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Lynn Newcomb Jr. dies at 91

Outdoorsman and longtime owner of Mt. Waterman Ski Resort was at the heart of mountain community.

September 06, 2011|By Megan O'Neil, megan.oneil@latimes.com
  • Lynn Newcomb is on far right, brother Renfro Newcomb, is third from right. (Photo courtesy of Robyn Newcomb)
Lynn Newcomb is on far right, brother Renfro Newcomb,…

Lynn Newcomb Jr., the legendary mountain man credited with establishing the first ski lift in Southern California and introducing a generation of young people to the sport, died Monday in Bishop, Calif. He was 91.

He had lived with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for several years, and suffered a series of seizures in recent weeks, his family said.

For six decades starting in the 1940s, Lynn Newcomb Jr. was at the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains community, managing and owning Newcomb’s Ranch and Mt. Waterman Ski Resort in the Angeles National Forest.

He was a champion of outdoor culture, and his businesses, the only privately owned operations in the 650,000-acre expanse, attracted everyone from truant school children to Hollywood stars. Long after selling the ski resort and namesake restaurant in separate deals in 2000 and 2001, respectively, Lynn Newcomb Jr. remained a frequent visitor, friends said.

“I honestly believe his greatest joy in life was seeing people enjoy and recreate in the forest,” said Mike Leum, a longtime member of the Montrose Search and Rescue Team who befriended Newcomb during years of search-and-rescue operations in the Angeles National Forest. “That he had a part in that, I thought always brought him a feeling of accomplishment.”

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Born May 21, 1920, Lynn Newcomb Jr. was raised in Hollywood, where he attended the Black-Foxe Military Institute. His familial roots were in the San Gabriel Valley, and he spent weekends and holidays there riding and hiking throughout the foothills and in the forest.

There were also occasional visits with a distant cousin, Louie Newcomb, who lived in a remote cabin on a 160-acre parcel of land that he homesteaded in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1891 just months before the forest was federalized.

That land eventually made its way into the hands of Lynn Newcomb Sr. Inspired by the construction of Angeles Crest Highway, the senior Lynn Newcomb founded Newcomb’s Ranch Inn, which established itself amid the social constraints of the Prohibition era as a place where one could get a drink or a room without a second glance.

“Word of mouth had it that you could drive up to Newcomb’s and get a shot of whiskey or a beer, and it was very unlikely that the sheriffs would drive up there to arrest you,” said Dr. Fred Rundall, who has owned Newcomb’s Ranch since 2001.

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