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Post from our Past: Eddie Bauer’s History with Old-School Skiing
Posted on December 3, 2015

Skiers cutting deep powder at Paradise on Mt. Rainier, ca 1930s. Photo by Orville Borgersen.

Eddie Bauer, the man, exerted a powerful influence on popularizing the fledgling sport of skiing in the Pacific Northwest in the 1930s. He rented ski gear, ran a shuttle up to the local mountains from his shop, and began building some of the warmest ski jackets of the day during a decade of skiing that predated chairlifts. As snow season arrives in the Pacific Northwest, we asked Colin Berg, our brand historian, what sparked Eddie Bauer’s original interest in skiing. We were surprised at the story and enthralled by the ski maps he published of a region that was backcountry skied long before the chairlifts arrived. —LYA Editor

Skiing map for Mt. Baker Washington two decades before the area's first chairlift arrived. Check out the now extinct Table Mountain Glacier. From Eddie Bauer's 1937 ski guide.

Words by Colin Berg, Images Courtesy of Lowell Skoog/alpenglow.org

HOW A BLOODY NOSE HELPED LAUNCH A LEGEND

In December 1919, just weeks before he first opened his doors for business, Eddie Bauer was run over by a skier while hiking out from Mt. Rainier’s Paradise Inn.

Eddie had been hired as an assistant “bull” cook for a weeklong holiday excursion to Paradise by the Seattle Mountaineers. The group had taken the train from Seattle to Ashford, then snowshoed twelve miles to the National Park Inn at Longmire. From there, they snowshoed another six miles to Paradise.

At the end of the week, the party retraced their steps through the deep snow. Eddie was the second to last to leave, locking the inn door behind him before starting down toward Longmire. The only person behind him was the one Mountaineer who had brought skis, and who was giving the group a substantial head start.

Snoqualmie Summit before cars, lifts and the madness. From Eddie Bauer's 1937 ski guide.

Eddie had gone about a mile, and was rounding a sharp turn in the trail when the skier overran him. The collision left him with a bloody nose, and could have soured him on the sport that was beginning to grow in popularity in the Northwest. Instead, it was just one of the many experiences during his week on Washington’s highest mountain that made him laugh and say, “I enjoyed every bit of the trip.”

Ten years later, Bauer’s Sport Shop was becoming one of Seattle’s biggest promoters of skiing. In the 1930s, Eddie’s employees had an Eddie Bauer Ski Club and maintained a primitive cabin at Greenwater, just north of Mt. Rainier National Park that they would use as their base for overnight ski trips.

Despite the fact that Seattle is surrounded by mountains with massive snowfall, skiing did not really begin to catch on in the region until the early 1900s. It was simply too hard to get to the snow. As Lowell Skoog points out in his seminal online history of Northwest skiing, Written in the Snows [www.alpenglow.org], when the railroads finally crossed the Cascade range and reached Puget Sound, they not only connected the region’s settlers with the East Coast, they also made the mountains accessible to the local outdoor enthusiasts.

SStevens Pass and the Mill Creek route. From Eddie Bauer's 1937 ski guide.

In the late 1920s, Eddie started importing hickory skis from Norway, along with boots, bindings, and “ski togs.” By the 1930s, he was both selling and renting ski equipment, and he was operating a weekly double-decker bus service to the slopes at nearby Snoqualmie Summit.

With the same approach employed in his weekly Northwest Fishing Report, Eddie published a seasonal ski brochure to highlight his goods and services, and to educate his customers on the where, when, and how of enjoying ski adventures that were now so readily available.

In his 1936-37 Winter Sports Guide, along with articles by leading skiers, Eddie included maps of the best ski areas and their runs. These included Paradise on Mt. Rainier, where he had been overrun in 1919, Mt. Baker, the new Deer Park on the Olympic Peninsula, and Snoqualmie Summit, where he and his wife, Stine, frequently skied.

Paradise then. A timeless classic run from Camp Muir to the Inn. From Eddie Bauer's 1937 ski guide.

In this same time period, when Eddie began developing his groundbreaking down outerwear, it found an enthusiastic audience in the skiers and ski mountaineers of Seattle. One of his earliest patented designs that appeared in the inaugural 1945 edition of his catalog was the women’s Swiss Model Ski Jacket. It was a good indicator of Stine’s influence. She insisted that high-quality gear was just as important for the women adventurers as for the men.

After Eddie retired, the company continued its long association with powder seekers, including the introduction of its Pro Line Skiwear, launched in 1977, and its outfitting of the U.S. Bobsled Team in the late 1990s.

 

In 2010, when Eddie Bauer added skiwear to its guide built First Ascent line, it was the culmination of a tradition established more than 80 years earlier. And when the development of the First Ascent ski line began—with the signing of professional ski guides Reggie and Zach Crist, Tom Wayes, Erik Leidecker, Kent McBride, and Lel Tone—it was a continuation of Eddie’s legacy of hiring world-class experts. He’d learned his lesson with his 1919 bloody nose.

Adventure has a higher rate of success when you know what you’re doing.

 

Eddie & Stine Bauer skiing at Mountain Goat Lodge near Snoqualmie Summit, circa 1932.

Author: - Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
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