A Sledder’s Slope at Snowman’s Hill
By Gary VanDeWalker
Snow DayFebruary 2016
By Gary Vandewalker
Once, on the slopes of Mount Shasta and its rolling foothills, snowmen were kings. The Mount Shasta Snowmen came together in 1931 to promote winter sports in the area. They looked to the snowy pass between McCloud and Mount Shasta, dubbing it Snowman’s Hill, and they set out to use their magic to make this place a winter wonderland, surrounded by alpine forests and thick carpets of powdered snow.
In the winter of 1932, they built a warming hut at the bottom of the hill and the Snowman’s Lodge to provide hot meals and drinks to snow seekers. These improvements drew toboggan and sled riders, downhill skiers and ski jumpers to the slope. The club sponsored a professional ski jumping exhibition. Within a short span, Snowman’s Hill became known up and down the West Coast for ski jumping.
A large snowman sign welcomed visitors. In 1933, the Mountain House Beer Garden opened, bringing even more people to the newfound winter playground. The McCloud River Railroad provided transportation to the location, dropping passengers a short distance from the activities. More ski jumping contests were held and brought nationally recognized jumpers to the area.
Sig Ulland, a Mount Shasta resident, jumped in 1932, and by 1938, Ulland would become the National Ski Jumping Champion.
In the 1940s, the war shut down the official activities. The Snowmen continued to dream, and at the conclusion of the war, they reopened as a ski area, adding a t-bar in 1956. The master plan was to develop the hill into a ski resort. As the push for a major ski area continued to grow, the Snowmen merged with the Mount Shasta Ski Bowl Ski Club and they set their hopes on a more expansive ski area above timberline on Mount Shasta. By 1960, they abandoned Snowman’s Hill and sold the equipment.
Snowman’s Hill may have been passed over by skiers, but the football field-sized slope continued to fill with excited voices. Sledders came in droves. When school closed for the holidays, the children of the surrounding communities gathered. The hush of ski jumpers gave way to the shouts and laughter of children, doing their own feats of winter wonders as they rushed headlong down the north-facing slope’s bed of packed snow.
More than 70 years after the Snowmen set eyes on this site, the Hill remains a magnet of enthusiasm and a flurry of winter recreation. The Snowmen have faded into history, and the ski resort they created was taken away in an avalanche. Where the vision began, people continued to come and play to the end of the century, and the beginning of a new one.
As cars pass the peak of Highway 89, they are invited to turn one direction to the Mount Shasta Ski Park, or to the parking lot on the other side of the road, where Snowman’s Hill stands. Each place is a fulfillment of the Snowmen’s dreams. They desired to see these mountains enjoyed, for the winter to be embraced with sports, and to be a place where families made memories.
There is magic at Snowman’s Hill. As John Burnside says, “Snow isn’t just pretty. It also cleanses our world and our senses.”