The History of Hawai‘i From Our Files: Skiing in the 1960s

HONOLULU Magazine emerged from predecessor Paradise of the Pacific, which began in 1888, fulfilling a commission by King Kalākaua. That makes this the oldest continuously published magazine west of the Mississippi, with an enviable archive worth diving into each month. Here’s a look back at March 1967.


March 1967 Skiing Maunakea Hawaii



Today, most understand that Maunakea is a site of cultural significance and controversy. Years before the first telescopes were built on the summit, the snowy slopes were a tempting place for skiers. In 1967, local gynecologist and skier Dr. E. Gordon Dickie had the opportunity to visit with Honolulu architect Tom Wells for a shoot with noted photographer John Jay, who was considered the father of modern ski films.


“The Land Rovers were ready, the skis were rapidly loaded, and off we went to the Saddle Road. The entire episode was getting funnier by the minute. Jokes and comments were flying back and forth and the tension mounted. About 45 minutes later we arrived at the 10,000-foot level where we were to be taken to the summit by helicopter. …


“We stood there at 10,000 feet, about 70 degrees at 10 a.m. on this lava field with not a patch of snow in sight. I was pulling on a pair of stretch pants when I burst out laughing and said I had never felt so ridiculous in my life. It was easier to get into the ‘clip on’ Henke’s ski boots but it was still getting hotter by the minute and the sun at that altitude is tremendous. We waited for about 25 minutes and the longer we waited the more we wondered if we had just been taken on the ‘world’s greatest snipe hunt.’ Finally, in the distance, we heard the chopper. …



March 1967 Maunakea3



“Both Tom and I would see a small patch and say, ‘there’s some snow, stop the helicopter,’ but the pilot only smiled and kept climbing higher and higher. Finally, after about 15 minutes of skimming the mountain peaks, we came up over a rise and there before our eyes was the most beautiful ‘face’ of snow I’d ever seen. Tom and I started jumping up and down in the helicopter which just about put us in a spin and the pilot got a little unhappy. …


“Looking over the edge was an experience in itself. The face—the beautiful face of the summit—was the perfectly shaped mountain like the perfectly shaped wave.


“Some surfers like it 10 feet and glassy; skiers like it 45 (degrees) and wide open with hard packed snow—and untracked. …


“The snow was ideal—hard spring corn snow that gives just the right amount when you jam a pole in and kick up your heels for short wedeln jumps down the fall line. We were too excited to notice the altitude until we were about 200 yards down when my lungs felt like they were going to burst. I pulled up sharply and leaned on my poles and thought my head was going to be blown off.



March 1967 Maunakea2



“A severe sickening wave of nausea swept over my body and the landscape began to get fuzzy. This condition lasted for about 20 seconds until I could focus again. I looked over and saw Tom leaning on his poles also. As soon as we recovered, we immediately forgot the altitude and took off in a headlong tight jumping slalom down the mountain until we again started to get sick and dizzy. …


“The helicopter came back at about 3 p.m. and took four of us to the summit again. As we started over the edge I looked backwards to the other skiers and said, ‘don’t fall, you’ll never be able to stop sliding until you reach the bottom!’ “The last run of the day was magnificent. By then we were a little more used to the altitude and were pacing ourselves and it was an experience I will never forget.”


The Hawai‘i Ski Club formed in 1953 to help take people up to the slopes. But now, it is not condoned, especially as the passionate controversy over the use of land many consider sacred continues. In 2019, video of three athletes sliding down dirt and rocks there went viral and was widely viewed as an act of disrespect. (Only one later apologized.) In 2021, Maunakea Rangers had to rescue a woman who was critically hurt when she tried to slide in the snow on a bodyboard and crashed into rocks. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the president of the Hawai‘i Ski Club says the group still gets six to 10 requests every year from people wanting to ski there. He says the club only coordinates ski trips to places off the Islands.


From Our Files Covers March 2022

Learn more about the evolution of covers in HONOLULU Magazine and Paradise of the Pacific: 125 Years of Covers, available at



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