The Big Pines region of the Angeles National Forest is an area rich with skiing heritage. More than 70 years ago, winter enthusiasts were making the journey up Highway 2 from Los Angeles to bask in the glory of the mountains. That passion is still alive today, and Mountain High is proud to recognize the forefathers who laid the groundwork for what is now Southern California's most popular winter resort.
In 1929 construction began on what was then the largest ski jump in the world with hopes of luring the 1932 Winter Olympic Games. (Los Angeles had already won the rights to the summer games.) The structure took two years to build, and in 1931, just three weeks after it was completed, Norwegian-born Alf Engen set a new world record by jumping an incredible 243 feet. This is an accomplishment even today, but imagine how difficult it must have been with no chairlifts, no grooming equipment and skis that were no more than wooden planks with leather straps. Engen caught the attention of the world, and Big Pines was awarded the winter games.
Unfortunately, poor snow conditions in 1932 caused the competition to be moved to Lake Placid, New York, and Big Pines never fulfilled its Olympic destiny. Though uncomfortable at the time, the setback had little effect on the region, and popularity continued to rise through the late 1930's.
Development of a commercial ski area catering to the general public began in 1941 when Frank Springer and Tom Triol took over management of the Blue Ridge Ski Area (now Mountain High West). Through a mixture of vision and hard work, they developed a number of varied downhill runs that suited the desires of beginner and advanced skiers alike. The Blue Ridge chair lift was only the third such transport in California and the fifth in the United States. Before being sold to Dick Woodworth and Bill Cisario in 1975, a second chair lift had been installed, and the prestige of Blue Ridge was drawing participants from across the country and even Europe. After the acquisition, Woodworth changed the resort's name to Mountain High.
In 1948 Joseph "Sepp" Benedikter and John Steinmann established a neighboring ski area called Holiday Hill. Benedikter, a native Austrian and ski enthusiast since the age of three, was no rookie to the industry. With an engineering background, he was well known for his developments in Sun Valley, Idaho, during the mid 1930s. The two entrepreneurs installed the first rope tow on the site that, for many years, was part of the old Los Angeles County Park and Playground. Steinmann gained control of the area in 1950 and erected the first mile-long chair lift with a vertical rise of 1,600 feet. The area was sold to a corporation made up of some of Steinmann's sons in 1959 and later purchased totally by Heinz Steinmann, the son of the original developer.
Terry Tognazzini, a businessman from Orange County, acquired Mountain High in 1978 and Holiday Hill in 1980. He then merged the two to create a single re