A Historic Central Oregon Ski Lodge Gets A Second Chance At Life

Old lodge sign for Santiam Pass

Highway 20 runs from the Oregon coast all the way to the Idaho border, and the section between Corvallis and Bend happens to be one of the most beautiful stretches of road in the state. The Santiam Ski Pass Lodge resides in this area, but you probably only know it as an old, dilapidated building that’s been boarded up for over 30 years. However, as of a few years ago that all began to change thanks to a local couple intent on restoring it to its former glory.

History Of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge

lodge in 1940s
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

The lodge was originally built in 1939 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was formed in 1933 under Franklin D, Roosevelt’s New Deal program and it put thousands of young Americans to work. The program lasted only nine years and was made up of mostly uneducated men sent to work at over 2,600 camps across the country making $30 a month. They planted trees, established state parks, and helped develop the country’s burgeoning downhill ski industry by building lodges. The Santiam Lodge was one of these, built to support the newly-opened Hoodoo Ski Area. Another locally-famous structure built by the CCC is the still-standing Timberline Lodge.

old stone fireplace
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

Using Locally Sourced Materials

CCC workers used wood from the surrounding forest, milling it on site then using it to build the lodge. Stone for the foundation and huge central fireplace was quarried in nearby Hogg Rock. From 1940 to 1986 the lodge played many roles serving alternatively as a warming station for cross country and downhill skiers, a haven for backpackers, and a summer camp for kids and church groups. Back in its prime, the lodge was always teeming with visitors, some of whom spent the night in one of the 30 bunk beds on the bottom floor.

It was also once a popular rest stop for Pacific Crest Trail thru hikers to receive food caches, take a shower, and have well-deserved sleep in a real bed.

The lodge was built to celebrate the natural wonders that surround it and had large windows on every wall, so even when you were inside warming yourself by the fireplace, you still felt like a part of nature.

Sheets getting special use permit in 2018
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

The Santiam Pass Lodge Fell Into Disrepair

The Santiam Pass Lodge has been boarded up and unused since 1986, but Sisters, Oregon residents Susan and Dwights Sheets spearheaded a project to revive the lodge and recreate the welcoming atmosphere that existed for so long.

The Sheets, originally from Salem, Oregon visited the local area extensively during their childhood, skiing at Hoodoo or traveling with church groups. They developed not only a love of the area, but of the lodge itself. In 2018, they convinced Restore Oregon to put the lodge on an official register of most endangered places which opens it up to resources to preserve historic buildings. In the same year, the Sheets were also granted a Special Use Permit from the U.S. Forest Service which gave them a five year window to restore the lodge. 

volunteers at work
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

New Life For The Historic Santiam Pass Ski Lodge

The ultimate goal is to have the lodge open to the public once more as a multipurpose community center, though there are currently no plans for overnight accommodations. The bones of the lodge remain strong, but the Sheets have a lot of work ahead of them.

Along with an army of volunteers and local partners, they’ve already made considerable progress restoring the exterior and interior, installing a brand new electrical system, and most recently rebuilding the entrance with a grand staircase.

The ground floor will eventually be open to the public and there will also be a small café, gift shop and venue rental to generate enough funds to maintain the building. 

new staircase
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

The Sheets have received donations and grants from a number of local businesses and organizations like the Oregon Cultural Trust, Autzen Foundation, Restore Oregon, The Kinsman Foundation, and the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust.

The entire restoration is estimated to cost between 2.5 and 3 million dollars and can hopefully be completed within five years but much is dependent on funding. The original permit contained a finish date of Spring 2023, but the pandemic slowed this timeline down considerably. The Sheets and other volunteers remain undaunted and committed to seeing the project through to the end. 

lodge in snow
Photo by Friends Of Santiam Pass Lodge via Facebook

If you’re interested in becoming a part of this rich Central Oregon tradition, you can volunteer to work on the lodge or make a donation. Find out more by visiting the Friends of Santiam Pass Ski Lodge website where you can also see more before-and-after photos of the progress that’s been made in the last three years.

mt hood skiway
Image via / OHS Research Library, Org. Lot 1284, Al Monner Photographs, 1936–1974

You may also be interested in reading about the historic Timberline Lodge, as well as the historic flying bus trolley on Mount Hood.