The ski school instructors, whether working for someone else or for themselves, are all certified as proficient (a requirement set by the Forest Service for anyone giving lessons on Government land), but virtually none of them make their living from full-time teaching. Janney Huttrer, who works for Fiorini, is the wife of a Dartmouth-graduated geologist and onetime New Hampshire ski instructor ("I married him for free ski lessons, not for money"). The mother of an 18-month-old girl, she pays her baby-sitter with free lift tickets. Larry Linnane, who has his own school, is a freight train conductor who teaches at Snoqualmie Summit and Stevens Pass four days a week and works in the Northern Pacific yards in Seattle at night. On Sunday, his day off, he sings tenor solo in his church's High Mass, then rushes to the parking lot to change into stretch pants and is off to Snoqualmie for a few hours of rest and recuperation. Stan DeBruler, who helps manage the P-TA school with three other men, is the largest potato chip distributor in the Northwest, and his cohorts are a newspaper reporter, the owner of Seattle's largest sports equipment store and a Boeing executive. Peter Erler, one of the few genuine Austrians in Washington, runs the Ski Professionals, Inc. school at Ski Acres and a ski shop in a downtown J. C. Penney store. In the intemperate skiing atmosphere of Seattle it is no surprise what instructors do with the money they earn. "With few exceptions," says Larry Linnane, "we wait all winter for our vacations and then get over to Sun Valley as fast as we can. There we blow every penny."
And that brings up a curious thing about Seattle skiing: just about nobody ever comes to Washington to ski, and the people already there rarely ski at home when they can help it. The reason is not any shortage of suitable terrain but the acute lack of overnight lodging. Added to that, says Don Adams, is the matter of getting to Washington in the first place. "We're off in the coffin corner of the country, you know, and to get here from out of state just to ski you've got to pass up places like Aspen and Squaw Valley and Sun Valley. And all those places have sunshine to boot, so why would you come out here?"
On the hopeful supposition that Seattle skiers will one day get over their compulsion to drive home every night and that out-of-staters may eventually find their way into coffin corner, a few Cascade areas plan to build extensive accommodations sometime in the future. Leading the way at the present is the new, still-building resort, Crystal Mountain, which is 76 miles southeast of Seattle and cheek by jowl with Mt. Rainier. (White Pass, an early Seattle favorite, is 30 more miles beyond and is losing some patrons to Crystal.) So fancy that its ski school is under the tutelage of ex-Olympian and top racing coach Jack Nagel, Crystal Mountain is the only area near the city, says Mel Borgersen, its general manager, "which was built because it is an excellent place to ski, not because a highway happens to be going that way." What Borgersen, a wavy-haired ex-furrier, is getting at is that Crystal's site was selected by some Seattle men who used to ski there as members of the 10th Mountain Division, a famous ski outfit that trained at Rainier and later fought in the Italian campaign of World War II. Selling $1,000 shares to 1,000 Seattle skiers, the promoters opened Crystal Mountain with high hopes last winter. Unfortunately, there have been problems ever since. Because Crystal was not picked for its convenience to a highway, there is a problem right there, says Borgersen, smiling thinly, and two miles of a six-mile access road have not been completed. Crystal Mountain also boasts it has 40% less snow than competing Cascade areas (a 20-foot accumulation is a not uncommon nuisance in Snoqualmie Pass). This is fine when there is snow but was disastrous last winter, when 40% less added up to about nothing. Finally, while Crystal Mountain can say truthfully that it has the highest chair lift in the area, it is not as high as the management would like. The U.S. Park Service, which operates Mt. Rainier National Park, has forbidden any of the ski structures to peep over the top of Crystal, because they would be visible to Mt. Rainier tourists. Still, Crystal is moving ahead, business is good and the prediction that it may someday attract the crowds of resort-minded skiers it needs seems sound. "You never can tell," says Borgersen. "Maybe some of those sheltered tourists on Rainier will hear our noise and come around for a look. God didn't know which part was going to be park land and which part Forest Service land, so He gave both of us some pretty nice scenery."
As for the Cascade areas that are not expanding for tourist skiers, what are their prospects? "Gold-plated," says pioneer developer Don Adams. "Skiing around Seattle will probably keep growing forever—just because of the way it is and even in spite of the way it is."