Webb Moffett leaves enduring legacy
October 2, 2008 · Updated 2:55 PM
When Webb Moffett passed away at 91years old on Feb. 26 following complications from a
stroke suffered in late December, he left behind so many important things: a
loving family, good friends, belongings and momentos gathered over a
lifetime filled with adventure and accomplishment.
Along with those gifts from his life, Moffett left an enduring
legend and legacy that changed the Snoqualmie Valley _ and the
entire region _ forever.
Born Jan. 27, 1909, in New York City, Moffett graduated from
the Rensselayer Polytechnic Institute with a degree in civil engineering in
1930. The annual gathering of his college fraternity, to be held in Seattle in
1932, induced Moffett to drive cross-country in his Model A Ford.
As a youngster, Moffett loved to slide down the snow-covered hills
at Wykagyl Golf Course in New Rochelle, N.Y. But his first inspiring
view of Mount Rainier during that 1932 reunion set the course for the rest of
his life, and in the process shaped some of the Pacific Northwest's most
Moffett set his stakes in Seattle, obtaining work with the Army
Corps of Engineers as assistant director at the Ballard Locks. But his heart _ and
all his free time _ were in the mountains.
"People had to walk up the hills, then ski down," said Moffett's son
and business partner, David Moffett. "So Dad took an engine out of a car
and used wheels at the top and bottom of the hill to create the first rope tow."
By 1936, Moffett had met and married Seattle native
Virginia Robinson, who preceded him in death in 1996. In 1937 the couple, in
partnership with Chauncey Griggs, installed the first automated rope tow
at Mount Rainier, quickly followed by tows at Mount Baker and
While Moffett worked on expansion, construction and
engineering, Virginia managed publicity, food service, bookkeeping, the gift shop,
and all other aspects of daily operation.
In 1941 with World War II gas rationing a determining factor,
Moffett concentrated his efforts at Snoqualmie Pass. With eight rope tows now in
use, he offered free ski lessons to all ticket holders and organized the first ski
patrol in the Northwest.
Among Moffett's innumerable contributions to the sport of skiing
and development of Snoqualmie Pass, he introduced the first night skiing
capability in the United States, engineered and built the first snow
grooming equipment, and installed the first double-seat chair lift.
By the early 1950s, Moffett had built the second largest ski area in
the country. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Moffett purchased Ski
Acres, Alpental and Hyak, making Snoqualmie Summit a
The Moffett's two crowning achievements came with the 1960
construction of the Chapel of St. Bernard. The first house of worship at a ski
area, it was built with funds donated by skiers.
Their second unique contribution was the 1982 formation
of SKIFORALL, a program dedicated to teaching the disabled of all ages
and handicaps to ski. Beginning with just a handful of participants,
the SKIFORALL now boasts 500 highly trained volunteers and is the
second largest program in the country.
While personalities, modes of travel and snow sports equipment
have evolved over the years, Moffett was known for welcoming enthusiasts
of the new trend in snowboarding when many other ski areas turned
As unique and momentous as the Moffetts'achievements at
Snoqualmie Summit were, the couple contributed to another enduring Seattle legacy.
In 1959 the Moffetts vacationed in Germany with friends Eddie and
Nell Carlson. Carlson, who worked his way up from being a bellhop at the
Benjamin Franklin Hotel to CEO of Western Hotels and, eventually,
president of United Airlines, had been chosen to organize the 1962 Seattle
The foursome were dining at the Television Tower in Stuttgart,
which had the restaurant located near the top of the tower. Impressed with the
experience, Virginia suggested what a wonderful concept a similar
structure would be for the World's Fair.
As Virginia talked, Eddie Carlson sketched on a napkin. Before
dinner was over, "Space Needle" entered
the conversation as an appropriate name for the futuristic design. Carlson
sent his napkin sketch to John Graham, architect of the Space Needle, and
the rest is history.
Known for his character, honesty and compassion, Moffett gave
many Snoqualmie Valley youth their first jobs.
"He was always interested in the Valley kids," said Peggy
Westerlund of North Bend. "He always had a
carload of kids riding up the mountain with him. He wanted to make sure
the kids were able to have a clean, sober, fun life so he made efforts to
sponsor them and keep them on a straight path."
The Westerlund family remained close friends throughout
Don Westerlund Sr.'s 30-year employment with Moffett. All six Westerlund
children had also worked for Moffett.
"We often went boating together," Peggy Westerlund said. "Webb
was also a really good magician _ it's how he put himself through college.
"He would keep the kids entertained with magic tricks and old stories. The
only argument I ever heard them have was whether to raise the price of a cup
of coffee from five cents to ten," Westerlund said, commenting
on Moffett's close friendship within their marriage.
"Webb and Dad were the closest of friends," said Tim Westerlund,
who worked for Moffett for about 20 years. He was very generous with our
family over the years. He even offered to send me through college. He was
a very down-to-earth man and he allowed me to learn the building
trade through work at the Pass."
"I also want to thank the Moffetts for everything they did for my
family," added Don Westerlund Jr. Now with his own excavating
business, Westerlund credits Moffett with allowing him to pursue learning his
trade through his 14-year employment at the ski area.
As a lasting tribute to the children of Snoqualmie Valley, in 1994
Webb Moffett donated $50,000 for the construction of a baseball field,
behind Les Schwab Tires in North Bend. The Webb Moffett Memorial
Baseball Field now provides organized sports activities to hundreds of area kids.
The balance of the money to build the complex was donated by residents of
"My parents affected so many lives," Dave Moffett said in
conclusion. "They touched tens of thousands of lives and employed about
2,000 Valley residents. They were incredible people."
A memorial service was held on March 13 at the Church of
Epiphany in Seattle. Moffett was also an avid tennis player, and a reception
followed at the Seattle Tennis Club.