Gus Becker’s Other Legacy: Ogden Skiing

Gus Becker’s legacy as a brewmaster is long and fabled. Less known is his legacy as a promoter of the recreational ski industry in the Ogden area.

Becker was always looking out for ways to promote Ogden because it brought more people and business to Ogden. People buy beer and business gives people money to buy beer.

In the 1930s he joined other locals in promoting the idea of a ski hill up Ogden Canyon. A ski jump on something called Becker Hill was located near Wheeler Canyon, according to the Snowbasin ski history blog.  The hill operated for about three years.

Becker did more than just promote ski jumping, however. In a speech on KLO radio in 1931 he talked about dog races around Huntsville as well.

Becker was enthusiastic. “It should interest you to know that perfected and completed as it now stands on that beautiful site in Ogden Canyon, we have not only the longest ski hill in the world but a monument to the inauguration of winter sports in Utah.”

So history was being made and, as per usual for history making events, folks showed up with their Kodaks to record the gala. One was Charles McCarthy, one of the more prolific local shooters, whose work is now both at Weber State University and in the Union Station Archive.

It is hard to tell if McCarthy shot these in 1931 or 1932 because the envelope the photo processor put his prints and negatives in is, sadly, frayed right on that spot.

Also sadly, McCarthy didn’t put the names of any of the folks he photographed on the back of his pictures. He took one shot of a ski jumper, posing with his skis, and it would be fun if that were Alf Engen, world champion ski jumper who Becker brought to Ogden in 1931. He brought half a dozen of Engen’s friends, too, so this could easily be one of them.

Engen went on to be a key player in Utah’s ski industry. I’ve sent a copy of this picture to the Alf Engen ski museum in Park City to see if they can ID the guy. Whoever it is, he was in at the beginning of Ogden’s ski industry, now a major driver of Northern Utah’s economy in the wintertime, and a lasting legacy to Gus Becker’s promotional skills.