Slideshow: Tumalo ski cabin

A-frame home captures old ski style

Penny Nakamura / For The Bulletin

In a community like Central Oregon, you expect to see the landscape dotted with country ski homes. Some of these homes are McMansion in size, built during the real estate boom, while others are the humble ski abodes of the past.

The Franks' Tumalo ski home falls into the later category. It retains its original A-frame mid-century architecture with grace and simple beauty. It helps that the home also sits on 10 acres of pristine land overlooking the Deschutes River with views of Mount Bachelor. The rustic home seems to be in perfect harmony with nature here.

The Frank family bought the home in 1967, the year Skip Frank graduated from Lewis & Clark Law School. His parents wanted the family to buy 10 acres and the A-Frame home, and that's just what they did.

“Paula (Skip's mother) wanted to have a family home where everyone could get together and, of course, ski in the winter and enjoy the river in the summer,' explained Skip's wife, Patsy Graves, 64. She oversaw the home's recent remodeling and decorating.

Upon retiring, Frank became the sole owner of the family home, and it's here where he and his wife entertain their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other relatives and friends who come for frequent visits.

“Because there are so many memories for the family, it really has become a sacred place for all of us, a touchstone. It is the 'gathering house' and that's the way we always want our family and friends to see it,' explained Graves. “Oh, and if these walls could talk, the stories they could tell.'


Sitting on the back deck of the home, overlooking the Deschutes River below, Frank recalled that needing to have a well dug “back in the day.'

“You've got to remember, when we first bought this home, there were only 12,000 people living in Bend. In the Yellow Pages you could find a 'water witcher,' and that's what we did,' said Frank, 70, with a smile. “He came out here with his Y-shaped willow branch and after some theatrics, he told us where to dig, I don't really believe in it, but we did find water.'

Before the well, Frank said the previous owners were hauling water out of the river below with a line and a pail. From his deck, Frank pointed out the long, steep and curving wooden staircase that winds its way to the bottom of the canyon and the river.


The Frank home is a classic A-frame ski cabin, with a steep, sloped triangular roof that reaches to the ground on both sides.

The space at the top of the triangle provides an additional loft room. Most A-frame homes are either 11⁄2 or 21⁄2 stories tall because of the peak. The Frank home is 11⁄2 stories.

The A-frame has a stylistic element and is considered fairly low-maintenance. It doesn't need to be painted on its sides because the roof stretches to the ground. However, there's a caveat for Frank.

The cedar shingles on the roof are considered a fire hazard, and Frank says they'll eventually replace them with a more fire-resistant roofing material. So although he doesn't have to paint the sides of the home, he does have to keep a close eye on his roof and the brush and duff around the home.

Graves loves the old original shingles, which over time have fostered bright green lichen spots, giving the rustic home a fairy tale-like quality.

A-frame history

A-frame homes in the U.S. became all the rage for resort homes during the 1960s and 1970s.

Architect Andrew Geller is credited with popularizing the style when he built one in 1957 on the shores of Long Island, N.Y. It gained international acclaim when the New York Times ran a feature piece on the home that same year.

Americans who wanted an economical second home started building these easy-to-maintain houses in resort communities throughout the country for two decades.

As real estate prices went up in these communities, many of these iconic ski and beach homes were torn down.

Blasts from the past

Walking through the front door, we passed an old ski lift on the front porch. Frank explained it was the old Outback chairlift from Mt. Bachelor. It now serves as a bench at this iconic ski home.

When one enters the home, the large picture windows at the back of the house show off the spectacular canyon, mountain and river views. It's hard not be impressed by such an expansive view.

The living room is cozy, and the wood-burning stove in the middle of this room keeps the front room and kitchen comfortably warm during the winter months.

Graves said all the furniture throughout the house is original, made by the Northwoods Co.

“This original furniture is solid wood, and it weighs a ton,' said Graves. He says the patina on this dark wood furniture gives the ski home some old-world cache.

The kitchen is a room Graves is especially proud of, having designed and decorated the remodeled space.

