Winter wonderland: Preserved images capture Lab’s early days and first staff

January 18, 2022

Students from the Los Alamos Ranch School play hockey on Ashley Pond around 1940, before the Lab was established. The pond is now part of modern-day downtown Los Alamos.

By Madeline Whitacre, archivist-historian, National Security Research Center

The winter season is here, bringing with it beautiful snowy scenes and cold-weather activities.

The National Security Research Center (NSRC) — the Lab’s classified library which also houses unclassified artifacts from Los Alamos history — has preserved photos of wintertime scenes from over the years in an effort to safeguard our history. We’re sharing a few of our favorites in a nod to the season.

Year-round shorts? Timeless

Before the Lab was established in Los Alamos in 1943, the mesa was home to a boys’ boarding school. Students at the school also enjoyed winter activities, such as playing hockey on Ashley Pond. The school uniforms included shorts that were worn year-round, even on snowy days.

Lab employees have skied for nearly 80 years

During World War II, the Manhattan Project — the secret wartime effort to create the world’s first atomic bombs — established its weapons design laboratory in Los Alamos. During their free time, early Lab staff took advantage of the winter weather in northern New Mexico, taking part in cross-country and downhill skiing near the town.

These images are from Hugh and Marjorie Bradner — a physicist and secretary at the wartime lab, respectively — who took home videos of their adventures in New Mexico.

011822 Skiing
Staff at wartime Los Alamos unload their ski equipment in deep snow to get ready for the day's activities.
011822 Skiing 2
This photo shows early Lab staff getting ready for cross-country skiing at the Valles Caldera in the mid-1940s.
011822 Skiing 3
Cross-country skiing in the Valles Caldera.

Northern New Mexico was beautiful back then, too

011822 Main Hill
Winter views from the main hill captured in the wartime Bradner films.
011822 Omega Bridge
The Omega Bridge, part of the post-World War II infrastructure projects at the Lab, was completed in 1951.
Fuller Lodge in the wintertime. Originally a Los Alamos Ranch School building, Fuller Lodge was used as staff housing and a dining hall during the Manhattan Project era.