All Downhill From Here: Carbon Canyon Ski Villa, 1966-1967 | Reviews and comments

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FFor about half a century, the concrete scar stood out on the hill east of Sleepy Hollow, testifying to the truly colorful aspects that sometimes mark the history of Carbon Canyon. As mentioned in previous columns, a series of camps, resorts and clubs now occupied the site, including the Hillcrest housing estate, the newly renovated Canyon Hills Cottages and horse boarding and training facilities. These included the Workmen’s Circle camp (1928-1958) and members clubs El Circulo (1961-1964) and Canyon Hills Country Club (1964-1965).

When the last of these folded, a new scheme for the property was concocted by former heating and air conditioning contractor and Canyon resident John F. Kramer and plastics company owner Marion “Randy Randazzo, based on the one recently developed in Funabashi, Japan. Dubbed Ski Villa, the project included some 1.3 million 6-inch by 6-inch interlocking hard plastic tiles, with needles to generally simulate snow, and made by Gardena-based company Randazzo, fixed to the concrete slope measuring 1,300 feet in length on a southeast face. slope. Mercury vapor lamps provided a bluish tint to visually aid the illusion of powder, while rubber tips were required for poles and silicone was applied to skis for a form of lubrication before hitting the slope.

The April 13, 1966, edition of The Champion reported that Kramer expected the business to be open nights Wednesday through Friday and all day on weekends and that certified instructors would be on hand with expected admission between $3 and $5. $ per person. While Kramer said the facility will be open within days, construction delays, possibly a taste of the future and notably the abandonment of asphalt for the base due to disintegration issues, postponed the date to early July.

The existing camp and club days buildings have been repurposed as a rental store, aid station and offices, while a restaurant, run by Scotty McMann, offering steaks, lobster and the specialty chicken dinner has opened in the old lodge. Two pools, a shuffleboard area, and an outdoor skating section were also available. Neal’s Sporting Goods, an Orange County chain, provided instructors and advertised Ski Villa, which also received good coverage in regional newspapers from Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley.

Publicity was also generated through national magazines, such as the August 8 edition of Sports Illustrated and the October issue of Skiing. A September article in the Long Beach Independent magazine quoted Ski Villa ski patrol leader Jack Westmoreland as suggesting that the plastic bristles felt like early morning corn snow, a granular type created by the repeated freezing and thawing. It was noted that there was a gentle section and a steeper one and where slalom competitions were planned, although the Ski article observed that “no one felt overwhelmed” on the descent. A brief discussion of Ski Villa in a Los Angeles Times WEST Magazine article in late October stated that “connoisseurs swear” negotiating the slope was “exactly like skiing on fresh ‘powder’.”

Despite the media coverage, a Times article from early December included an admission by company president Randazzo that business was slow and the project, which involved $750,000 in construction costs, was in the red, but “Comments from skiers were generally good”. He and Kramer even hoped to sell franchises if Ski Villa proved viable.

Another notable publicity came when retired Norwegian champion and Olympic gold medalist skier Stein Eriksen made an appearance in early December to try out the track and give interviews, although nothing could be found on his point of view. view of experience. In early 1967 there were a few reports of reduced fares, which was clearly not a good sign, and Ski Villa only stayed open until September when, without too much mention in the media , it was quietly closed.

Despite its short life, Ski Villa left a legacy, albeit not the most appealing, for decades before the remnants of the concrete slope were removed for the development of Hillcrest. Next month we continue with the story of the site, including the Ponderosa Bar and Motel and the Purple Haze.

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