Beehive Archive: Summer Skiing On Mt. Timpanogos
Beginning in 1912, thousands of adventure-seekers hiked up the back of Mt. Timpanogos each summer to ski down a small permanent snowfield called the “Timp Glacier.” For nearly sixty years, they took to the mountain every July to summit the peak on what was called the “Timp Hike”. Beyond just hiking, this weekend extravaganza included camping, bonfires, and – in some years – glacier ski races. The annual Timp Hike was hugely popular, and also a strain on the mountain’s fragile ecosystem.
In the early 1940s, heavy snowfall covered the rocky landscape in a thick layer that lasted through the summer months, allowing hikers to ski or slide down the mountain in July. Skis, boots, and poles were loaded onto horses and toted up the snowfield. The “Glacier Cup” competition attracted both viewers and participants, with local ski talents competing for bragging rights.
Although organizers set the course with utmost attention to safety, the dangerous nature of the Glacier Cup race only added to the thrill. Snowdrifts, boulders, and crevasses could prove deadly not only for skiers but also for hikers planning to slide down the mountainside. Falls were common, and with thousands of people hiking, skiing, and glissading, the risk for injury was high. Despite potential danger, interest in the Timp Hike and the Glacier Cup competition only grew, with record numbers of participation in 1949.
Unfortunately, the summer ski seasons were short lived, and alternating dry and wet seasons threatened the size of the snowfield. Despite the semi-permanent appearance of snow, the field never recovered to the size that it was in the 1940s. Seasonal changes and the popularity of the Timp Hike also took its toll on the landscape. Abandoned trash and the destruction of flora and fauna during the weekend celebration threatened the health of the ecosystem and in 1970 the Timp Hike was formally disbanded. The diminishing snowfield continues to serve as a visual reminder of the lasting impact of human recreation on the environment.
The Beehive Archive is a project of Utah Humanities, produced in partnership with Utah Public Radio and KCPW Radio with funding from the Lawrence T. and Janet T. Dee Foundation. Find sources and past episodes at Utah Stories from the Beehive Archive.