The Woodland Theater becomes a Ski Hill in 1959

After the projector was shut off for the final time and the curtain was drawn over the screen, three adventurous men, Vern Meissner, Harley Phillips and Ken Syverson purchased the old Woodland Theater and did something unimaginable. These men had dreamed about opening an indoor ski slope where beginners of all ages could learn how to ski. With the help of several silent partners they opened the Woodland Ski Arena in December 1959.

A Seattle Times article, dated February 4, 1960, reports that “the first ski arena with actual real snow is in operation in the old Woodland Theater”. The new owners removed the theater seating, added fiberglass insulation to the walls and used the natural slope of the floor to assist with the design of their hill. The peak of the hill started on the north side of the building and dropped the skier into the former right center aisle of the theater.

They closed off the stage and installed refrigeration machinery, which kept the building at a chilly 30 degrees. They also painted the old theater walls a light blue with snowy white mountain peaks. A truck would arrive daily and dump crushed ice into a grinder at the back doors (east side of building). The grinder would then create the snow needed to keep this wonderland in operation. By February 1960, the Ski Arena had already accumulated two feet of snow. The Woodland Theater must have looked like an Alpine wonderland by the time these men were finished.

See Seattle Times Article from March 1960:

Do you know someone who enjoyed an afternoon at the Woodland Ski Arena? If so, I would love to hear from you. Please post a message on this page, or send to

ST - Woodland Theater - ski - February 4 1960 - clip

4 thoughts on “The Woodland Theater becomes a Ski Hill in 1959

  1. I thought I’d dreamed up this indoor ski arena, no one else in my family or neighborhood seemed to remember it but I did! I was 8 years old in 1960 and remember entering the side entrance of the old West Woodland theater into this winter wonderland. I grew up between 5th & 6th NW on 70th and have so many wonderful memories of the entire neighborhood and West Woodland Elementary School. Thank you for this site, I’m really enjoying it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes I learned to ski there when I was 6. My dad took me there to learn the basics before going to Snoqualmie pass. Side step, kick turns and snow plow! It was a great and innovative place. Their snow making equipment was ahead of its time!


  3. Lived at 6524 6th nw. I think I was 13 or 14, maybe 12, and another boy about the same age and I worked for Vern at the Ski Arena making snow and sometimes giving lessons to other kids until Vern showed up. Skied every day


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