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Advocacy Funds & Foundations
by John Watson


Public hearings were held by a Congressional committee regarding on the last parcel of land, San Gorgonio, to be included as wilderness under the Wilderness Act of 1964. San Gorgonio had long been considered as the final and best ski area in Southern California. A race, the San G, sometimes still held, was conducted annually from Lytle Creek. Plans had been outlined and backing committed.

The San Gorgonio Fund was established by then Southern Council to continue the fight for San G. Skiers were not unanimous on the issue and this allowed the committee to reach the decision to include San G in the Wilderness Act. The San G Fund was finally spent on other expenses in the last decade.

In the 1964-66 era, the Association organized its programs in two arms, Recreation and Competition. The Far West Ski Foundation was established in 1964 to support racing programs, including expenses for team travel, coaching, training officiating and awards. These contributions were tax deductible. The Far West Ski Foundation is still in existence today but only administers its limited funds to young racers.

The Recreation arm, which included Area Development, now included under Public Affairs, had no tax-deductible entity but still had the mission of research and advocacy of skiing on public lands. This resulted in several advocacy funds devoted to specific or general issues in area development.

The Save Our Skiing Fund was established November 5, 1969 in the battle over Mineral King by Gerry Garrett, now of New Zealand, but then the President of the Single Ski Club of Los Angeles. Mineral King had long been considered as a premier ski site (even by the Sierra Club) as far back as the 1930s. The area was loosely classified as a Game Refuge in 1965, when the U S Forest Service issued a prospectus for the development of skiing in the Mineral King valley.

Base facilities would be on private inholdings. The Sierra Club sued the Forest Service and received a preliminary injunction from San Francisco District Court. The court case went from Federal court through appellate proceedings and ended up in the Supreme Court. Far West Ski Association was a party to the case through an amicus curiae brief. Congress was busy changing the status of Mineral King from National Forest to Sequoia National Park. This change made the outcome of the court case moot. Mineral King remains a pack station to this day, looming in the sun and never to be skied.

Meanwhile, it was becoming obvious that ANY ski area development was going to face opposition from the Sierra Club or loosely affiliated action groups. The Association convened a Public Lands Advisory Board (PLAB) to conduct research on suitability of skiing sites in California. Of the 20-odd sites identified by Royall Brown's committee, a number were under consideration (after the Mineral King debacle) by the Forest Service. This included Trail Peak, Moses-Maggie, Peppermint, Independence Lake, Mt. Dunderberg, Iceberg Canyon, Sherwin Bowl, and others.

The Association conducted skier reconnaissance and research on several of these candidate sites, notably by Chuck Morse. This caused the Association to undertake a seemingly endless series of public advocacy and mobilization programs. To defray costs of these several advocacy campaigns, the Skisport Defense Fund was incorporated January 8, 1974. But the economy forced a plateau or decline in skiing and this seemingly reduced the need for new terrain. Today, none of these candidate areas have been developed and most never will, since they been consigned to the Wilderness System.

The Association continued its research, however, conducted a series of skier reconaissances, both on snow and in summer under the Eastern Sierra Site Survey (ESSS) in the early 1990s. The four patrollers on ESSS included Dave Tollakson, killed in a climbing practice, and his friend Steve Reneker, who climbed Mt. Everest in his memory. The other two included Jerry Lambert and Ron Anderson.

The ESSS explored the proposed development in what was called Sherwin Bowl (actually not a bowl) and the San Joaquin ridgeline extending northward from Mammoth Mountain. This ridgeline contains several bowls, one of which would be a spectacular snowboard park, and all of which would be easily accessible from Highway 395. In addition, fact-finding was done on the possibility of connecting June Mountain to this ridgeline. The team included Norm Cullen, Gene Fulkerson, John and Claudia Watson, and the late Mike Favia, then Association President.

It became obvious that research regarding the environmental, topographic and geography of candidate sites could be conducted under foundation auspices. The Far West Ski Foundation name was no longer available for these purposes, so a new one, the Eleventh Mountain Foundation was established in the 1980s. This foundation, while inactive, remains available to conduct public lands and historical research, among other objectives.

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