Friday, July 8, 2016

Mount Rainier's Paradise Inn and the Paradise Meadow Socks

Female Skiers in Norway, 1890s *
Humans have been traveling over snow on skis since at least 5,000 B.C., but the idea of skiing for sport or recreation has only been around since the mid 1800s.  Our earliest ancestors used skis primarily on flat ground for transportation, hunting, or military expeditions (what we call cross-country skiing today) ... so the first recreational skiers did the same.  But what skier doesn't like the thrill of gliding down an unexpected hill?  By the 1880s recreational skiers were shifting to downhill skiing.

In 1899 President William McKinley signed a bill authorizing the creation of Mount Rainier National Park, the nation's fifth national park.  The park encompasses all of Mount Rainier, a large active stratovolcano that is the highest mountain of the Cascade Range and the highest mountain in the state of Washington.

Science Corner:  So what is a stratovolcano?  Also called a composite volcano, a stratovolcano is the most common kind of volcano.  They tend to be very steep mountains, built up by many layers of hardened lava.  The lava from a stratovolcano cools and hardens before traveling far and spreading out, which creates the very steep sides.  Think of one of those wine bottle candles decorated with many, many layers of candle wax.

Mount Rainer National Park **
But back to the park ... the area had already been designated as a forest preserve (called a forest reserve at that time), but designating the area as a national park gave it additional protection.  Paradise Valley, on the slopes of Mount Rainier (so named because the area was so beautiful it was like being in paradise!), was already a popular hiking, climbing, skiing and a camping destination.  Soon, the national park designation increased visitorship even more.  Locals began to worry that the number of tourists would attract rampant private commercialization and unregulated development.  As a result, local businessmen joined together to create the Rainier National Park Company and were granted a 20-year lease that allowed them - and no one else - to build a commercial building on the site. 

Paradise Inn, about 1933 ***
Started in 1915 and opened in 1917, the Paradise Inn was designed to be a rustic piece of paradise.  Built of native logs and stone, the inn had an enormous lobby with massive river-rock fireplaces and a gorgeous dining area.  But while the public areas were impressive, the original 37 guest rooms were only 8 feet by 8 feet and lacked private bathrooms.

Visitors flocked to the Paradise Inn!  Almost immediately bungalow tents were built to house additional guests, and three years later (1920) an annex was constructed with an additional 100 rooms (58 of which had their own private bathroom!).

Paradise Inn reception desk, about 1933 ***
The Paradise Inn benefited from the interest in recreational skiing.  The first Winter Olympics were held in 1924 and included cross-country skiing, then downhill skiing was added in 1936.  The Paradise Inn hosted Winter Olympic ski trials in 1935 in preparation for the 1936 Olympics.

The Paradise Inn installed a ski tow rope in 1936.  So how did skiers get to the top before the tow rope?  They had to walk!  While anyone could do cross-country skiing, only the extremely athletic were able to walk to the top, ski down, then walk back up to the top repeatedly.  After the first skier tow rope was installed in Quebec in 1933, resorts everywhere started using tow ropes and interest in downhill skiing increased.  

The Paradise Inn has had it's ups and downs but continues to operate today.  Downhill skiing is no longer allowed because it is damaging to the vegetation beneath the snow, but cross-country skiing is encouraged - and said to be the best way to experience the lush beauty of Mount Rainier under the new-fallen snow!

Is it possible to design socks that are as pretty as the Paradise Valley of Mount Rainier?  Well, we sure tried!  Check out our Paradise Meadow socks that combine the green of the valley, the blue of the sky, the white of the clouds and the purple of the blossoming wildflowers.

Happy Knitting . . .  Scout

* Women skiers in Norway in the 1890s. Note that they are shown with a single pole, the most ancient method of skiing.  Prehistoric petroglyphs (drawings carved into rock) show figures on skis with a single pole, not two poles as we ski today.  For more on ancient skiing click here.

** Stunning photo of Mount Rainier with wildflowers in full bloom, taken by Judi Kubes and posted on the U.S. Department of the Interior's Facebook page.  The photo was entered in their Share the Experience photo contest.

*** Paradise Inn photos are from a collection in the Library of Congress, most taken around 1933.

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