The Deseret News’ coverage of this development played a part in gaining support for the expansion of the industry on a local and non-residential level. The cooperation of the airlines and publicity drawn from Redford’s feature and local skiing legend Sverre Engen helped boost Utah’s ski industry to a new level.
Without the media coverage on the emerging ski scene, it may have never reached the high marks that we see it at today. The Deseret News has remained a staple of communication for Utah, because it has covered issues like “The Greatest Snow on Earth.”

Dakota Hawks will graduate from the University of Utah in August 2010 with a degree in mass communication. He is a snow fanatic.

Arnold Irvine, “Leisure Manufacturing Big In Utah,” The Deseret News, March 24, 1970, A17.

Hack Miller, “Ski Feature Boosts Utah,” The Deseret News, December 11, 1970, B9.

Hack Miller, “Skiers Honor Sverre,” The Deseret News, December 17,1970, D1.

Bill Hill, “Snowbird Rises on Wasatch Slopes,” The Rock Hill Ledger, March 12, 1971, 15.

Arnold Irvine, “Visitors: Skiing is Believing,” The Deseret News, November 27, 1971, 27.

Arnold Irvine, “Vacation in Utah? Poll Says ‘Unlikely,’” The Deseret News, April 5, 1972, 8b.

“Utah Has Desert Image,” The Deseret News, November 2, 1972, 6f.

Robert Buckhorn, “’Utah’s Really Arrived,’” The Deseret News, Febuary 5, 1973, 10B.

Rolf Koecher, “Utah’s ski snow a hot item these days,” The Deseret News, September 15, 1973, 1B.

Dave Kadleck, “Yes, Virginia, Utah’s skiing is on the move,” The Deseret News, November 23, 1973, 2C.

Susan Rugh, “Branding Utah: Industrial Tourism in the Postwar American West,” The Westerm Historical Quarterly (2006): 445-472.

Dennis Lythgoe, “Deseret News,” Utah History Encyclopedia.

Wikstrom Economic & Planning Associates, Inc., RRC Associates. “Utah’s Ski Industry.”