Jim Boyle a big part of Silver Mountain
<H4 class=deck>Skiing, adventure mark longtime area resident's years</H4>
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<P class=caption>Jim Boyle has been a fixture at Silver Mountain for the past 14 years. He also has worked as an interpreter at Cataldo State Park.<!-- HANDX_BOYLE_1_05-19-2007_5GAH54N.jpg--> (Courtesy of Silver Mountain <!-- --><!-- HANDX_BOYLE_1_05-19-2007_5GAH54N.jpg -->)
<P class=byline><SPAN class=name>Carl Gidlund </SPAN>
May 19, 2007
If you're a Silver Mountain skier or have visited the Cataldo Mission State Park during the past dozen years, you've probably met Jim Boyle.
He's the old fella with the big smile you saw directing traffic in the ski resort's parking lot or on the mountain leading newcomers to some of his favorite runs.
At the park, he was the kindly "Jesuit priest" who told you of the history of the mission.
Those are the public Jim Boyles. But here's a behind-the-scenes look at the football player, war veteran, mining engineer, mountain climber and championship skier who's now a resident of Loyalton Retirement Home in Coeur d'Alene.
Born in 1922 in Ballard, Wash., Boyle has been an avid outdoorsman all his life. In fact, he helped found the Ballard High School climbing club.
"Some of my earliest outdoor adventures were in Southeast Alaska where I worked on gas docks in Hoonah, Teneke, Craig and Klawock and explored the areas in my off-duty days," he said.
Those adventures were from ages 12 to 16 on jobs that his father, a union executive, arranged for him.
Boyle joined the Seattle Mountaineers at age 10, and he relates using a small rope tow at Snoqualmie Pass the first ski area in Washington with other club members. He also tells of making climbing skins for his skis from canvas sacks.
Deciding he needed to learn more advanced techniques, in 1935 he took lessons at Otto Lange's ski school on Mount Rainer.
Incidentally, he climbed Mount Rainer for the first time in 1932 and has repeated that climb eight times since. And, he relates, he's climbed most of the peaks in the Olympics and many in the Cascades.
"I was a quarterback for Washington State in the 1930s, and in those years, we played both offense and defense, and the quarterback also functioned as a blocking back," he says.
Under terms of his football scholarship, he couldn't ski, but he worked at a nearby ski area to help pay his way through school.
Boyle joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and served on B-29s as a navigator, then radar bombardier, but missed combat assignments during World War II. Just after the war, he flew practice missions out of Saigon on that aircraft.
Those military duties, however, didn't keep him away from the slopes. While stationed at Albuquerque, he skied at a nearby resort. And later, while stationed at Victorville, Calif., he hitchhiked to Big Bear to climb and ski before there were any resorts in the area.
After the war, Boyle enrolled at the University of Washington and served on the Mount Baker Ski Patrol. His patrol membership number is 875 and that, he says, is probably the lowest of anyone still skiing.
He was recalled into the military for the Korean War, flying combat missions in the Superfortress over North Korea for two years, then returned to college where he finally earned his bachelor's as a mining engineer.
He worked in that profession in Canada and Nevada and during several winters lived at Incline Village, Nev., where he started guest services for a nearby ski resort.
During the early and mid 1960s, he sold stock to establish the Crystal Mountain Resort northeast of Mount Rainer National Park, then worked in management of the area.
Boyle's wife, Barbara, developed multiple sclerosis in the early '80s and, unable to care for her, he moved her to a nursing home near her childhood home in Sandpoint.
His brother was selling stock to finance a ski area near Kellogg and asked Jim to join him in the venture. He skied the terrain extensively and helped establish Jackass Ski Bowl, predecessor to today's Silver Mountain.
When ownership changed in 1990, Jim began working at Silver as guest services supervisor, not letting a broken knee cap or heart valve replacement slow down his skiing. In fact, he won a NASTAR gold medal on Silver Mountain's slalom course in 2004.
His life changed in 2005, however, when at age 83 he crashed into some trees while leading a tour of the mountain. He was extracted by the ski patrol, but suffered a brain injury and subsequently lost his driver's license.
Jim skied for the last time on Silver's bunny slope this March with another octogenarian athlete, Frank O'Halloran, 85, of Coeur d'Alene.
Bill Scudder, manager of the Cataldo park where Jim worked as an interpreter for 12 summers, said he was perfect for his job.
"He's a tremendous storyteller and was very convincing in his role as a priest," he said. "Visitors thought he was the real thing and, in fact, a real priest took him off to the side to discuss current church issues."
Silver Mountain has honored his long service to the firm and the western ski industry by presenting Boyle a lifetime pass to the mountain.
Since January, however, he's been confined to Loyalton.
His former wife, Barbara, still resides in a Sandpoint care facility. Jim has three children, Bill, a sales director in San Diego; Karen, with a doctorate in education in Tacoma; and Sean, a University of Idaho student and veteran of two Iraq tours with the Air Force.
Ever the cheerful meet-and-greet guy, Jim greets his occasional visitors with a grin and a still-firm handshake.
He exercises daily on a three-wheel bike.
"I'm getting in shape for next fall when I intend to return to Kellogg to live and to ski," he says.