“I wanted to keep it looking old-fashioned with all the antiques, but I also wanted it to be a modern kitchen that is easy to cook and prepare food in,' said Graves. “The first thing we did was square off the walls in here. Because of the sloping roof, we didn't have much space to store stuff, so we squared it up and made it into a pantry on the sides,' said Graves. She incorporated screen doors with wood framing on either side of the kitchen to give it a 1940s country look.

Coupled with her collection of antiques, which includes typewriters, dishware and linen, the home looks as if it was taken out of the pages of a vintage home magazine.

Directly above the kitchen is the loft room.

Instead of a basic ladder, Frank found a brass stairwell from an old Navy ship. The solid metal staircase leads up to the open hatch that reveals a small room at the top, where Graves said the teenagers like to sleep. The sloping roof on this loft allows just enough room for a double bed and two nightstands.

When standing up in the middle of this room, one can peer over the railing and see into the living room through the wooden crossbeams.

Past a small corridor down from the kitchen, Graves took us to her favorite bedroom — the grandchildren's room.

Built against one side of the long room are three sets of bunk beds. Each bunk bed set is built into the wall and has its own curtain to pull across when it's time to sleep.

This fun room has the feel of a sleep-away camp. The knotty pine paneling, with its shiny veneer finish, shows off the original cabin feel of the 1960s. There is an antique toy box filled with old-fashioned toys, many of them as old as Frank.

Just outside the grandchildren's room is one of the two bathrooms in the home. Graves also remodeled this room, painting the walls a pale forest green and finding an old-fashioned commode in a local antique store.

Next to this hallway bathroom, Frank pointed out a large black and white photo in one of the many built-in bookshelves running along the hall. He says it's a picture of his parents and their friends at Timberline Lodge.

“That photo of my parents was in Life Magazine, right after it re-opened, after the war,' said Frank, who is a fifth generation Oregonian. He says he still skis at least 70 days each winter and figures he's logged 5 million vertical ski miles.

Passing the living room and kitchen, we walked down another small hallway on the other side of the house and entered the master bedroom. It's a simple room with plenty of windows that offer views of the river in both directions.

A special quilt made by Frank's grandmother graces the master bed.

The bunkhouse

Walking out of the main house, Graves and Frank walked down a small gravel path to the adjacent bunkhouse.

“This used to be a garage, but we made it into a bunkhouse for overflow,' said Graves. “We can sleep 18 here, and we do like to have big family gatherings.'

Every inch of the bunkhouse flourishes with wonderful antiques that Graves has tastefully collected over the decades.

In the large, light-filled bunkhouse, two twin beds are separated by a unique and solid nightstand.

“It's really an old-school switchboard. It came out of an old Portland school. If you look closely, you can see the different rooms where the school operator would connect people' said Graves, pointing out signs for girls PE and the art room.

Even in the bunkhouse bathroom, Graves was able to find the beauty in what others might consider mundane.

“My dad used to be a painter, a house painter, and we had all these old-fashioned paint brushes lying around, and so I hung them up, and it reminds me of my dad,' said Graves.

The stable

Up the long driveway, we passed a lush green pasture. Frank says he's a hobby farmer, but with all his open pasture, he jokes he feels like he's only raising wild deer.

We entered the stable. If it was ever used for horses, you wouldn't know it.

Even the stable is light-filled and decorated with two little beds. Over the window, Graves has used a fishing pole as a curtain rod to hang her country valance, which matches the covers on the little beds.

“The grandkids like to play in here; it's sort of a play house,' said Graves, then adding, “however, every year Skip has his Pole, Pedal, Paddle team come out here, and one of the team members always requests to sleep out here in the stable.'

Magical place

Sitting back on the deck facing the Cascades and the river below, Frank said they enjoy simply watching all the wildlife on the property.

“We see lots of golden eagles, bald eagles; they like to nest in the cliffs. We also see minks along the river, and plenty of coyotes and bobcats,' said Frank.

In his younger days, they used to catch crawfish down in the river below, and after they collected hundreds of these crustaceans, they would have a family crawfish feed.

Graves pulled out an old guest book that's been signed by about every person who's ever walked through the doors of this old A-frame home, and thumbed through the many pages and sighed contentedly.

“There's a certain magic here. This is something special,' said Graves. “Paula (Frank's mother) set the standard for this place, and made it a true family home where we all gather.'

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