Last Saturday was a blue-ribbon day for Marshall Ski area. The mountain opened wide its canyon arms and with smiling slopes gave a warm welcome to former employees and friends attending a grand reunion.
This event, the first of its kind, was the idea of old-time ski instructors and workers, many of whom had been a part of the ski area as it grew and developed from primitive rope tows to the latest in chair lifts.
Dave Fellin, longtime ski instructor, ski patrolman and outdoorsman "extraordinaire," was chief push for the party.
I was one of those among the scores invited. Not because of my skiing ability, but rather, because of friendship and the many stories written and published during the ski area's history.
The gathering on Marshall Mountain was old home week. Most of the folks had been involved when the late Si and Velma Green were owners during the second half of the 20th century.
Hours were spent renewing old acquaintances and "remembering when." Late in the afternoon guests were treated to chair rides to the top of the mountain. Some rode up and hiked down. We took the round trip. I have found that mountains grow steeper as the years go by. (Hiking one mountain a month is enough for me. More about that next week.) The air was effervescent, filled with the heady, fresh fragrance of spring. A few patches of snow, framed with yellow bells and shooting stars, still clung to the slopes.
Festivities included a barbecue and short program. Old-time ski equipment, photos, stories and memorabilia were displayed in both lodges. Ancient ski boots, filled with wild flowers, decorated tables.
Bruce and Kim Doering, owners of Marshall since the early '90s, were hosts.
The Greens' daughter Carla, who had grown up on the mountain, and her musical group provided music for dinner and dancing.
Four individuals who have contributed years of their talent and time to the sport of skiing were honored with special, engraved plaques. Ken Breon, longtime ski instructor, presented the awards to Ed Williams, Clint Carlson, Mavis Lorenz and Stan Cohen.
Judy Barkley, also a longtime ski instructor, introduced others who had been involved in the area. Among the old-time skiers were James R. (Bets) Stephenson and Hank Florin, who remembered skiing in the 1930s when there was one old rope tow, powered by a 5-horse power gasoline engine.
When the Greens purchased the area in the '50s, they operated without electricity for three years. Gasoline engines, taken from junked cars, powered the tows.
Like scores of other folks, I have fond memories of learning to ski on the "dope" (beginners) slope at Marshall. I had never attempted the sport until my young son out-grew his old ski boots and they fit me. He also presented me with his skis and said, "Mom, now you have no excuse." So I signed up for ladies day at Marshall.
Truthfully, I never became much of a skier. Oh, I tripped off a couple of T-bars, skidded from a chair-lift, floundered in deep snow drifts and even took off my skis and walked down the mountain. I enjoyed every minute, especially on Marshall.
Si and Velma Green were an inspiration to all who knew them and an asset to the community. They had always dreamed of owning a ski area. So they sold their property in the East, moved to Montana and purchased the Marshall property in the late 1950s. For many years, Si worked for the lumber company at Bonner to supplement their income.
During the first 13 years, they endured many seasons of poor snow, small crowds, low income and frequent repairs.
They also had more than their share of tragedy. Fire destroyed their house and all possessions in 1959 at the peak of the ski season. Then in 1970, a personal tragedy with the loss of son John and daughter-in-law Karen in a car accident. But they persevered. Determination and work on their beloved ski area sustained them
The "first ever" reunion, was not only a fun and fantastic party, but in many ways, a nostalgic tribute to Si and Velma, who defeated hardship and heartache to build a dream on Marshall Mountain.
Evelyn King is a retired Missoulian reporter whose colum appears every Sunday in Territory.