Little Ski Hill
McCall’s Little Ski Hill was original built in 1937 as a winter pastime for local forest workers. Before long it was embraced by the entire community and for over seventy years has offered its slopes to the regions youth and other ski enthusiasts.
The modest alpine hill covers about fifty acres and provides around 405 vertical feet of terrain accessed by a T-bar. Though small it is the only lit ski and snowboard facility in the area. The Ski Hill has become a cherished resource that has reaped big dividends for the local skiing community.
Six McCall area skiers can call themselves winter Olympians. One is biathlete Lyle Nelson who participated in four Olympics. He was named a U.S. team captain for his final games at Calgary in 1988 and carried the flag into the opening ceremonies.
“I think we knew from the time we were little kids we knew how fortunate we were to have the Little Ski Hill. Cause we were kind of a one industry town….the mill back then in the 1950s, and the mill owner would send out this old bus and it would come by the school and pick all of us up, and we’d get on the bus and go out to the Little Ski Hill and there’s be two or three mothers who’d meet us, and we’d just go everywhere. And it just seemed like skiing was part of our lives…so to grow up and just ski, ski, ski was natural for me and I’m sure the roots of that are in the Little Ski Hill”
Another McCall Olympian is Patty Boydstun-Hovdey. She ran slalom at the Sapporo Olympics in Japan in 1972 when she was 20 years old. Today she stays involved with skiing by running a local sports shop with her husband. Boydstun-Hovdey believes having their own hill only three miles away partly explains how such a small community could produce six Olympians.
“Well you know, we just weren’t spoiled. The little hill didn’t spoil us. We worked really hard, and if the lift broke down we hiked up. It was just part of your culture and part of your life and…that bred ski racers”
The McCall ski community always thought big. Since it’s opening in 1937, the area has hosted at least five national competitions. During most of its early years a Nordic ski jump was part of the training on the hill, driven by the principle that jumping made better racers. And it wasn’t a problem getting to the hill during those early years either. School buses provided by lumber mill owners Carl and Warren Brown gave almost everyone in the community access to skiing during the winter season.
Today with the help of people like Kathy DeLuna the school bus tradition continues. DeLuna’s parents started the first ski school in the early 70s. She and her sister raced here, and as a parent with her own young skiers, DeLuna joined the community board a few years ago. She helped get the bus program going again, but nowadays it’s only for the kids who enroll in the after school program. During the peak of the season the bus is packed with youngsters either taking lessons or racing on a team. Mountain manager Josh Callahan keeps up the trips into the spring, making sure kids can stay active after school even if their mom or dad are still at work.
“Little kids think they just own this hill. They think it is theirs. You give them a choice of where they want to ski, and they’ll pick here.”
Because it’s their hill the kids can jump off the T-bar mid-way and head for the trees, or they can take to the open slope and build a jump to take as fast and hard as they like. The program for the day is whatever you want to do. In an era of highly structured play, the youngsters of McCall, known as Ski Town U.S.A, can fill their afternoons with outdoor activities at their pace, on their course.
“We all recognize the importance of creating opportunity for kids and to get kids outdoors and let them discover what they can do and let them take risks and let them go off the jump and let them ski too fast, let them interact with each other. They just ought to recognized just how really important it is to have outdoor opportunities for kids and pull parents and the kids in together and just think community.”