Stories from The Tamaracks;

"I Remember When. . ."

November 16, 2000
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
Seeley Lake, Montana

The Milwaukee Railroad ski train, parked in the Clearwater, Blanchard Flats area of the Blackfoot Valley on Sunday, February 6, 1938. Coaches and caboose of the ski train can be seen in the background. The infant on the fender of the car is Sandy Demmons. His mother, Valle Turner Demmons of The Tamaracks, is seen facing the camera, holding a cup of coffee. The two women behind Valle, from left to right, are Rose McCullough, wife of Massey McCullough of Missoula's McCullough Motor Company, and Olive Mulroney, wife of Missoula attorney Tom Mulroney. The tall fellow at the right is Valle's brother, Henry "Bud" Turner. In a few short years Bud would be flying with Marine Fighter Squadron VMF 222, the "Fighting Deuces," in the South Pacific during WW II. (There will be more about Bud and his y ounger brother Pel at a future time.) Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, son of Pel Turner.

Picture of skiers and winter sports enthusiasts from the Missoula Ski Club's first ski train excursion in the Blackfoot Valley, February 6, 1938. They are on the southwest slope of Boyd Mountain. The ski train was parked behind the photographer. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, son of Pel Turner.

Another view of participants in the winter ski excursion of February 6, 1938 in the Blackfoot Valley. From left to right: Henry "Heinie" Turner, owner of The Tamaracks; Ken Demmons, Manager and Guide at The Tamaracks; Olive and Tom Mulroney of Missoula. Photo courtesy of Monte Turner, son of Pel Turner.

Stories from Long Ago About The Tamaracks of Seeley Lake and Surrounding Area Compiled by Jack Demmons.

This part 11 of a series of articles about The Tamaracks and surrounding BlackfootSwan Valley areas.


During the winter of 1937-1938 the Missoula Ski Club began making plans for a ski trip by railroad up the Blackfoot Valley. The Daily Missoulian on Wednesday, February 2, 1938, reported:


200 Expected to Go on Sunday's Special Train. Ski Club Sponsoring Trip by Rail Up Blackfoot for Winter Sports.

"Missoula's first ski train will carry 200 or more winter sports fans to a point 40 miles up the Blackfoot next Sunday.......


The excursion took place on Sunday, February 6. The Milwaukee Railroad use an eight-car train, to include a baggage car and caboose, to transport 360 skiers and winter sports fans on its logging railroad to a point just east of the present intersection of Highways 200 and 83 in the Clearwater area. The train left Misosula at 9:30 a.m. and stopped at Bonner to pick up more skiers. It was a two-hour trip to the ski area. (Once the cars were situated on a siding, the locomotive had to travel on to the Anaconda Copper Mining Company's logging headquarters near Woodworth to turn around.)

Many local inhabitants of the Blackfoot Valley joined the skiing and festivities. The Tamaracks was well represented.

The skiers walked up the southwest slopes of Boyd Mountain and skied down. Some had taboggans and snowshoes. Club members gave safety instructions and when the train returned to Missoula at 7:00 p.m. there had not been a single casualty.

The Milwaukee Railroad provided a club car and the ski club had sandwiches on hand. Some of the merrymakers were observed "nipping" at bottles of liquor, and before long there was much singing, to include some yodelling by Bonnerite loggers. (It was said that several cayotes along the foothills south of the ski train responded, either out of admiration or in protest to the sounds the yodellers were belching and discharging.)

The first outing by train had been such a success that another one was planned for Sunday, February 20th. More than 350 skiers and winter sports fans were on the second ski train of the year. This time the train traveled on beyond the Clearwater area and Sperry Grade. It stopped on the western fringes of the Bill Boyd Ranch, along the logging railroad route to Woodworth. There were steeper, longer and higher runs in the area.

The president of the Missoula Ski Club, Walter Morris, reported: "...there were only five minor injuries, principally sprained ankles. Ten trained men were on hand with first aid kits and a doctor was in attendance. Beginners were given ski instructions...." It was another very successful outing, the last ski train trip of the year for the Missoula Ski Club in the Blackfoot Valley.

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