What better time than this, the winter of the Big Mountain Snow, to curl up with a book on the history of Snoqualmie Pass.
Long-time Alpental residents John and Chery Kinnick, who authored “Snoqualmie Pass” together, have mined the area’s rich and fascinating history, skillfully compiling old photos and text to create a pictorial timeline of this magnificent portion of our state.
“We had thought about doing the (book) project for a while,” said Chery Kinnick, 53, a supervisor for the University of Washington Libraries. “Our real goal was to highlight the winter recreation area and show that it is also a real neighborhood. A lot of people live up here; it’s like a small town, plus we have all the amenities of a larger city.”
But it wasn’t until she participated in a history writing seminar through Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry and met an editor with Arcadia Publishing that the couple were encouraged to move ahead.The Kinnicks began the task of rounding up the photos (there are 200 in the book) and gathering the accompanying information.
“As a ski instructor, John was acquainted with many people who knew the history of the resorts and had photographs,” Chery said. “And as a staff member at the library I was able to access archives. Because of that, we were able to put it all together in four months.”
The book was released last fall by Arcadia Publishing, which publishes the Images of America series.
The vintage images of early construction, the first single-lane road, residents of the pass and the railroad, all surrounded by piles of snow, help the reader imagine what those days were like.
The introduction describes the historical progression of pass travel: “The initial trails, made by tribes in search of food or trade with each other, changed quickly with the onset of the Industrial Age. Travel and commerce through the Pass progressed from foot traffic to horseback and wagon and finally to motor vehicles.”
As can be seen in the old black-and-white photos, some downright scary-looking, motoring over the pass at any time of year was far from easy. Snow, falling rocks and mud made for hazardous driving. Vehicles were small, probably cold in winter and limited to a one-lane road. A 1920 photo shows lined-up cars waiting for the opposing autos to pass. But the resilient travelers who braved the trip (and they appeared to be numerous) certainly enjoyed awe-inspinring views and may have felt it was nothing compared to those who went before them on the first wagon road constructed across the pass in 1868. Clearly folks felt a need to connect with the other side of the state, even in the winter.
Several notable early-day photos are of the Denny family (founders of Seattle) and their cabins near Lake Keechelus. It’s interesting to note that the Dennys continued their explorations so far inland, especially in the days when travel was difficult. David Denny, looking quite elderly, is pictured in front of his log cabin near the family’s mining claims near the lake. The Denny Iron Mines Company was formed in 1882, but the ore was found to be low-grade and for that reason development stopped. The mine tunnels can be explored to this day.
In 1899 Denny went to work for the state highway department and, from June through September, lived at the cabin, supervising the improvement of 27 miles of the old wagon road through the pass.
In 1901, David Denny’s grandson Lawrence Lindsley took a sweet picture of himself and his horse, White Sam, at Lake Keechelus. The book text reads, “Years later, Lindsley wrote, ‘We had just made a two and a half day trip from Licton Springs, Seattle (current Green Lake area). Sam shows he is sure tired. The cabin is gone and the lake has been raised so the ground is underwater. Across the lake the Snoqualmie Pass hiway (sic) has been blasted out and thousands of cars pass here every month. …This was the fastest trip we ever made as the usual run was about three days or so. We now make the same trip in auto in three or four hours. Some change.’”
If only he could see it now.
“Seattle’s Playground” (the title of Chapter 2) takes a look at the popular ski resorts.
Ski buffs will enjoy the extensive photos of the winter resorts from their early beginnings (it’s always fun to look at the skiers’ clothes and equipment and how they have changed), ski-jumping demonstrations and contests that drew thousands of onlookers, skiing competitions, the first buildings and the ski schools. A neat poster announces the National Ski Jumping Championships that were held in March of 1948.
“Webb’s World” (Chapter 4) details the accomplishments and legacy of Webb Moffett, a well-known figure in Northwest snow sports. He was a civil engineer who erected early rope tows and eventually owned four ski areas at the pass. The Moffett family contributed numerous photos for the publication.
A memorable chapter devoted to skier Deb Armstrong describes her achievement at age 20 when she won the gold medal in giant slalom at the 1984 Winter Olympic Games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. It was the first American gold medal in skiing in 30 years. Armstrong is currently the ambassador of skiing for Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico.
The book concludes with pictures of the 1990 Mountains to Sound March, organized by the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. The trust’s purpose was to create a permanent greenway from Puget Sound to the Kittitas County foothills.
In 2004, the Greenway Trust began holding the annual Greenway Days festival to promote awareness, with a weekend of events along the I-90 corridor. The main event is a 100-mile relay race that begins at Snoqualmie Pass and ends in Seattle.
“Snoqualmie Pass” is a great treat anytime, but especially timely this winter, since all eyes have been on the mountain passes due to the heavy snowfall and resultant road closures. Economic impacts have been felt by truck drivers, those who expect their goods to be delivered on time and the resorts that have had to close on what would have been big weekends for skiing and snowboarding.
Governor Chris Gregoire issued an emergency proclamation on January 31 after five feet of snow fell in six days, forcing the closure of all the major passes. In a television address she noted the effect the prolonged closures have had on businesses, and emphasized how critical the passes are to the state.
“When we shut down I-90 we know full well the impact it has on commerce,” Gregoire said.
Chery Kinnick said that the year has been “pretty challenging” for them as well, due to the unusual circumstances, adding that she has been staying elsewhere for part of the winter for work and family reasons.
“Our house (all three stories) is rather like a cave, because of all the snow pushed around it by the snowplows,” she said. “And the avalanche danger remains high.”
But the couple are confirmed Pass residents, enjoying the community life there. They were married at St. Bernard’s Chapel at Snoqualmie Summit and have lived in Alpental for 15 years. John has worked as a certified Summit Learning Center ski instructor for over 20 years and has led ski tours to the Alps. Chery has a degree in history from the University of Washington and is active in genealogical research.
The authors say they wanted to share the beauty, uniqueness and history of the area with others. “We feel fortunate to be able to enlighten people about the community and the variety of activities in the area,” they said.
Chery said the book has been very well-received and is ready to go into a second printing.
The Images of America series focuses on local histories, using vintage black-and-white photographs of people, places and towns. Arcadia Publishing began in Dover, New Hampshire, in 1993 as a small publisher of local history. The first ten titles in what would become the Images of America series were published in the summer of 1994.
Other local titles in the Images of America series include “Vanishing Seattle,” “Ferries of Puget Sound” and “The Key Peninsula.”
The books sell for $19.99 and are available in retail outlets.