Eaglecrest hosts 3rd Cabin Reunion Day

Posted: Friday, April 04, 2008

Even at 90 years old, longtime Juneau skier Dean Williams will participate in the upcoming 3rd Cabin Reunion Day celebration, honoring 40 years of rope tows on Douglas Island.

Courtesy Of Dean Williams
Courtesy Of Dean Williams

"It's going to be a fun event," Williams said. "The slalom won't be really serious or anything like that. It'll be fun."

Platter-pull slalom races begin at 2 p.m., followed by free hot dogs on the Day Lodge deck.

"The platter pole, right close to the lodge, that's nice, because people or spectators up there can sit inside and watch what's going on," Williams said.

The event also will feature a trip down skiing memory lane, with audio and video clips, open mic stories and a memorabilia table.

"We had a fellow by the name of Trevor Davis, he used to take pictures all the time," Williams said. "They've been featured on KTOO, KINY and everything several times. ... We've got several movies and slideshows."

Essentially, the event celebrates local ski lift history and reunites old ski companions. And if anyone knows about ski lift history, Williams does.

Williams said he started active skiing in 1937 on the Dan Moller ski trail in Douglas. His father helped Moller build the trail. Williams also became a ski instructor in 1939 for a period of 25 years.

"I didn't start skiing until I got out of high school," Williams said. "And Dan Moller, who they named the trail after, ... said, 'Dean, do you ski?' and I said, 'No, not really.' And he said, 'I'm going to make a skier out of you,' and he did."

Williams won slalom races at various locations, such as Mount Baker, Arctic Valley, Alyeska, Sun Valley, Idaho, Nome, Adak and Attu in the Aleutian Islands, and Kitzbuel, Austria.

President of the Juneau Ski Club three times, he also taught free ski lessons for kids at the Evergreen Bowl, which is now Cope Park. There he prevailed in enlisting the Alaska Electric Light & Power Co. to install flood lights for night skiing.

Williams also used to climb in showshoes to the top of Crook's Trail, above the second cabin, to race. He said his lengthy experience skiing in Juneau has helped him appreciate the lifts and current ski area.

"We had a sizable amount of people who skied, but we had to do it the hard way - walk on your feet and haul your skis up," Williams said. "Even in those days, I'd have said, 'Gosh, if I'd have had to do that when I was down in Washington or California, I'd have told them, 'Forget it.' But here, the people were good. They realized that's the only way they could ski, other than go up in the cemetery."

According to Williams, the first rope tow in Douglas was a one-person tow made by a Swedish freezer company in Seattle, Wash.

"They made this little, one-person tow," Williams said. "Bill Dean used to set up slalom courses for racers. ... A big guy, he weighed about, I'd say, maybe 300 pounds. And he got on that little tow, ... at Cope Park, and he got on there, held onto the rope and the thing stopped."

Later, a larger rope tow was installed at the second cabin.

At the reunion, Williams hopes to see old friends he used to race with at the third cabin in the upper ski bowl.

"Clark Gruening is going to set the course for us," Williams said. "Clark was one of my students when he was a little guy."

Williams said he once had to reprimand Gruening and his friend, Joel Harmon, for zooming past other students.

"They used to buzz the students, to see how close they could get," Williams said. "I got a hold of them, and I said, 'You guys, if I see you do that one more time, the Forest Service has given me authority to send you home.' And that took care of it."

Williams looks forward to skiing more slalom next week.

"Yeah, this will be fun," Williams said.

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at neighbors@juneauempire.com or 523-2272.

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