A steak, a portable toilet and an Olympic gold medalist walk into a ski lodge bar, which one do you name a ski run after?
Well, if you’re White Pass, the answer is easy: Everybody but the gold medalist.
The ski area has a strict policy of not naming runs after people. So it has runs called Rib Eye and Outhouse, but not a single run named after its most famous skier, Phil Mahre.
At 49 Degrees North, 50 miles north of Spokane, the answer was easy too. The ski area named a run Mahre’s Gold shortly after his 1984 triumph even though he’d yet to ski at the resort. However, there are no runs at 49 named after meat or restrooms.
Regardless of how ski areas choose to name a run, there is almost always a story behind them.
“The process of picking run names is not approached lightly,” said Paul Mahre, director of the Pacific Northwest Ski Association and Phil Mahre’s brother. “The names are chosen to reflect the underlying philosophies of the ski area.”
At most ski areas, choosing names is left up to the owner or general manger. That was the case at White Pass when it opened 767 acres of new terrain in December. But general manger Kevin McCarthy decided to take a different approach.
He left 10 of the new runs unnamed and will lean heavily on the input of skiers via the resort’s Facebook page when picking the names.
So far, there seems to be a small swell of interest to finally name a run after Phil Mahre and his twin bother, Steve, who won the slalom silver medal at the 1984 Olympics. Even Alex Mahre, Phil’s son, chimed in with these suggestions for what is currently called Run No. 2: “Twins,” “Brotha-Mahres” and “Phil-N-Steve.”
For what it’s worth, Paul says he and his brothers have had conversations about run names and none of them incorporated their names.
“We like playing with words,” Paul said. “The sentiment of our family is that a run should reflect the character of a run and you shouldn’t try to force a name. You can’t call a run Butterfly if it should be named Executioner.”
That’s the approach most ski areas tend to take.
Guy Lawrence was involved in choosing the names of the new runs at Summit East. He and other Summit at Snoqualmie employees sat down with dictionaries and thesauruses looking for names that fit the new terrain named Hidden Valley. After many long conversations, they agreed on Revelation, Solitude and Eclipse.
“We’d ask, ‘Does it fit the run?’” Lawrence said. “Does it roll off the tongue?”
We asked eight ski areas to share the stories behind some of their runs. Here are some of our favorites:
Whit’s End, Crystal Mountain: So if winning Olympic gold isn’t enough to get a run named after you, what exactly does it take?
Whitney Meriwether, a 31-year-old Ballard resident whose only been skiing for three years, knows the answer. “Sixty-two percent of your liver.”
When Crystal Mountain general manager John Kircher needed a liver transplant in 2008, Meriwether, a relative on Kircher’s wife’s side of the family, stepped up. One of the ways Kircher said thanks was to name a short black diamond run in Meriwether’s honor. Ironically, Meriwether says he doesn’t ski well enough to attempt the run yet. “It’s my goal to ski it one day,” he said.
Bomber Bowl, Mission Ridge: Named after a B-24 bomber that crashed in the area in 1944. A portion of the wing is displayed above the run.
Canuck’s Delux, Mount Baker: Mount Baker has always attracted many visitors from Canada so a run was named in their honor.
Ferk’s Run, Crystal Mountain: When longtime ski patrol member Steve Ferkovich celebrated his 50th anniversary working at Crystal Mountain, the ski area renamed its popular Iceberg Gulch run in his honor. However, many skiers continue to call the diamond run by its original name. “That will change over time as more and more new skiers come up here,” Steel said.
Pucker’s Gulch, Crystal Mountain: Named after what your bum is likely to do the first time you stand at the top of this double-diamond run.
Otto Bahn, Crystal Mountain: This diamond run is named for Northwest skiing pioneer Otto Lang. Lang founded America’s first ski school on Mount Rainier in 1936 and gave lessons to Gerald Ford, Cary Cooper and Groucho Marx. He taught Olympic gold medalist Gretchen Kunigk-Fraser of Tacoma how to ski. He directed and produced movies and was nominated for four Academy Awards. Oregon’s Timberline Lodge and Idaho’s Sun Valley also have runs named after Lang.
