SKI SEASON: What's in a name?

November 01, 2006 11:00 pm
A skier navigates the ridge between K-2 and Rock Garden at Ski Anthony Lakes. (Baker City Herald file photo/Mark Furman).
A skier navigates the ridge between K-2 and Rock Garden at Ski Anthony Lakes. (Baker City Herald file photo/Mark Furman).

By JAYSON JACOBY

Mike Gooderham didn't mean to ski over the bird's head.

He's not anti-bird.

Gooderham actually likes birds, even birds that nearly scare the wits out of him, as this particular bird did when it burst from the snow beneath his skis like some untethered alpine jack-in-the-box.

The bird was a blue grouse, a detail which in some stories would be superfluous but which to this story is essential.

When the episode was over — after the unfazed and unhurt grouse had flown away, and after Gooderham's heart rate had slowed to its customary pace — he was actually glad for the encounter.

Thanks to the grouse, Gooderham had a name for this new run through the lodgepole and whitebark pines at , the ski resort in the Elkhorn Mountains northwest of Baker City.

Gooderham hadn't been thinking of names, however, as he plunged through a foot and a half of pristine powder on that beautiful blue sky morning.

He doesn't remember the year, although he guesses it was in the 1970s.

You ought to forgive Gooderham for his lack of precision — he's been a ski patroller at Anthony Lakes since 1963, and so he has made a fair number of deep-powder runs on sunny mornings.

Anyway, there he was, floating through the soft white drifts and pondering not names or birds but only where he would carve his next turn.

Had Gooderham's mind not been so occupied, though, he might well have recalled a fact which he knew — that sometimes grouse, after a heavy fall of snow, will burrow into the powder to take advantage of the snow's insulating qualities.

An avian igloo, in other words.

But Gooderham wasn't thinking of grouse and so he wasn't ready for what happened.

"I skied over this big blue grouse and that thing just exploded from under my skis," he said.

"I started referring to it as the Grouse Run."

Thirty years or so later, the Grouse Run it remains.

There are 21 named runs at Ski Anthony Lakes and each has a story, although not all are quite as interesting, or as unusual, as Gooderham's grouse tale.

The Road Run, for instance.

One of the four easy (also known as beginner) routes on the mountain, it follows, as you probably have guessed, a road.

Broadway, another of the beginner runs, also has a descriptive, but not especially compelling, name.

"It's wide, and it's easy to get down," said Jerry Gildemeister, 72, who, like Gooderham, lives in La Grande.

Both men joined the all-volunteer Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol in the early 1960s (the patrol's charter is dated Jan. 1, 1963).

(That was Anthony Lakes' first "official" patrol. Volunteers have patrolled the slopes — helping injured skiers, and ensuring the runs are safe each morning before the lifts start hauling skiers to the top — ever since the late 1930s, when people discovered that the fluffy powder snow that falls in the Elkhorns is perfect for carving turns.)

Gooderham, 65, who still patrols at Anthony Lakes, said several of today's runs, and their names, were in place when the current resort opened in 1962.

Among those runs is Variety (also known as Variety Ridge), so named because it presents skiers with a mix of slope angles, sun exposure and snow conditions, Gooderham said.

Through the rest of the 1960s and into the '70s, members of the Ski Patrol, as well as officers from the Anthony Lakes Corporation, opened new runs or improved existing ones, Gooderham said.

"We all contributed our time — and our chainsaws," he said. "We usually tried to open at least one run per year."

Broadway, for instance, was originally known as "Kostol's Trail," for Dr. Carl Kostol of Baker City, Gooderham said.

In its first form the run hardly resembled the wide, easy route it is today, Gooderham said.

The run cleaved a lodgepole thicket which few skiers, Kostol being one of them, were willing to negotiate.

"It was pretty darn narrow, and hard to ski," said Kostol, 84, who lives in Baker City.

Kostol, who served as president and vice president of the Anthony Lakes Corporation during the 1960s, said he worked for several years to widen the route because he wanted to encourage skiers to try terrain on the northern edge of the area.

"It was important, I thought, to develop that side, to cut down on crowds," Kostol said. "I had a chainsaw, and I did a lot of tree-clearing. That's basically how the trail developed into what it is today."

Two runs owe their name to the 1968 movie "Paint Your Wagon," for which some scenes were filmed at Anthony Lakes (most of the movie was shot at East Eagle Creek in the Wallowa Mountains).

One of the two runs is, appropriately, "Paint Your Wagon."

The second run is called "Starbottle Headwall," and it's named for a hotel featured in the movie.

The film crew erected the wooden Starbottle Hotel on the ridge south of the top of the chairlift, Gooderham said.

In the pre-"Paint Your Wagon" days that area, which overlooks the Hoffer Lakes Basin, was called "Avalanche," Gooderham said. There's still a run by that name today, at the southern edge of the developed ski area, just beyond Starbottle Headwall.

Gooderham himself named K-2, one of the 10 expert runs at Anthony Lakes.

His inspiration was a similarly steep route at Squaw Valley, a resort in the Sierra Nevada near Lake Tahoe, called "KT-22."

The "KT" is derived from "kick turns," the move many skiers need to make to finish the run unscathed, and "22" is the number of such turns the Squaw Valley run requires, Gooderham said.

He said he suggested the shorter K-2.

