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Turner lodge dedication set Saturday

| February 16, 2006 11:00 PM

There will be a special dedication on Saturday, Feb. 18, for the new day lodge at the Turner Mountain Ski Area.

The lodge was built in the fall of 2004 and finished during 2005. This winter is the first ski season the modern facility is being utilized although the area was open for one weekend during the no-snow winter of 2004-2005.

The dedication is scheduled for 11 a.m. but Turner is also hosting an open house at the lodge all day.

The new structure replaced the original "warming hut" erected in 1960 when the fledgling community ski area was coming to life. A committee of volunteers formed Kootenai Winter Sports, secured the necessary permits from the Forest Service and created plans and models of the lifts and warming hut. That original hut, which housed the diesel engine that powered what is frequently called "world's longest T-bar" was dismantled and removed from the base area last summer.

"It was a community type effort to put it all together," said KWS's first president Jerry Rawles from his home in Breckenridge, Colo. " When we put the T-bar in, the mill went out on strike and a lot of the guys volunteered to work on the T-bar. It was a quite a chore."

Initially, KWS installed a rope tow up what is called the Pig Chutes ski run. The warming house was actually located where the shop is today. The tow was powered by a school bus anchored in place with the tow line running around a rear wheel. It was a 1,200-foot long rope tow designed by Gene Buti, Dick Hennessy and Doyle Strandland. In addition to Rawles, the first group of volunteers on the KWS board of directors were Herb Neils, Mick Mills, Elmer Anderson, Bob Neils, Ed Cosens and Rick Riley.

Rawles remained involved with Turner while he lived in Libby, and even today lends a hand. He and his wife, Susie, donated a chair on the new lift, and last summer he gave KWS volunteers some coat hangers made from old skis for the new lodge.

"It turned out beautifully," Rawles said of the new lodge. "We went up there last summer and sat on one of the chairs. Those kids have done a wonderful job. They have worked hard at it like we did."

Dedication of the first ski facilities at Turner was on Feb. 5, 1961.

The new lodge has a large open area for people to lounge in front of a wood stove in comfortable chairs or sit at a table to eat after ordering food from the snack bar. It includes a ski patrol room and a ski rental shops. Most importantly, there are indoor restrooms for men and women.

The T-bar was dismantled in 2001 and replaced by a used chairlift purchased from ski areas in the Snoqualamie area of Washington. Dozens of volunteers worked through the summer of 2001 to put in the new lift which was ready for operation during the first weekend in January 2002.