Read about Idaho skiing’s past and present

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comNovember 28, 2013 

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IDAHO STATESMAN FILE

What ever happened to Hitt Mountain Ski Area near Cambridge?

There used to be ski areas around a lot of small towns all throughout Idaho. Where were they?

For the answers, just look in Margaret Fuller’s new book, “Ski the Great Potato: Idaho Ski Areas: Past and Present.”

The book is a fun read because it’s a history of the 21 Idaho ski areas that are still running and 72 of the historical or “lost” ones.

There used to be a ski jump on Horseshoe Bend Hill. Vertical was 150 feet or so.

I hate to say it, but as a longtime Idaho skier, I remember a few of these tiny community ski areas.

Co-authors of “Ski the Great Potato” are Margaret’s son, Doug Fuller, a former ski coach, and Jerry Painter, who writes an outdoor column for the Post Register in Idaho Falls.

“We worked on this book for four years, looked at miles of microfilm and interviewed over 150 people,” she said.

The book is fascinating because it delves into fun facts on the large number of ski hills that were spread across the state, and all the innovative ways local residents tried to maintain them.

Sun Valley had the first chairlift in the world, but it wasn’t the first ski area in Idaho. Actually, Lookout Pass had a rope tow Jan. 1, 1936, and Quigley Gulch near Hailey had horse-drawn toboggans for skiers a couple of weeks later.

The book gives the basic facts about each area and how it started, and it includes little stories of some of the people who skied at each one.

There are stories of stolen snowplows, an exploding stove, and a young woman who on a very cold night froze to the seat of a porta-potty.

The neat thing about early ski areas is the huge community support.

While researching the microfilm at Idaho newspapers, the authors found many hidden and forgotten stories of ski area startups in the weekly papers.

“It was almost always a community deal,” Fuller said.

People would meet and want to start a ski area. A club would be formed. Then, a rancher, farmer or mechanic promised to donate an engine for the rope tow.

Fuller is one of Idaho’s most veteran hikers and has written several hiking guides for the Sawtooths, White Clouds, Hells Canyon, Idaho wilderness areas and more.

The book sells for $22.95 plus shipping. For a look, go to trailguidebooks.com.

You can also check out some outdoor shops in Boise, such as McU Sports.

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