In 1957, just after I had finished sixth grade, our small world turned upside down too. My father was transferred from our paradise in Monticello to the big world of Salt Lake City. He would become the ranger in the much more populated Wasatch National Forest just east of the city. The mountains that would soon host the 2002 Winter Olympic games were a different place then. It was a much more pristine wilderness, soon to become a year-round mecca for outdoors lovers and entrepreneurs. The ski resorts Utah has become so famous for were just in their infancy. Alta was only operating two or three lifts, Brighton just had two, and the now world-famous Park City was a rundown mining town on its last legs. In later years, my father helped plot out the course of the first lift to be built there. Dad was a valuable asset to skiers in those days. Every morning for as long as I can remember, the rangers at the Alta and Brighton stations would use the shortwave radio to contact Dad and let him know the ski conditions. Then he’d call the local television stations from our living room and give a two-minute report letting skiers know what they could expect on the slopes.
When he wasn’t doing ski reports, one of Dad’s primary duties was ensuring people heading up into the winter mountains were safe. Avalanches presented a significant danger in the Wasatch range. The massive snowslide can be deadly, burying people and cars under tons of snow. The danger was perhaps greater then than it is now because of the technological advances being made in tracking devices that make it easier to find a buried skier. Dad would go up in the canyons after big storms and help trigger the slides before a skier accidentally did the same thing.
We spent hours in the mountains learning to ski. My brothers and I would spend our time getting pulled up the small hills with a rope tow and then skiing down while my father was taking ski lessons from Alf Engen. Once he mastered a technique, he would teach it to us. My mother even took up skiing and became a good skier.