Wirth Watching: How skiing got started in Utah

Published 02/17 2014 05:23AM

Updated 02/17 2014 05:27AM

PARK CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - The world is seeing some of the best in Utah winter athletes this week. The heritage of Utah skiing goes back almost a hundred years.

The first Utah skiers were probably the miners who went claim to claim in the canyons.

While they didn't invent resorts, they invented after ski partying. There were 40 saloons at Alta alone.

By the 1930's - European immigrants brought their long skis and their courage here to Utah. They saw skiing as what you did after jumping.

The skiing capital was at Ecker Hill--- now the Pinebrook housing development near Park City.

Jumping was big time and the greatest of them all was a Norwegian immigrant, Alf Engen. He had been jumping since he was 7 years old, so this was old stuff by the time he was in his 20's.

The forest service saw a real future in skiing and asked Alf Engan to ski over from Brighton to Little Cottonwood Canyon and have a look if the declining town of Alta might work as a ski area. Alf Engan found his home for the next 50 years… Alta.

It changed his life. It became his home and 50 years later he was still king of the hill and still remembered the first sight of Alta. It didn't look good

They put up a ski lift called the Collins lift and it was the second chair lift built in America.

And skiing took off. Alf Engen showed how the first skiers learned to turn as they started the Alf Engen ski school.

And just like that… Utah and skiing were one and the same.







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