Trail Map Stories
Written by Kim Kircher
Members of the Crystal Mountain community have played a large part in our history and development. Several of these members have been honored over the years by finding a place on our trail map. Below are some of the stories behind the trail map names.
Arwines: Gordon “Gordy” Arwine became interested in skiing while a student at Lincoln High School. He became a ski instructor at Stevens Pass in 1955, where he met his wife Sharon. Sharon was First Aid Advisor and Secretary of NW Regional Ski Patrol. Gordy served as Ski Patrol Examiner. They also taught skiing, and Gordy was a supervisor for Jack Nagel in the Ski School at Stevens Pass. The two were about to purchase their own mountain home in Skykomish when Jack Nagel announced he was moving the Ski School to a new area, Crystal Mountain, opening in 1962. The Arwines followed. Eventually, they purchased the Ski School from Jack in 1979. They renamed it Star Skiers, and ran it as one of the best in the Northwest for 25 years, teaching more than 30,000 kids the fundamentals of the sport. Gordy was elected to two terms on the Board of Professional Ski Instructors of America. Both Gordy and Sharon were inducted into Crystal Mt. Founders Club Hall of Fame in 2005.
Willie’s Run: Willie Grindstaff first came to the Crystal Mountain in 1948. Willie was part of the Special Forces unit, the 4th Regiment Combat Team, stationed on the Ranger Creek Airstrip. He trained the second division out of Fort Lewis in artic indoctrination for survival in the mountains in adverse conditions that included skiing, snow, digging snow caves and living out of artic tents with oil burning stoves. They would travel from Ranger Creek on skis or snow shoes up to Coral Pass, Bear Gap, Silver Basin, Henskin Lake and what we call Northway today. They even had a makeshift rope tow they would set up so they could train on skis. After his time in the army, Willie continued to teach with the ski school on Mt. Rainier. In 1963 joined the Northwest Ski School at White Pass. In the late 60’s the Northwest Ski School became the Olympia Ski School and moved to Crystal Mountain. Willie got his full instructor’s certification in 1971. In 1974 Willie took over Olympia ski, which he ran the school for 25 years. Willie continued to teach for Crystal after retiring from his engineering job in the 1990s. Willie coordinated the multi-wek program until he retired in 2013 after 60 years of teaching skiing. Willie inspired multitudes to enjoy the sport he loved. He was extraordinary skier and had an infectious attitude and love for the mountains. He could often be heard yodeling while on the slopes. Willie was a legend at Crystal Mountain. He passed away in May 2014.
Melby’s: In the day to day world Paul Melby was an anomaly, not taken seriously by most and truly underestimated in his intellectual and athletic prowess. Those that spent time with him would say that he was a voracious reader and also an incredible napper. The reading probably was the catalyst that lulled him to sleep. The books were mostly of tragedy and peril and the challenges of survival, it is quite appropriate for Paul to go the way he did and the epic search that went on following. Paul disappeared while skiing at Crystal on March 1st, 2011. Having spent time as both a ski patroller and snowcat operator, Paul’s community spanned the mountain. The subsequent search for Paul that ensued brought his community together. Tragically, his body was found in June that year in a tree well. Paul’s spirit lives in everyone that cherishes Crystal Mountain. It was his home and where his family still lives on. If you’re ever in the vicinity of Melby’s Tree, which is still festooned with memorabilia, stop in and say hello. More friends on a powder day!
Ferk’s: In 2007, to celebrate Steve “Ferk” Ferkovich’s 50th year of patrolling with the National Ski Patrol, Crystal Mountain renamed his favorite top to bottom run, Iceberg Ridge, Iceberg Gulch and Lower Bull Run to Upper, Middle and Lower Ferk’s. Today you will often find him on his favorite run. Ferk began his Ski Patrol career in 1957 at the age of 15 at his “hometown” ski area, Cooper Hill near Leadville, Colorado. This area was built by the Army during WWII to train the 10th Mountain troops. In the fall of 1965, just out of college, he moved to Seattle and began a search for a ski area to continue his patrolling. After skiing several areas in the state, he decided Crystal Mountain was where he wanted be. He joined the Crystal Mountain Volunteer Ski Patrol in the Fall of 1966 and is still actively patrolling, part time on Pro Staff and keeping his volunteer commitment. Ferk is more than a lifer, he’s a role model. Even after nearly 60 years on the ski patrol, he still leads the crew in commitment. The motto on the Crystal Patrol is “work like Ferk!”
Chappelle’s: Chappelle Lauba was a very creative, beautiful person and avid skier and ski racer. Passing far too young at age 16, Chappelle was an expert skier and her entire family was fully involved in the Crystal Mountain Alpine Club (CMAC) ski racing program. She raced from age 7 as did her two brothers. Chappelle’s father, Alan Lauba, is the Head Coach & Director of CMAC. Her mother is masters racer. Chappelle will forever be remembered for her spontaneous flamboyant and fun personality.
Otto Bahn: Otto Lang was a skier and pioneer ski instructor from Bosnia. He founded the first ski school at Mount Rainier in 1937 and directed Sun Valley’s ski school before and after World War II. Later he became a movie director and producer. Otto Lang is also an author. He wrote ski columns for the Seattle P-I. His memoir, A Bird of Passage – The Story of My Life — From the Alps of Austria to Hollywood, U.S.A., was published in 1994, and the same year he was presented Ski Film Maker Legend of the Year award at the Crested Butte International Ski Film Festival. Around the World in 90 Years – Images From My Life’s Journey, published in 2000, is a collection of photographs taken by Mr. Lang during his lifelong travels. In 1978 he was inducted into the US National Ski Hall of Fame, and in 2004 he was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award from the North American Snowsports Journalists Association.
Whit’s End: Whitney “Whit” Meriwether grew up in Boise, Idaho where he learned to snowboard at Bogus Basin. When Crystal Mountain’s GM John Kircher needed a liver transplant, he couldn’t wait for a deceased donor. Kircher suffered from an autoimmune disease that destroyed his bile ducts and also caused cancer, and required a living donor. When Whit, who is related to Kircher’s wife, stepped forward to share part of his liver and save John’s life, Kircher was literally at his wit’s end. These days Whit works at a distillery making bourbon as well as running his own brand, Speakeasy Vodka.
Gandy’s Run: Joseph E. Gandy, a Seattle lawyer, owner of a Ford dealership, and civic leader. Gandy was part of the original group of 16 businessmen that spearheaded Crystal, and was the first chairman of Crystal Mountain, Inc. Gandy was involved in many civic duties in Seattle in the 50s and 60s, including being named King Neptune of Seafair in 1959. Gandy was best known for being the President of Seattle’s World’s Fair. Gandy’s numerous community activities included founding the Central Association and serving as that group’s first president, founding the Seattle Junior Chamber of Commerce, serving on the boards of the Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Urban League, the Washington State Highway Users, Junior Achievement, the Seattle Municipal League, the World Affairs Council, the Seattle Art Museum, and Greater Seattle, Inc. (not sure if you need that last sentence, but you get the idea. Gandy was a man about town)
Wally’s Way: Wallace “Wally” Staatz grew up in Orting where in 1970 he turned his family farm into the High Cedars Golf Club. Wally was one of the original investors and developers of Crystal Mountain in the early 60s, served as its board chairman from 1978-89, and was instrumental in its acquisition by Boyne Resorts.