Virginia Meissner: A Lasting Legacy
Virginia Meissner was born in Salem, Oregon in 1925. As an only child she spent much of her time with her father fishing the streams and rivers around their home. This is where her great love of the outdoors first began.
As a student at the University of Oregon, she joined the University’s outdoor club and the Obsidians, the local mountaineering club from Eugene and climbed all of the major peaks in Oregon. During winter weekends she would spend time skiing at Willamette Pass ski area where she eventually met her husband Jack Meissner. Virginia was soon an avid skier and competed in several cross country ski races. Jack and Virginia married in 1949 and spent winters teaching skiing at Willamette Pass and summers on Odell Lake at Shelter Cove Marina while raising three active children: Julie, Jane, and Ernie. Skiing was a large part of the Meissner family. So much so that Jack built a rope tow in their backyard for the children to use.
In 1958, when Mt. Bachelor first opened as a ski area, Jack and Virginia taught alpine and cross country skiing and commuted to the ski area from Odell Lake on the weekends. Several years later, Jack was named Director of Skiing and together Jack and Virginia bought and owned the Ski School at Mt. Bachelor and moved the family to Bend in the winters. Over the next ten years, both gained professional prominence in the Professional Ski Instructors of America.
Gradually, cross country skiing gained more of a place in Virginia’s life and she began to teach it exclusively for Central Oregon Community College in addition to teaching hiking and cycling. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s she taught hundreds of Central Oregon residents the joy of cross country skiing. As a teacher she was known for her deep love of the outdoors, great patience and boundless encouragement. Virginia wrote several popular guide books: Cross Country Ski Tours in Central Oregon (1984), Day Hikes in Central Oregon (1981) and Hiking Central Oregon and Beyond (1987).
Her expertise was used to design trails in and around Swampy Lakes, Dutchman Flat and Vista Butte. In the early 1970s she and several other Bend residents formed the Central Oregon Nordic Club – the second chapter of the Oregon Nordic Club to be formed in the state and served as President. With the leadership of Virginia, the club was instrumental in convincing the U.S. Forest Service to designate the area adjacent to Swampy Lakes and Meissner Sno-Parks and north of Cascade Lakes Highway non-motorized. To this day we enjoy the area around Meissner Sno-Park free of motorized vehicles. Virginia died of cancer in May of 1988. Before her death she persuaded state and federal agencies to create a Sno-Park along the Cascade Lakes Highway. Posthumously, the U.S. Forest Service named the Sno-Park in her memory.
Virginia’s legacy is demonstrated everyday on the ski trails at Meissner Sno-Park. Families, children, beginning skiers, enthusiastic high school skiers, Olympians and master-aged skiers enjoy affordable skiing in a community setting. It is here they learn a love of the sport and the outdoors.