Friday, June 8, 2012

Skiers honor Sun Valley trails hero

Butch Harper feted for contributions to Baldy, public lands


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Butch Harper, far left, celebrates his award with friends and supporters, from left to right, Doug Abromeit, Janet Kellam and Richie Bingham at the annual Intermountain Ski Area Association banquet and conference Wednesday in Sun Valley. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Intermountain Ski Area Association presented its annual Pioneer Award to Ketchum resident Butch Harper Wednesday in Sun valley.

The 31-year veteran Forest Service snow ranger worked with the Sun Valley Co. from 1964 until he retired in 1994, designing and implementing avalanche warning systems and overseeing the resort's expansions on public land.

As part of its annual conference at Sun Valley Resort, the Intermountain Ski Area Association also awarded Sun Valley General Manager Tim Silva the group's Outstanding Contribution Award.

"In Butch's day, the snow ranger was the avalanche person," said longtime friend and avalanche educator Janet Kellam. "It was a big responsibility. He later shared his 20 years of avalanche control experience with the ski patrol, when they took over."

Harper taught basic avalanche awareness classes in the Sun Valley area decades ago, traveling widely to gather expertise. Kellam said his programs were among the first in the country to reach out to the winter recreational user on national forest lands.

Many friends, including Bill and Annie Vanderbilt, Mary Austin Crofts and Bob Rosso, attended the event to see Harper honored.

"During Butch's oversight, Baldy went from a total of 33 trails and barely having a ski run down Warm Springs to having 62 trails, including the Seattle Ridge complex, many new or replaced lifts, one of the world's best snowmaking systems and the development of just about all the Bald Mountain lodges," Kellam said. "He worked hard to support the development of our Nordic trail systems and our summer trails. I think we'd all be amazed if we actually drove up the valley and recognized everything that Butch had been a part of."

<

Harper grew up in Rupert, Idaho, and began skiing at the age of 3. His father helped operate a rope tow with several other men at nearby Howe Canyon Ski Area, on some days hiking two and a half miles from Interstate 84 to ski.

The Harper family made regular trips up to Sun Valley. In 1957, after ski racing and graduating from high school, Harper later attended university on a skiing scholarship. After graduation, he returned to the Wood River Valley as a schoolteacher and ski coach from 1962-1963.

In 1964, the Forest Service snow ranger position opened up. Harper attended and taught with the National Avalanche School, in turn teaching and mentoring hundreds of professionals and skiers about snow and avalanches, safety and rescue.

Harper and his family were instrumental in the early youth Nordic program and cross-country ski trails in the area. In the summer, he developed and brought together a diversity of users to share and help maintain more than 350 miles of backcountry trails.

In 1976, Harper, along with Rosso and Crofts, spearheaded the Wood River Trails system, which eventually connected the entire valley using the old Union Pacific right of way as a bike path.

The Blaine County Recreation District bike path now runs more than 20 miles from Bellevue through Ketchum, and includes the 30-kilometer, summer and winter Harriman Trail, starting north of town and ending at Galena Lodge.

Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.