"To us, at that time, that was steeper than we were used to," Gooderham said.

He said the name has nothing to do with K2, the non-hyphenated Himalayan peak that is the second-highest mountain in the world.

Gildemeister, and in particular his pants and his posterior, got into trouble one day but not on the Trouble Creek run.

Although it's easy to get into trouble there, too, he said.

The problem with his pants, however, happened on Hip Hop, and it happened when he hopped.

Although neither Gildemeister nor Gooderham remembers who named Hip Hop, or why, they both note that the run is relatively narrow, so skiers sometimes have to "hop" to make it through.

Hip Hop is rated as an intermediate run but when crews first cleared the way they left lying the lodgepole pines they felled, Gildemeister said.

If you skied the run when the snow wasn't especially deep, you had to be careful not to get a ski tip stuck beneath one of those down logs.

"They were nasty little devils," Gildemeister said.

One day he tried to avoid one of those nasty little devils.

Gildemeister figured if his skis slipped under the log, he'd break both his legs.

So he lifted his skis.

He lifted them just high enough to slide over the log.

What he didn't lift high enough was his rear.

The sharp end of a cut branch on the log tore a gash in the bottom of his ski pants — and in the skin beneath.

EXPERT RUNS

Chicken Out

This short run through the trees branches off from the Holiday run near the top of the mountain.

Skiers who don't want to follow Holiday to the bottom can veer right onto Chicken Out, Gooderham said.

Skiers who opt for Chicken Out shouldn't consider themselves cowards, though — Chicken Out is an expert run while Holiday is merely intermediate.

Gildemeister said the "chicken out" refers not to avoiding Holiday, but missing the even steeper, and rockier, route that roughly parallels the path of the original Pomalift (it was replaced by a chairlift in 1967).

Claude's Run

Like Chicken Out, this route takes off from Holiday, though a bit farther down the mountain.

The run's namesake is Claude Anson of La Grande, a charter member of the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol who's now in his 90s.

Anson also worked as a ski patroller at Spout Springs, a small resort north of Elgin, in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Gooderham said Claude's Run originally was called "Lew's Run," for another patroller, Lew Work, who, like Anson, frequently skied the route.

Upper College

The source of the name for this short but steep run near the top of the mountain is the College run at Sun Valley, Idaho.

Gildemeister said Duane Ecker, who joined the Anthony Lakes Ski Patrol in 1963, often skied at Sun Valley. That famous resort in Idaho also was the inspiration for Lower College, an intermediate run that connects the Variety run and Road Run.

Rock Garden

Sun Valley also supplied the name for this run, which is beneath Anthony Lakes' triple chairlift.

It's an appropriate name in any case, because the run, one of the more difficult at Anthony Lakes, crosses a boulder patch. Of course you won't see those boulders — you're not supposed to, anyway — during ski season.

Just south of Rock Garden there's a shallow slit in the slope which patrollers used to call "Gildemeister's Gully," Gooderham said.

The moniker, born from Gildemeister's affinity for skiing the gully, never became official, though.

Tumble Off

An easy thing to do if you're not careful on this run, which starts just north of where the chairlift disgorges skiers.

Tumble Off also is the name of a meadow near the Anthony Lakes day lodge.

Gooderham remembers watching brothers Phil and Steve Mahre, both of whom won skiing medals in the Olympics, speed down this run during a race that brought about 300 competitors to Anthony Lakes.

The run was also the inspiration for the name of award-winning from Barley Browns Brewpub in Baker City.

Schuss Alley

Rare among expert runs at Anthony Lakes, this route extends to the bottom of the mountain.

Its name comes from the German word "schuss," which means, according to Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary: "To ski directly down a slope at high speed."

INTERMEDIATE RUNS

Bert's Run

This run, which connects Broadway and Holiday, honors Bert Vanderwall of Haines.

Vanderwall started the first ski shop at Anthony Lakes in 1962, and the first ski school in 1963.

Vanderwall, who also was a ski patroller for many years, said he thought the route was ideal, but "I had a hard time getting it approved from the Forest Service."

Eventually, though, he succeeded.

"It really has been a good run over the years," said Vanderwall, who's 78.

Trouble Creek

The name, though its hint of danger makes it suitably dramatic for a ski run, in reality refers to a real creek which got its name before skiers started congregating at Anthony Lakes.

Trouble Creek, which isn't shown on current maps, is a spring-fed stream that heads high on the mountain, Gooderham said.

He doesn't know what sort of trouble led to the creek's naming.

Vista Drive

There's no such thing as a bad view at Anthony Lakes, Gooderham said.

But none is better, he contends, than the vista from this route near the south edge of the developed ski area.

Gooderham said his favorite times to ski Vista Drive are early morning, when patrollers make all the runs to ensure there's no obstacles, and in the late afternoon as dusk settles over the mountain.

In the morning of a clear day the sun transforms the slope into a dazzling white sea.

And on the last run of the day, particulary around the solstice when dark comes especially early, the entire basin is bathed in the soft pink light called alpenglow.

"It's a remarkable sight," Gooderham said.

"You can see that anywhere on the mountain, but when you're skiing Vista and you're between the trees you tend to focus on it," he said. "It's pretty impressive."

Holiday

This is one of the longer runs on the mountain, and skiing it can be sort of like a holiday — fun, but not too strenuous.