A while back, Zeke from the Ski Channel emailed me, asking about some of my pictures from a hike at Kratka Ridge. Unbeknownst to me, this short, pleasant hike in the upper San Gabriels was holding a piece of skiing history – one of the last remaining single-person chairlifts in the country.

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I’m not much of a skier, myself, but I’m a sucker for history, and this week the Ski Channel posted it’s write-up of the history of the single-person chairlift. It’s an interesting read with some great historical photos of early chairlifts, as well as lots of information on the Kratka Ridge lift. Worth a read for skiers and amateur mountain historians of all stripes.

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor at Modern Hiker
In addition to writing about the outdoors since 2006, Casey has also been producing and writing television since 2003.He was the Head Writer on G4's "Attack of the Show," co-writer and host of "The MMO Report," and the Series Producer / Head Writer of pivot's "TakePart Live."His work has received several honors, including Webby, Telly, and CableFAX awards.
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8 Comments

  • David Crabtree says:

    WOW! what a find. I am sad to learn of the fire and closing of Kratka Ridge. While my first day on skis was at nearby Waterman, I can say that I learned to ski at Kratka Ridge. After a few seasons I was on the volunteer patrol under the direction of Tom Battenburg. I made some good friends and had so many wonderful times there – skiing and apre ski as well. Even though we were told the new snow mobile was unable to go to the top of the resort, and that trying was therefor not worthwhile, one night I not only made it to the summit, but left tracks all around the trees just in case someone doubted. Of course, this is the first time I’ve publically admited it was me. Tom, you shold have known that putting forth a challenge like that would have gotten at least one enourable to prove you wrong – or to die trying.
    Meeting Joe and Ray, their families and all who became part of their family through the sharing of time on the hill, was one of my youth’s great oportunities. They were both generous and directive toward the youths in our group who enjoyed skiing and socializing on the hill. They were the driving force I noticed that made Kratka Ridge a family experience for all who were regulars. Truly some of my fondest memores were made as part of that family. Tom and Susie, Jeanie, Neil and Bob … I miss you all, too.

    • Cory Blaser Simoes says:

      Memories flooding in. Kratka provided a learning environment for me like no other. To the average person, Kratka was a tiny, unpopular steep hill with most folks sporting jeans and a jacket. No fashion show here. However, with closer examination you would have found a family running the mountain and also serving as the hill ski team,dinner cooks and nightly entertainment as a blue grass band. I volunteered for ski patrol here under the direction of both Tom and Jane Battenburg who taught me a whole lot more then how to be a better skiier. I cannot ski today without being reminded of both of you and your endless time devoted to helping young people stop the snow plow. Jane rescued me from a snow drift while we were testing for avalanche possibilities. I found the ledge that was unstable, or rather it found me and took me….all the way down the old “T and A” unofficial backside run. Without training I learned at Kratka, I would have went over the edge and cliff to the road. I also may have learned never to try moguls in a sleeping bag and how to dig that single chair lift out of the snow in blessed years of abundant snow. All college kids should find a “Kratka” as a right of passage. Simply, unique,

  • I was on the Ski Patrol with my friends from John Muir High School around 1971 to 1973 when we moved on to Pasadena City College. Sometimes we would skip our afternoon classes and could be at Kratka by noon and get a half day in. To stay in the old cabins and after the generators shut down have nothing but the sounds of falling snow and forest, was truly amazing. Then up to a chilly morning of hot coffee, very cold cereal and the first ride up on an ice covered wooden single chair. Nothing could have been better. When the snowmaking effort failed 28 years later I was saddened that Kratka met its end and Mt. Waterman, its wonderful neighbor closed also. When Waterman re-opened I was hopeful Kratka would get a re-birth. The economy dashed that but Waterman hangs on as a weekend only area when conditions are good enough. We used to pick up the odd Volkswagen Beetle and bounce it one way or the other to make room to park our car on arrival for a half day of skiing there. The owners of the VW would have to wait for another car to leave to open their door! Ah Waterman. Praying for snow…. Also praying that the current recovery sees a visionary that will tap in to the potential for these fine areas to be a viable tandem ski area for Southern Californians again. The roads are fixed, the economy is on track….lets bring back Kratka!

  • Bob Bergstrom says:

    I stumbled across this website about Kratka Ridge. I was going to college at John Muir in Pasadena in 1951, and one day drove up to Kratka Ridge. I met Randy Zimmer who was working in the area and after talking about a lot of different things he asked if I would like to be the night watchman. What fun, live in a ski area, boil hot dogs and put on the coffee and the cocoa in the morning for the skiers who were sure to arrive. I was all alone every night for a few weeks and then Doug Pfeiffer came down from Canada to be the ski instructor. Doug was way ahead of his time and really helped this skier who was in his 2nd year of skiing. To make a long story short, this started a long career in the ski business. I opened 7 specialty ski shops in So – Cal and sold the last one in 2007. Thanks to Randy and his wonderful wife Norma Zimmer, the champagne lady from the Lawrence Welk show, this kid was able to do what ended up being the dream of a lifetime – having fun and making a living out of it. It all started at Kratka Ridge, not exactly Vail or Sun Valley, or Zermatt, but to me a great memory.

  • DOUG PFEIFFER says:

    Met on Randy Zimmer at the big ski jump at Pomona Fair grounds in 1951. Had met Randy while a ski teacher for Emile Allais at Squaw Valley. Was currently a special student at Pamona College in Claremont. Randy offered me the position of ski school director at Kratka Ridge, open only on weekends and Holidays — snow prevailing– at the time. Took the job gladly. Transferred to Pasadena City College to big up basic college points, and took on the Kratka job for another winter– 1952-53- if memory serves me right. I moved on to direct ski school at Snow Summit in ’53. Some 6-8 of us slept overnight in the small “base lodge” at Kratka, singing songs, joking, and of course skiing with the help of two rope tows. No chairlift as yet. But I remember such future success stories of Bob Bergstrom (SPORTS LTD) and rock climbing sensation (Oops, senior moment- name escapes me but he developed an important line of climbing and winter sports gear).
    Used to be a bit more natural snow back then. Too bad snow making water not available. Kratka was a great breeeder of new skiers. Cheers, and ski on Doug Pf

  • matt iten says:

    I’m very glad to hear and see news about Kratka Ridge. I had the best time of my life up there when I was a ski instructor for two seasons. That time Ray Hansley managed the ski area and I was very glad he allowed me to work. It was in 1989 I just arrived in L.A. from Switzerland looking for work. I wish I could contact some of the people who worked/skied there between 1989 – 1991.

  • Rich says:

    Thanks for the story and photos. I grew up skiing Kratka, starting in the ’50s, as the son of a ski patrolman there. It was from another era, one to be missed. For me, it launched a lifelong passion for skiing that led to 100+ day years in Colorado and Lake Tahoe. Lots of great memories there.

  • John says:

    I have spent a ton of time at Kratka when the lifts were running and when they weren’t. It was cool both ways. It is a really cool, funky little place with some amazing scenery and a cool vibe.

    Way to dig that one out.

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