Long before Austrian alpine skier Hannes Schroll was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame, he traveled to the United States for the 1935 U.S. Alpine Championship. This competition was held in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, and there, Schroll won both the U.S. National Downhill and Slalom Open Combined. His performance did not go unnoticed by the director of Yosemite National Park, Donald Tresidder, who asked Schroll to be the ski instructor at the new Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite.
It was not uncommon for Badger Pass to draw visitors from all over the state. One such recreation-seeker just happened to be Walt Disney. During Walt’s visits, he and Schroll became friends.
Over the next couple of years, two other gentlemen from Austria, Bill and Fred Klein, started offering ski instruction on Donner Summit (today Mt. Lincoln) just northwest of Lake Tahoe. This additional option for downhill skiing quickly became popular, and Schroll set his sights on purchasing land in that area for a ski resort. Unfortunately, Schroll was unable to access any of his assets in Austria due to its annexation by Germany, so he sought out investors for an initial land purchase of $6,750.
Over the next year, he looked for additional financiers to help with the building of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort, and it was at that time that his friend Walt Disney offered up $2,500. In return, Schroll decided to rename one of the two peaks Mt. Disney (formerly Hemlock Peak). It was on this mountain that the first chairlift in California would be installed. When Sugar Bowl Ski Resort opened on December 15, 1939, a trip to the top of Mt. Disney on the 3,200 foot long chairlift cost $0.25 or $2.00 for those who decided to ski down.
Today, a newer chairlift named the “Disney Express” still takes skiers to the top of Mt. Disney where the downhill runs include the “Donald Duck” and the “Disney Nose,” among others. However, the connection between Disney and Sugar Bowl exists not only on a snow-covered mountain in California, but also in a classic animated short cartoon.
The Art of Skiing – pronounced SHEEing
The beloved Goofy short “The Art of Skiing” was first shown in theaters in 1941. As the cartoon begins, the camera zooms in toward a quiet ski lodge amidst the snowcapped peaks. Closing in on the timbered building, a sign can be seen on the left identifying it as Sugar Bowl Lodge. Moving inside, Goofy is found snoozing in bed with a pile of hot-water bottles, about to be awakened for his lesson in the finer points of the wintery activity. Toward the end of the feature, it is time for Goofy to take his turn on the ski jump. As he rockets down the ramp, the iconic Goofy yell, “Yah-ha-ha-hooey,” can be heard for the first time. This yodel-esque sound was provided by none other than Hannes Schroll, who was known for his yodeling abilities in addition to his skiing prowess.
While that unmistakable holler has since been re-recorded a number of times, it is forever linked to the history of Sugar Bowl Ski Resort and how a Hall of Fame athlete, a chairlift, and Goofy came to have something in common.
“Goofy” and “The Art of Skiing” images copyright Disney. Sugar Bowl Resort, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.