Otto Bahn, Mount Baker: This short blue run is named for former Seattle doctor Otto Trott. Trott, who was part Jewish, was born in Berlin and moved to the United States in 1937 to escape Nazi persecution. He helped to found the Mount Baker Ski Patrol in 1939. He was placed in an internment camp during World War II. He became a U.S. citizen after the war and was instrumental in the founding of the Mountain Rescue Council.
Niagaras, Crystal: This double-diamond run is so steep that fresh snow often makes the terrain look like a giant waterfall.
Snorting Elk, Crystal: One of Crystal’s most famous runs got its name when one of the original owners heard elk snorting in the area.
Lucky Shot, Crystal: Many of Crystal’s runs – Gold Hill, Quicksilver and Grubstake to name a few – come from the area’s mining routes. The intermediate Lucky Shot run is near where the Lucky Spot Mine used to be.
Mr. Magoo, Crystal: Lloyd McGahey, whose nickname was Mr. Magoo, helped plan many of the runs under the Forest Queen Express. When he died, the ski area named one of those runs after him.
Ron’s Run, Loup Loup: Ron Mackie, the former general manager of this ski area near Omak, named this run after himself.
Jaw Breaker, White Pass: Northwest skiing icon David Mahre, father of Phil and Steve, broke his jaw during an accident while cutting this run.
Ingrid’s Inspiration, Alpental: This diamond tree run formerly known as Red Robin is named for long-time ski school director Ingrid Simonson. Fittingly, the run is parallel to Debbie’s Gold. Simonson coached Armstrong.
Edelweiss Bowl, Alpental: When Tacoma businessmen Bob Mickelson and Jim Griffin built Alpental in 1967, they gave the runs Swiss/German names. In addition to being the name of a European mountain flower, Edelweiss was the name of Mickelson’s clothing line. Alpental was a name Mickelson concocted combining the German words for Alpine (Alpen) and Valley (tal).
International, Alpental: Perhaps the state’s best known double-diamond run, it was originally called Internationale. Most people didn’t use the pronunciation so the ski area eventually dropped the “e.”
Out of the Lupin, White Pass: This run on the outskirts of White Pass’s new terrain gets its name for being both out of the loop (almost out of the ski area and partially out of cell phone range) and for being adorned by lupin wildflowers in the spring and summer.
Tree Hugger, White Pass: White Pass had to remove many trees for its new terrain but purposely left extra trees on this run, resort spokeswoman Kathleen Goyette said. “We want to remind people that we love these trees too,” she said.
Hyak Face, Summit East: Summit East was once named Hyak and the name lives on thanks to this diamond run. Hyak is a Chinook term meaning swift.
Dino’s Revenge, Summit East: This steep diamond run is named after the Dinosaur, the nickname of the old lift that used to service East Peak.
Julie’s, Summit West: Perhaps more skiers and snowboarders have learned their sport on this run than any other in the Northwest. Even Bill Gates learned here. The run is named for ski instructor Julie Fiorini, whose daughter, Georgianne, still runs the 64-year-old Fiorini Ski School.
Orion, Stevens Pass: Orion is the longest of the celestial-themed runs in the ski area’s Mill Valley. Others include Borealis, Shooting Star, Gemini and Andromeda.
Parachute, Summit Central: You might think you need a parachute the first time you stand on top of this short but steep diamond run.
What? White Pass: You’ll get it just before you finish.
NAME THE RUNS AT WHITE PASS
White Pass Ski Area is soliciting input for the names of 10 new runs. It is collecting suggestions for a different run each week on its Facebook page. For a link to the page visit facebook.com/adventureguys. CHINOOK JARGON
Mission Ridge marketing director Jerri Barkley says the names of most of the Wenatchee ski area’s runs come from Chinook jargon, a blend of American Indian, French, Spanish and English. Some examples:
Chak Chak: Eagle
Elip: To go first
Lip Lip: Boiling