The Origins of Snowboarding in Utah

by STEPHEN KONKLER

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”)

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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.

Sources

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, http://bit.ly/2oVZwMI.

Josh Scheuerman, “Snowboarding in Utah: An Adolescent Sport Grows Up,” Sports Guide, Winter 2009, 10-14. http://bit.ly/2pspLva

Josh Scheuerman, “Re-search and Destroy: A Brief History of Snowboarding’s Roots in Utah,” SLUG Magazine, March 2001, 6-7. http://www.slugmag.com/pdf/147-March-2001.pdf

Sheehan, Gavin. “Salty Peaks.” City Weekly, August 242009. http://bit.ly/2nM5v75

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 1.” TransWorld Snowboarding, http://bit.ly/2mqe7T7

“Snowboard History Timeline, Part 2.” TransWorld Snowboardinghttp://bit.ly/2mHJeW0

Advertisement for Winterstick, Newsweek, March 1975.

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

by NATALIE DURHAM HAWKES

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.

Sources

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.

Deseret News Follows Developing Ski Industry, 1970-1973

by DAKOTA HAWKS

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.

Sources
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.”