Santiam Pass Ski Lodge

Nestled in the High Cascades of Western Oregon, the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge was constructed in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to open winter recreational opportunities on public lands. Located in Linn County, just 70 miles northeast of Eugene and 45 miles northwest of Bend, the lodge was originally designed and operated to serve skiers and others accessing the Three Fingered Jack Sports Area development, which includes today’s Hoodoo Ski Bowl.

Santiam Pass Ski Lodge Boundary
Santiam Pass Ski Lodge located off of Highway 20, 70 miles northeast of Eugene, OR

In response to growing public interest and pressure for increased recreation opportunities accessible from Willamette Valley communities, William Parke, a Recreation Engineer with the U.S. Forest Service, led an expedition in 1938 to survey potential ski areas accessible from the then new State highways 20 and 22.  The general assembly concluded that the Three Fingered Jack area was the most logical area between Mount Hood and Crater Lake to develop a recreation site.  Following the trip home from the snow survey expedition, William Parke recalls the “sunken feeling” which “hits the pit of one’s stomach at the end of a pleasant journey when one realizes it will be a long time before the trip can be duplicated”.  He further recounts, “the group returned home with one thought, ‘when are we going back to Santiam Pass’” (Parke, 1938)

Snow Survey Party Snow Survey party on Santiam Hwy 1938 Enroute to Hoodoo Butte
From left to right: Snow survey party being towed by snow mobile, snow survey party traveling along Santiam Highway, and snow survey party enroute to Hoodoo Butte.

Once the site was selected, Forest Architect and former CCC enrollee, Wesley “Buzz” Gilmore designed the two story structure under direction of William Parke, while Lt. Frank Thrailkill and foremen Fred Bloomer and Lee Fountain directed the CCC crew.  Fifty men, between the ages of 18-23, worked between July 1939 and February 1940 to construct the lodge, returning nightly to their base camp Mary’s Creek Camp at Detroit, and a side camp at Fish Lake. 

The lodge was run by a council of representatives of outdoors groups from local cities, and the USFS maintained control over meals and lodging fees so that the lodge would remain accessible to lower income communities. By 1941, on its first year of opening, over 10,000 people came to ski and recreate enjoying illumination for night skiing, and cross-country ski trails. Although the location was ideal in terms of topography and accessibility, the lodge’s elevation was too low to ensure adequate snow conditions for skiing.  Eventually the lodge became too costly to continue to operate amid unpredictable snowfall, and in 1958, a Presbyterian Church Council obtained a special use permit from the US Forest Service and the site became a year round youth camp.

Bunkhouse Santiam Ski Lodge 1940 Hoodoo Ski Bowl 1940
Santiam Ski Lodge Front Entrance View of Santiam Pass
Top left: Bunkhouse in Santiam Pass Lodge; Top right: Hoodoo Ski Bowl (1940) Bottom left: Santiam Lodge from the front entrance (February 1943), Bottom right: View of Santiam Pass Lodge (September 1943).

Through the late 1970’s and early 1980’s the Presbyterian Church Council continued to use and maintain the lodge, as well as a large organizational camp. As the Presbyterian youth camp grew, the site of the Santiam Pass Lodge became too small to accommodate the needs of the growing camp, and by 1987 the lodge was vacant. For the past 3 decades, the lodge has remained empty becoming vulnerable to vandalism, and natural elements such as snow, wind, and water.  Fortunately wildland firefighters were successful in their suppression efforts in 2003 and protected the lodge from the Booth and Bear Complex Fires.

Santiam Organizational Camp
One of ten A-frame cabins that was installed for the church group’s youth programs.  These structures were later removed in accordance with the special-use permit. 

 

The USDA Forest Service is entrusted with the responsibility of preserving cultural resources, and have nominated the site to be included in the National Register of Historic Places. On May 10th, 2018, the Willamette National Forest signed the operating plan and special use permit for the restoration of the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge. The new permittees, Susan and Dwight Sheets will be working with community members and foundations to restore the CCC-built Lodge to its former condition. You can learn more about the work they are doing by visiting their website: www.santiampassskilodge.org

SUP signing
Tracy Beck, Willamette Forest Supervisor, signs the new operating plan and special use permit to restore the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge alongside, Dwight and Sue Sheets and McKenzie District Ranger, Darren Cross (May 10, 2018).

For more information on the restoration of the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge contact us.


Cathy Lindberg serves as the Forest Archaeologist and Heritage Program Manager on the Willamette National Forest. In 1988 she began to uncover the historical values of the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge studying archives,Cathy Lindberg historic photos, records and reviews of the 1938 snow party survey, as well as newspaper clippings from the lodge’s construction and grand opening. She completed an evaluation of its historic significance, finding the Lodge to be eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. Over the years she has continued to monitor the conditions of the Lodge and advocate for adaptive use.  Most recently she has pulled together a nomination package, with considerable assistance from a dedicated volunteer, to nominate the Lodge for the inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places. She is pleased to be working with the new holders of the special use permit to refurbish the Lodge with careful attention to historic integrity, and bring it back into to active use.