The Beginning of the Mt Ashland Ski Patrol
In the 1950’s you could join the Rogue Snowmen Ski Club for $5. This entitled you to use the portable rope tow each weekend. The Snowmen would set up the rope tow, according to Barbara Hanel, “wherever it looked like there might be snow for the weekend.” Barbara was a PE teacher and met her husband, Jack, skiing in Lakeview, Oregon on an electric rope tow. Eventually she and Jack moved to Southern Oregon where they became active in the Rogue Snowmen and members of the community that eventually created Mt Ashland. Jack was one of the founding members of the Ski Patrol. Barbara explained, “We were a family then. We never had a ski area that was our own. Mt Ashland was ours. Not personally but we took personal responsibility for it.”
At about the same time the Rogue Snowmen were setting up their portable rope tow in the Southern Oregon mountains, Dan Bulkley started offering ski classes at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland.
When I came here I was in the PE department and I thought with snow this close we ought to have skiing at the college, so I started that. I got the college to buy 12 pairs of boots and 12 pairs of skis. Most of the kids didn’t have skis in those days so whoever could fit the boots could get in my class. I’d have two classes in the afternoons with maybe a half hour in between the classes so those who needed boots could switch boots and skis with the kids just coming out of class. Then they would get in the class. I did that for 12 years, starting about 1950. Wooden skis, no edges, and soft leather boots. We set up the rope tow near the summit. It was a meadow to the side of where the freeway is now.
Bulkley offered college ski classes in the early 1960’s while Mt Ashland was preparing to open. Mt Ashland installed a t-bar when it opened in the winter of ’63-’64 but Bulkley continued to run the classes for two more years: “but by then they were getting pretty organized on the mountain so I turned all the classes over to them.” Eventually, Bulkley had over 500 students in the ski classes:
A lot of kids came to Southern Oregon to college because the word got around that they could take skiing for PE and get credit for it. We had a real good deal. They got a lot of skiing in before and after their class, so it had a good reputation as a place to ski and get credit and it only cost them $50 a term to take the class and ski all day. We had a real good thing going there.
In addition to offering ski classes, Bulkley sponsored the Mountain Club and started the Skiesta at Mt Ashland. Bulkley explained that he took what he called the college’s ski team with “our princesses and representatives” to Mt Hood for Portland State’s Skiesta:
The Rogue Snowmen and the students taking Dan Bulkley’s college skiing classes were among the original pioneers of Mt Ashland and the Ski Patrol. Bob Matthews, the owner of Rogue Ski Shop and a long-time supporter of Mt Ashland, explained the Rogue Snowmen were a “bunch of dreamers” who eventually created Mt Ashland.