Gordon “Gordy” Arwine became interested in skiing while a student at Lincoln High School. He became a ski instructor at Stevens Pass in 1955, where he met his wife Sharon. Sharon was First Aid Advisor and Secretary of NW Regional Ski Patrol. Gordy served as Ski Patrol Examiner. They also taught skiing, and Gordy was a supervisor for Jack Nagel in the Ski School at Stevens Pass. The two were about to purchase their own mountain home in Skykomish when Jack Nagel announced he was moving the Ski School to a new area, Crystal Mountain, opening in 1962. The Arwines followed. Eventually, they purchased the Ski School from Jack in 1979. They renamed it Star Skiers, and ran it as one of the best in the Northwest for 25 years, teaching more than 30,000 kids the fundamentals of the sport. Gordy was elected to two terms on the Board of Professional Ski Instructors of America. Both Gordy and Sharon have inducted into Crystal Mt. Founders Club Hall of Fame in 2005.
Willie Grindstaff first came to the Crystal Mountain in 1948 and was part of a Special Forces Unit training in winter conditions. In 1963 he joined the Northwest Ski School at White Pass. In the late 60’s the Northwest Ski School became the Olympia Ski School and moved to Crystal Mountain. Willie got his full instructor’s certification in 1971. In 1974 Willie took over Olympia ski, which he ran the school for 25 years. Willie continued to teach for Crystal after retiring from his engineering job in the 1990s. Willie coordinated the multi-week program until he retired in 2013 after 60 years of teaching skiing. Willie inspired multitudes to enjoy the sport he loved. He was an extraordinary skier and had an infectious attitude and love for the mountains. He could often be heard yodeling while on the slopes. Willie was a legend at Crystal Mountain.
In the day to day world, Paul Melby was an anomaly, not taken seriously by most and truly underestimated in his intellectual and athletic prowess. Those that spent time with him would say that he was a voracious reader and also an incredible napper. The reading probably was the catalyst that lulled him to sleep. The books were mostly of tragedy and peril and the challenges of survival, it is quite appropriate for Paul to go the way he did and the epic search that went on following. Paul disappeared while skiing at Crystal on March 1st, 2011. Having spent time as both a ski patroller and snowcat operator, Paul’s community spanned the mountain. The subsequent search for Paul that ensued brought his community together. Tragically, his body was found in June that year in a tree well. Paul’s spirit lives in everyone that cherishes Crystal Mountain. It was his home and where his family still lives on. If you’re ever in the vicinity of Melby’s Tree, which is still festooned with memorabilia, stop in and say hello. More friends on a powder day!
In 2007, to celebrate Steve “Ferk” Ferkovich’s 50th year of patrolling with the National Ski Patrol, Crystal Mountain renamed his favorite top to bottom run, Iceberg Ridge, Iceberg Gulch and Lower Bull Run to Upper, Middle and Lower Ferk’s. Today you will often find him on his favorite run. Ferk began his Ski Patrol career in 1957 at the age of 15 at his “hometown” ski area, Cooper Hill near Leadville, Colorado. This area was built by the Army during WWII to train the 10th Mountain troops. In the fall of 1965, just out of college, he moved to Seattle and began a search for a ski area to continue his patrolling. After skiing several areas in the state, he decided Crystal Mountain was where he wanted to be. He joined the Crystal Mountain Volunteer Ski Patrol in the Fall of 1966 and is still actively patrolling, part-time on Pro Staff and keeping his volunteer commitment. Ferk is more than a lifer, he’s a role model. Even after nearly 60 years on the ski patrol, he still leads the crew in commitment. The motto on the Crystal Patrol is “work like Ferk!”
From the very beginning at Crystal, Bruce Kingland fell in love with the Northback area (now known as Northway) and would spend his whole day out there. Bruce knew every inch of what then was mostly unknown terrain. Bruce was always proud when he could find and show off a stash of untracked powder. On one particular powder day in the 60s, Bruce took his friends Gary Morrison, Dick Lowrey and Carmel Shaver with him. The ski patrol was way ahead of them on a very high traverse doing avalanche control. Back then, the patrol didn’t bother closing Northway as Snorting Elk Bowl was considered the start of the backcountry. Bruce and his group figured the patrol was well beyond the area now known as Bruce’s Bowl. So Bruce dropped in below the cliff band and started into the bowl, with Gary, Dick and Carmel not far behind. An explosive charge came from above and landed directly in front of Bruce, blowing him over and back into Gary, who also blew over and into Dick, who subsequently landed on Carmel. When the patrollers skied down to Bruce, and they all realized what a close call it had been, Gary declared the area should from then on be known as Bruce’s Bowl, and the name stuck.
Whitney “Whit” Meriwether grew up in Boise, Idaho where he learned to snowboard at Bogus Basin. When Crystal Mountain’s former GM John Kircher needed a liver transplant, he couldn’t wait for a deceased donor. Kircher suffered from an autoimmune disease that destroyed his bile ducts and also caused cancer and required a living donor. When Whit, who is related to Kircher’s wife, stepped forward to share part of his liver and save John’s life, Kircher was literally at his wit’s end. These days Whit works at a distillery making bourbon as well as running his own brand, Speakeasy Vodka.
Penny Eul and John Dawg were two patrollers at Crystal in the 1970s. While Penny wasn’t the first female patroller at Crystal, Hurley Johnson patrolled for one year in the 60s, Penny was the first woman to work for several seasons. She was beloved by her co-workers and still maintains connections at Crystal. John Dawg was never considered a pillar of the ski patrol community. In fact, even today, in the ski patrol nomenclature, pulling a “John Dawg” refers to messing up in some major way. The Penny Dawgs avalanche control route was considered the easiest one in the Northback area. Penny believes she was partnered with Dawg because she was the only one who could properly “babysit” him. Penny and John were assigned to this avalanche route so many times that today it still holds their name.
Very little is known about the Kelly for whom this cat track is named. Kelly was a miner who had a claim in that area, and Sluiceway was the course where the creek that performed the sluicing function for the mine ran through the placer claim. Grubstake was also named to honor the former miners in the basin. Rudy Ogren and Walter Zelepuza, owners of the miner’s cabin used during initial exploration of the basin, owned a mining claim they called Deer Fly. The Silver Creek Gold and Lead mining corporations held claims in the area called Bull Run and Lucky Spot, the latter of which most likely morphed into today’s Lucky Shot.
Joseph E. Gandy, a Seattle lawyer, owner of a Ford dealership, and civic leader. Gandy was part of the original group of 16 businessmen that spearheaded Crystal, and was the first chairman of Crystal Mountain, Inc. Gandy was involved in many civic duties in Seattle in the 50s and 60s, including being named King Neptune of Seafair in 1959. Gandy was best known for being the President of Seattle’s World’s Fair.
Wallace “Wally” Staatz grew up in Orting where in 1970 he turned his family farm into the High Cedars Golf Club. Wally was one of the original investors and developers of Crystal Mountain in the early 60s, served as its board chairman from 1978-89, and was instrumental in its acquisition by Boyne Resorts.