Longtime Ski Area Continues to Grow—The Rutherford Report

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“Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.”

—Langston Hughes
Longtime Ski Area Continues Growing
Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs is one of the oldest developed ski areas in Southern California. And while the family-owned resort has grown and evolved a lot over the decades, it continues to offer visitors a family friendly, small business atmosphere that keeps people coming back year after year.

It began back in 1924 when locals would go to a place they called Fish Camp, because of a popular fishing hole in the area, to ski and ride toboggans. In the mid-1930s, Jack Northrop—who went on to found the aviation giant Northrop Corporation—designed and built what was probably the first sling lift in Southern California at Fish Camp, according to “Skiing in Southern California” by Ingrid P. Wicken.

The new lift was a huge improvement over the uncomfortable and difficult rope tows of the time. Skiers using the sling lift grabbed onto a triangular bar, leaned back and were hoisted up the mountain.

A San Bernardino National Forest Service Ranger named Les Salm, who went on to serve as Lake Arrowhead’s first fire chief, started calling the area Snow Valley because of all the skiers and toboggan riders it attracted, according to “Lost Ski Areas of Southern California” by Ingrid P. Wicken. In 1937, Sverre Engen, who operated the ski area, petitioned the Forest Service to officially rename the area Snow Valley.

A year later the Arrowhead Springs Corporation purchased the ski area and began developing it to cater to the growing number of visitors. In 1941, Famous ski jumper John Elvrum purchased the area for $5,000 and a Model-T Ford after the Arrowhead Springs Corporation went bankrupt. He officially renamed the business Snow Valley.

Over the next two decades, the resort continued to grow, adding a chair lift in 1949 and a double chair lift in 1960. It also developed one of the largest snowmaking systems of the time.

W.R. Sauey and a group of friends purchased the resort in the early 1970s. Sauey—now in his 80’s—remains the sole owner of the resort.

Over the course of one summer, the resort added five chair lifts, and in the mid-1990s, Snow Valley developed one of the most comprehensive snowboard parks and invested $1.5 million into a snowmaking system. Over the years, Snow Valley has invested many millions into making a fantastic winter resort experience for its guests and $1 million has been invested in improvements for the 2013-2014 season.

Today, the resort features 12 chair lifts and about 240 acres of skiable terrain. Snow Valley prides itself on having some of the gentlest slopes and best instructors for those learning to ski or snowboard. Snow Valley also offers some of the steepest terrain in the region on its second mountain, Slide Peak.

“We are very much a small business,” General Manager Kevin Somes said. “And we are in the business of making sure people have a good time.”

Visit www.snow-valley.com for more information about Snow Valley Mountain Resort.
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