Beehive Archive: Summer Skiing on Mount Timpanogos
From 1912, thousands of adventurers climbed Mount Timpanogos each summer to ski down a small permanent snowfield called the “Timp Glacier”. For nearly sixty years, they went to the mountains every July to reach the top of what was called the “Timp Hike”. Beyond just hiking, this extravagant weekend included camping, bonfires, and in some years, glacier ski races. Timp’s annual hike was extremely popular and also weighed on the fragile mountain ecosystem.
In the early 1940s, heavy snowfall covered the rocky landscape with a thick layer that lasted through the summer months, allowing hikers to ski or hurtle down the mountain in July. Skis, boots and poles were loaded onto horses and filled the field with snow. The ‘Cup of the Glacier’ competition drew both viewers and participants, with local ski talents vying for bragging rights.
Although the organizers set the course with the utmost attention to safety, the dangerous nature of the Glacier Cup race only added to the thrill. Snowdrifts, rocks and crevasses could prove fatal not only for skiers but also for hikers planning to hurtle down the mountain. Falls were common, and with thousands of people hiking, skiing and sliding, the risk of injury was high. Despite the potential danger, interest in the Timp Hike and Glacier Cup competition only grew, with a record number of participations in 1949.
Unfortunately, the summer ski seasons were short-lived and the alternation of dry and wet seasons threatened the size of the snowfield. Despite the semi-permanent appearance of snow, the field never regained the size it was in the 1940s. Seasonal changes and the popularity of Timp’s hike have also taken their toll on the landscape. Abandoned trash and destruction of flora and fauna during the weekend celebration threatened the health of the ecosystem, and in 1970 the Timp hike was officially disbanded. The shrinking 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 on Utah Stories from the Beehive Archives.