Park Rapids, MN, Deep Lake, Val Chatel Ski Lodge, ca 1960
I started Skiing at Val Chatel in the early 1960s. I meet the boys who lived there and became fast friends with Dave Peterson he and I planed to head out to Colorado after Graduation in 1968. I got into girls about that time; but, continued Skiing at Mt. Normandale and Buck Hill in the cities. I was a City boy, growing up in Bloomington, MN My folks had a cabin on Spider Lake near Nevis. I spent Christmas Vacations at Val and saw all the progress made at the resort. I also spent Summers visiting my buddy Dave. My buddy Dave died in a car accident in the Summer of 1968. This was very difficult time for me. I’m 72 now and don’t ski anymore. How many of you know the names of the runs at Val Chatel? There was the Bunny Duster, Cabbage Patch, Wild Hare, Alpine Horn with the Gallant Egg Beater, Paul’s Schuss, Christmas Park with the Punch Bowl. Over at the North Area was Rimrack, Roof Top and Birch Trail. I truly Miss Val Chatel!!!
I learned how to ski at Val in the winter of 83’ and it seemed like we skied EVERY weekend. I bought a season pass for the winter of 84 and 85. 84’ I seem to remember skiing a ton again but not as much in 85’, I remember that as a “bad” snow year. I remember crashing into a bench located about a quarter of the way down on the Bunny Duster on my very FIRST RUN EVER! My brother had skied a few times before and told me, “when in doubt and you can’t stop, fall down”. So I did, I fell down, the right ski went under the bench, but luckily my shin just above the ski boot didn’t destroy the bench, but my scar is still there to this day! I swear we’d ski all day Saturday and Sunday, playing follow the leader and hoping up the nearly 90 degree face on the “knob” on the Bunny Duster. The Alpine Run, the Punch Bowl and the tow rope pulling you at about Mach 1 up the hill. Participating in daily “Chinese Downhill” races, thanks to the movie Hot Dog! and the great night ski sessions. Skied with a bunch of buddies and classmates from Park Rapids and their families; the Coumbe, Durnan, Firehammer, Grover, Jensen (from Emmaville, population 4), Peterson, Steele, Thomason, and Zitzers come to my mind off the top of my head. Awesome Beer Cheese Soup in the cafeteria, food always tastes better in a ski lodge. I believe the Hirsch family ran the ski shop and Andy Hirsch (2 years older than myself) was probably the best skier on the hill! Every once and awhile, someone would get a hold of a snow scoop and build a jump somewhere, that was fun too! Good clean fun! I’m not sure, but 85 might have been the last ski year at Val? 86? Great lifetime memories!
Brad Van Roekel PRHS Class of 1988
Born and raised in Park Rapids. My Dad, Don Benham was friends with Rod Peterson and family. He did a lot of construction out at Val Chatel. He skied out there on ski patrol on weekends. All of us girls skied as well. We had some great times out there. My sister Ann and I remember Helen’s chili as one of our favorites. Hot chocolate was good too as you were sitting in the chalet warming up and watching other skiers. Dad taught Scott or Dave, can’t remember which, how to do a tip roll on skis! My 4 sisters and I thought our Dad was an awesome skier. Fun times!
Learned to ski @ Val Chatel & DL. Skied many a day there w/Kim (Willy) Peterson. Many firsts happened there; first chair lift ride, first metal skies, first way to much AIR, and told myself someday I’ll ski as good as Dave Peterson. I’ve skied all over the west & east now, raced, taught for 25 yrs. From visiting many ski areas I’ve realized that Rod Peterson had as good a vision for what a ski area should be as any area I’ve been to from the drive in, to the architect of the buildings, to the lay-out of the slopes, to keeping the conditions A-1 w/out much to work with (no snow making, hauling it off the lake ice) to the landing strip plowed-out on the lake, to yodeling music on the outside speakers. WHAT A VISION!!!! To bad he didn’t have big mtn. to work with. If he had it would be one of the iconic America ski areas today. He be right up there w/Ernie Blake & others. And yes Mrs. Peterson made world famous onion rings!
Talk about a walk (or ski) down memory lane! Learned to ski there where I was 4-years only (back in 1964) and was ‘hooked’ at once. Being from Sebeka, we went to Val Chapel every winter weekend until I graduated HS in 1978… magical memories!
* ‘Bombed’ the main hill @ 7-years old, crashed at the bottom, hurt my knee (buckle bindings back then!) “cried”…
* Had my first kiss in the back ‘bowl’ @ 16-years old… (thank you Laurie!) smile!!
* learned quickly what ‘rope-burn’ was all about… (those towropes were brutal!) key was to buy the cheapest ‘Chopper’ leather gloves you could find at the Farm Store – ‘screw’ those fancy ski gloves! Oh yea, and add tape as needed!
* Holiday’s were magical there!
* The annual Spring Ski event was awesome!
* The new hills opened across the lake, were great – even better was getting towed back & forth behind that old truck! WOW!
* Never did get to ride the ChairLift – the accident happened a year before my parents were going to let me do so… shame:(
** NIGHT SKIING!!! Wednesday’s were my favorite!!! That was sooo awesome!!!
** The amazing hot chocolate at the food bar – yea, basic machine, but for some reason… & the french fries – yummy!
Our family stayed there once as a ‘treat’ – the rooms were quaint, small, comfy- I felt as if I was on top of the world~ Just the drive in to Val Chatel was magical in its own way… winding down the road… trying to be ‘patient’ in getting there… finally around that last turn seeing the Lodge… AHHHH!!! Man, I’m reliving a fantastic time in my childhood here! So many other things to add, but leave it as this is for now… peace!
My father was a photographer. We would spend our vacations during the summer in Park Rapids but he would go to Val chatel. He would take pictures. He did know the owner at the time this would be in the later 60s and early 70s. I have some of those pictures and a pamphlet from Val chatel. I do remember a Chalet style house. That was kids size that used to like to go visit. I also remember a Saint Bernard dog. I’m hoping that maybe next spring or summer. I can go back up to Park Rapids and see Val Chatelle again. I would like to give them to the the owner or any family from this time period. So they have these pictures it for there records.
Was on the Ski patrol at Val in ’73-74. Many fun hours of Skiing. Only had one drunk to take down the hills all winter, no accidents.
Went to Val’s back in the 50’s and 60’s.Can’t remember much from back then but the onion rings were killer.
As a young kid 7-8-9 I remember going with my parents to have dinner, beautiful stairs, lots of windows looking out over the lake. My father was a high school teacher and all the waitresses knew him. It was really “fancy”!
In high school, late 1970’s, we went down hill skiing several times. The tow rope was murder. It was good clean fun! No wi-fi, internet, social media crap, no cell phones, just fun.
I recall when Val Chatel’s summer theater used Deep Lake to portray the arrival of the Vikings. Thanks for you interest in Minnesota’s early resorts. -Ren
Spent two of the best summers of my life portraying a Viking at Val Chatel.
I know this is 4 years old, but I have to comment. Me and my friend Mark Kuleta made the mast and oars for the Viking longboat for that show! My wife and I also went here for our honeymoon in 1981.
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