George H. Watson

George H. Watson was born in 1882 and became a true skisport builder. In fact, without Watson, Alta’s development and fame as one of the nations finest ski areas may not have come into being in the late 1930s.

How Alta went from a run down mining town to a ski area can, to a large degree, be credited to the efforts of Watson. In 1953, following Watson’s death, Felix Koziol, who was supervisor for the Wasatch National Forest, wrote an article about George Watson in the American Ski Annual. In it he writes…”His long career as a miner and prospector, stockbroker in Salt Lake City, was only overshadowed by his promotion and work in the interests developing skiing in the Alta area. It was back in 1934 that he interested ski enthusiasts of Salt Lake Valley to explore the head of Little Cottonwood Canyon for potential ski terrain. Alf Engen, Bud Keyser, Mike O’Neill and others were the pioneers who scouted the country and found it good. Then within a year of two, Alta again came to life. Whereas the miners had left it a ghost town for two decades or more, the driving spirit and vision of George Watson quickly brought new life back into those white hills and Alta soon (1938) became a famous ski resort and the first among the truly alpine developments of the United States.”

Following a series of meetings in 1937 involving the Forest Service, a new organization named the Salt Lake Winter Sports Association, and Watson, representing Alta United Mines Company, title to some eighty mining claims in the Alta area (totaling 700 acres of land) was conveyed by Watson to the U.S. Government for the price of one dollar so that a ski area could be developed. Watson then quickly appointed himself “Mayor of Romantic Alta,” a title he retained until his passing in late March 1952.

For his many contributions to Utah Winter Sports in general and Alta specifically, Watson was inducted into the U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame in 1969.