Santiam Pass Ski Lodge
Year Built: 1940
Location: Santiam Pass, Central Oregon
Santiam Pass Ski Lodge is located in the Central Cascades of Oregon and is an integral part of the Three Fingered Jack Winter Recreation Area. It was constructed as a part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service policies that recognized the public demand for more outdoor recreation opportunities and the growing interest in winter sports. This construction was made possible with the investment of Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) labor and funding. The lodge is a superb example of Forest Service rustic architectural design, a style that embraces cohesiveness with the surrounding environment by using materials derived from local sources with a simple or natural finish.
Santiam Lodge was constructed between July 1939 and February 1940 as an element of the Three Fingered Jack Winter Sports Area development during the late 1930s. This development also included the original 1930s Hoodoo Ski Bowl. The two and one–half story Santiam Lodge building was originally designed as a ski lodge that could accommodate approximately sixty guests. Rooms within the lodge included dormitory quarters, a dining room, a lounge and specialized ski–related rooms such as a waxing room and storage for skis and related gear. Local stone from nearby Hogg Rock was quarried to construct the ground floor and chimneys. The second floor and attic story were framed with local timber in a regional version of the “Rustic” style.
Conversions to make all-season use possible at the lodge occurred in 1968 under a special–use permit for the Presbytery of the Willamette Church group. The alterations —such as improvements to the stairways, exits, and the electrical system— were made primarily for safety and compliance with current public building codes. This permit expired in 1986 and the lodge has not since been occupied. Although the lodge has stood vacant for more than three decades, it receives periodic maintenance by the USFS and remains in relatively good condition.
The Santiam Pass Ski Lodge was built to withstand the harsh climate and weather typical of it location in the high Central Cascades. Despite the strength of the structure, three decades of disuse have naturally made their impact. Recent Forest Service investment has temporarily delayed further degradation and stabilized the structure but indefinite vacancy will inevitably continue the building’s physical decline. Further, threats from forest fire and vandalism are additional results of a lack of use.
The Willamette National Forest has nearly completed a process to list the Santiam Pass Ski Lodge in the National Register of Historic Places. This listing will increase funding opportunities and acknowledges the significance of the site within the agency. Susan and Dwight Sheets of Salem are in the process of obtaining a Forest Service Special Use Permit for the purpose of restoring and operating Santiam as a year-round tourism and event facility. Restore Oregon will offer its experience and expertise to the Sheets and the Forest Service as they undertake a multi-year planning and funding project to return the lodge to public use while maintaining the elements of its historic design that make it like no place else in Oregon.