Jay Meehan: Happy Birthday, PCMR!
December 17, 2013
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.
– Edward Abbey
The toboggan careened around the dogleg beyond a stand of Aspens, continuing out of sight down the hill from where it had left me sprawled in the powder. The ski runs that had already been cut into the lower hillside at the bottom of the Resort had proved too inviting for our small cadre of thrill-seekers to pass up.
As I sat there collecting myself from my ungainly ejection, I could still hear the whoops and hollers from the rest of the gang as they, hanging on for dear life, continued on down the hill. Spread out below, the white expanse of what, in summer, were the first and ninth hole fairways of the Resort-run 9-hole golf course, flaunted an un-violated tranquility. Peace lay upon the land.
The notion to haul a toboggan up and ride it down had been hatched, I believe, at one of the "Everclear" gatherings we hosted at our digs behind the old Miner’s Hospital. Back then, well before Rosetta Stone came on the scene to teach one a foreign language, Everclear, at 190-proof, is what you drank if you wished to quickly learn an alien tongue.
Once a ski lift had been installed, this would become the 3-Kings beginners area, and our house, which was already "ski-in," would then also become "ski-out."
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Before the snow arrived that late-fall, early-winter of 1970, we had trod up those Caterpillar-graded and seemingly grass-sown slopes just to nose around and see what was up in our new neighborhood.
A few small-format, low-resolution Instamatic photographs from the era have been triggering memories aplenty these past few weeks as the 50th Anniversary of PCMR approaches. A somewhat pastoral innocence reposed upon the land, which, at that time, unbeknownst to many, was in the throes of becoming a Newfoundland dog sanctuary.
Location, location, location. When we moved into the cinderblock pad that was part of Doc Orris’ old Miner’s Hospital compound at the base of the ski area, we not only instantly acquired two of the best neighbors anyone could possibly have in Corky and Jan Foster but also a garage-full of Newfoundland puppies from which we got the pick of the litter.
Being of the literary bent, we christened the newest member of the family "Nikos," after Nikos Kazantzakis, the celebrated author of "Zorba the Greek" and the then more recently published "Last Temptation of Christ." Newfoundland pups, by the way, are flat-out adorable. My brother McGee would beg to take Nikos for walks due to his unerring ability as a "chick magnet."
Mom and dad Newf were already legendary in the hood. Many were the times we would see Chakka and Bakka (did I spell them right, Corky?) shagging golf balls while being chased by irate golfers with raised clubs in their fists.
Once they tutored Nikos in his retrieval-hunter-gatherer roots, I would first meet the Ski Patroller Bill Plumber, who ran the golf Pro Shop out of the Resort Base Lodge back then. Nikos turned out to be a rather quick study at golf course mischief and soon Bill and I got to know each other quite well.
Sometime earlier during this timeframe, before the resort officially opened for the season, an acquaintance (maybe even a distant relative) of Doc Orris by the name of Dale Delamos was brought in to manage the Hospital, which was morphing into a rooming house.
Once Delamos brought in a couple of his cousins, Regan and O.C. Dale, to assist with the "management" duties, whatever they were, the nucleus for an uproarious winter was firmly in place. I don’t think any Park City tribe ever skied harder or partied harder than those who forged lifetime friendships that winter in the old Miner’s Hospital.
Many of the aforementioned memory-triggering photos were of Nikos either romping in the snow with our toboggan run in the background or frolicking on the fairways during the summer with various construction projects as backdrop. In one of the latter, the Three Kings lift motor room had been erected but not painted. In another, framing at what would become the Silver King Club appeared well underway. And in the distance of a third, the Three Kings condominium project was rising from the ground.
Both the town and what is now the Park City Mountain Resort have been works-in-progress from the moment JFK fast-tracked the $1.2 million Area Redevelopment Administration loan back in 1963. We all have our special and unique "good old days" to look back on and writing about mine these past four-weeks has done a lot to remind me why I never left. It’s all about the friends I’ve made and that very special mountain.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social scenes for more than 40 years.