Part Five: Jan and Judy Move To Utah

Our residence in Illinois proved to be similar to grad school in Indiana. I progressed in my academic career, we had another baby, and (sigh) there was no skiing. But a phone call changed everything.

At SIU-Edwardsville, we were renting from a colleague on sabbatical, and we had just started looking for a house to accommodate our growing family. Karen, our last child, was born in February, 1966.  Then a call came from folklorist Barre Toelken in Salt Lake City. He was leaving, and he sought someone to apply for his position at the University of  Utah.

I responded, “Barre, you don’t ski do you?” My interview trip was an eye-opener. I assumed that the season had wound down by late March, but the department chairman assured me. “We’ll have skiing through April.” So it was an easy decision to leave the Midwest again after just one year.

We arrived in Utah at the cusp of the development of major skiing there. Alta and Brighton had been in business since the late 1930’s; Snowbasin opened in 1940, and Timp Haven (later Sundance) started in the mid 1940’s. Park City’s ski resort, then called Treasure Mountains, was in its third season and had its trademark gondola pictured on a patch. You could still buy little houses used by former silver miners for a pittance, and skiers could park within a few yards of the gondola base.

None of the local resorts had much in the way of base facilities or housing at that time. Solitude opened in 1957, then underwent a couple of name changes and at least one closed season before prospering. Park City West opened in 1968, then had several name changes before eventually being acquired by Vail and merging with Park City. Snowbird opened in 1971.

This photo of Judy and me at Alta was taken in 1967. The old Snow Pine Lodge is seen just off Judy’s right shoulder. A luxury hotel replaced it last season.

This was the year we finally got modern skis. I know the exact date (October 31—Halloween—1967). Stein was in the shop representing Head skis, and he signed and dated a poster for us.

As the kids grew up, we shopped for the best family season pass deals. Here’s a photo of us at Solitude in 1972. Left to right: Karen, Erik, Amy, Judy, Jan, and Dana. After the photo was taken I stepped forward to retrieve my camera, leaving Dana without support. She slipped backwards into the trees and had to be rescued.

In 1981 we skied in Austria with two of our daughters. I had developed an interest in the folklore of Romania, and we had all been there twice in the ‘70s. In 1981 I received a grant to return from January through the summer. We brought Amy and Karen with us.

Erik was in college then and stayed in our house. Dana was on an exchange in New Zealand. Both were able to ski, so why not the rest of us? We each packed one ski outfit and hoped for the best.

As we drove south from Salzburg into the mountains in our Renault Le Car, I parked in front of a sports shop in the town of Wagrain. I asked a clerk in my best college German whether there was any skiing nearby. He grinned and pointed to a map on the wall, explaining that we were right in the middle of  “The Three Valleys,” a major ski center. There were 45 lifts linking Wagrain with the towns of St. Johann and Flachau.

We rented gear, found a B&B, and had a delightful weekend skiing the Alps. Here are Judy and the girls waiting for the ski bus. Wherever you ended up at the end of the day there was a free bus to take you back “home.” I almost gave up on Romania and switched to Austrian folklore.

Although we never managed to ski in Romania, the weekend in Wagrain made up for it. When we returned to Utah in the fall we learned that Deer Valley was opening that season. Modern skiing had arrived in the Beehive State, and we kept on enjoying it through our middle age and into senior status.

To be concluded . . .

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