Tucked into the base of Summit West, one of the four sections that make up the Snoqualmie ski area, lies St. Bernard’s Chapel. The picturesque building has been a spiritual home to skiers in Western Washington for nearly sixty years, with Episcopal, Lutheran, and Roman Catholic services meeting the needs of winter worshipers over its six decades of existence. When the trains that used to transport skiers up to the Snoqualmie ski area (complete with Sunday worship services) gave way to individual motorists making their way to the slopes, Webb and Virginia Moffett of Epiphany, Seattle envisioned an interdenominational chapel for those who wanted to ski on the weekend without missing services.
In the late ‘50s, the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia partnered with Lutheran churches, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, and private donors to build the chapel that still stands to this day. After securing a formal land use agreement with the United States Forest Service, the chapel was dedicated in 1960 and the diocese worked with the Church Council of Greater Seattle to organize an ongoing rotation of services hosted by different faith communities.
During its early years, St. Bernard’s Chapel was filled with bustling activity from early January through Easter Sunday. There were as many as four services held every Sunday – one Episcopal, one Lutheran, and two Roman Catholic services. Clergy within the Diocese of Olympia were offered a free hotel room, meals, and a ski pass for each Sunday service they presided over. Eventually, the Roman Catholic services expanded to Saturday evenings and the Episcopal and Lutheran attendance dwindled. St. Bernard’s Chapel slowly began to fade from people’s memory.
Beginning in the late ‘90s, the building was maintained by local homeowners who prevented the chapel from being turned into an arcade. Interdenominational services are still being held year-round, mainly by members of the local community with support from Our Lady of Sorrows, a Roman Catholic congregation in Snoqualmie. They also hold an incredibly popular Christmas Eve Candlelight service each holiday season.
The Rev. Dennis Tierney, our Diocesan Property Manager, likes to refer to St. Bernard’s Chapel as a diocesan “Brigadoon,” the mysterious Scottish village of legend that only appeared for one day every one hundred years. It’s an incredible part of the Diocese of Olympia’s history that is easily overlooked and forgotten, but one that has so much potential for the future. (Photo: Josef Scaylea / The Seattle Times, 1964)