History of Alpental


Alpental is built on Denny Mountain, named after the founder of Seattle, and prospector Arthur A. Denny, who made some iron ore mining claims here in 1869. He actually walked up the Middle Fork and bushwacked 20 miles up and over the ridge and down Denny Creek to 3500' to find his claim... 1/2 mile from the Snoqualmie Pass road.  Some blasting was done, cuts were made, and a tunnel was actually dug somewhere.  There were some cabins built at about the 2500' level, which is as far as the trail used to go at the time.

Denny Mtn was first climbed in August 1867, by railroad surveyor James Tilton, who noticed patches of snow up to 10 to 12 feet deep.  (Must have been a great snow year!).  James called the mountain Mt. Gregory Smith (after a man who also climbed it shortly thereafter) but the name didn't stick.

In the 1923 Mountaineer, Joseph T. Hazard says of climbing Denny Mountain: "The climb is interesting enough to bear repetition", as I'm sure those of us that have climbed it too many times to count can attest.

Actually, Alpental probably owes its existence to early prospectors.  F.M. Guye prospected across the valley on the peak now named for him around 1882, and later claimed and patented 12 mining claims in the floor of the valley and up the mountain roughly where the trail now is. These claims were owned by F.M. Guye, John Guye, Thomas Burke, John Leary, and B.F. Briggs. Bob Mickelson and some friends bought an option to purchase some of the land in the valley floor from the then current owners sometime around 1960, hoping that they could make a ski resort on Denny Mountain and make a community out of the private property and sell it off in lots.  So they got Warren Miller to film a promotional video for him.  Lou Whittaker was one of the people who skied for them.  The plan worked.  They bought the property, sold it off in lots, built Alpental, and the rest is history.  The gang that started it all was Bob Mickelson, James Sullivan (now dead), and James and Ted Griffin.  If it weren't for the early prospectors, there would have been no private property to build a community out of, and Alpental probably never would have been.

Alpental opened for the 1967-68 season.  Even before it opened, it was getting a reputation for its difficult terrain - "it's so steep, they have to put the lift towers in by helicopter". 

During its first year of business, Alpental looked quite different.  It only had chairs 1, 2 and 3 (then called eins, zwei and drei lift), 3 rope tows on St. Bernard, and 2 rope tows across the road at the base of Snoqualmie Mtn.  Only the Alpental Lodge existed (called the "Unterhaus"), not the Denny Lodge. Facilities available included "ice skating".  It even seems that the fork in Alpental road across from the Alpenrose condos was open.  The right fork (now the main road) went to the overnight lot, and lot 1, and dead ended.  The left fork went past the lodge to provide access to lot 2, the last lot at the time. 

The difficulties of the slopes were marked by the standard at the time:  SQUARE = Easy    TRIANGLE = More Difficult   CIRCLE = Most Difficult.  The 5 marked runs were "Edelweiss - Triangle", "Eisfallen - Triangle", "Internationale - Circle", "Lower Internationale - Triangle" and "Meister - Triangle" (which included present day Debbie's Gold).  It was said that "other runs north of the summit house are planned", indicating the backcountry potential, and that "some can be skied at present by self-sufficient experts".

They expected the season to last from "November to June", had night skiing right from the beginning, and no, they weren't open Mondays.  Not even back then.

It's interesting to watch the trail maps change from year to year. First, only a few runs were named. Then, the "Great Scott Traverse" was added to the map to represent all the backcountry.  Then alot of trails were named, and the inbounds area expanded to include everything up to and including Gun Barrel at one point.  Since then the official in bounds area has been shrinking, and even Felsen and Shot 6, inside the ski area boundary, are no longer "designated trails or runs".

In 1977 Alpental was sold to Westours, a Seattle based Alaska tour operator. Around 1984 the Moffets (Ski Lifts Inc), who started out owning Snoqualmie Summit, and had already purchased Ski Acres from Ray Tanner, purchased Alpental, and created "The Big Three".  Afterwards, they added a bankrupt Hyak to their collection, purchased from Safeco, a Hyak creditor.  All four areas were referred to collectively as "The Pass"

Then, in 1998,  Ski Lifts Inc. sold all four ski areas to George Gillette, of Booth Creek Resorts, who changed the name of the resorts to "The Summit At Snoqualmie". Some early newsletters actually had Alpental mispelled as "Alpenthal", but the closest they've come to actually changing the name is by calling it "Alpental at the Summit".  However, merchandise that just says "Alpental" still far outsells merchandise that says "Alpental at the Summit"



Mueller, Ted:  Northwest Ski Trails, 1968, Mountaineers Press

Prater, Yvonne:  Snoqualmie Pass From Indian Trail to Interstate, 1981, Mountaineers Press

Northwest Underground Explorations: Discovering Washington's Historic Mines, 1997, Oso Publishing

Hodges, L.K: Mining in the Pacific Northwest, 1897, The Post Intelligencer

Mountaineer Annual, 1920, 1923, Mountaineers

Majors, Harry:  Exploring Washington, 1975, Rip Van Winkle Publishing Co.

Beckey, Fred: Cascade Alpine Guide Volume 1, 1973, Mountaineers

Miller, Warren: Freeriders, 1998 (movie)

King County title search

Alpental trail maps