This article was written by Brian Lindner. Brian will be presenting on this topic at next week’s Taylor Series talk. Come to GMC on Thursday, March 7th, at 7 PM to see and hear more about the history of lost ski areas in Waterbury and how they moved up to Stowe as the years went on.
There was a time when seemingly every town in Vermont had its own ski area. Rope tows sprang up on the hills and the back sides of pastures with seemingly no end in sight. Mt. Mansfield itself was way too big and too remote in the early days of skiing, but there were many smaller hills far closer to a highway and suitable for this “new” sport.
In Waterbury, four ski areas sprang up. Two were conveniently located next to the train station at a time when most guests arrived behind a locomotive. Signs in downtown pointed to where skiing and a lift could be found. The famous Sepp Ruschp was a regular who could teach any level from novice to racer. One hill was fully illuminated for night skiing in the 1930s. Eventually, all four areas closed and most of one of the hills even vanished. Today, motorists drive over the old engine room of the last Waterbury ski area; they have no clue.
Waterbury’s first ski area was the Waterbury Ski Tow, located about one mile up the Perry Hill Road. What was then an open hillside with no trees is fully reforested today. The rope tow opened in January 1938 and closed that spring after a string of injuries generally attributed to poor design. This rope tow was then moved to East Street where it became the Pinnacle Park SkiLand.
Pinnacle Park SkiLand was Waterbury’s second ski area, located on a hillside that no longer exists. When one travels south on I-89 from Exit 10, the ski slope and rope tow ran perpendicular to the highway. The base was off East Street in the valley to the north side of I-89. The unloading station was high on the hilltop to the west above the ledges on the west side of the interstate. No trace of the ski area exists today.
In Stowe, skiing did not really begin on Mt. Mansfield – the sport migrated up Route 108 over a period of many years. A knowing eye can still see some bare traces of where old lifts, old jumps, and old base lodges once existed. Even when skiing finally arrived where we see Stowe Mountain Resort today, the first base lodge in the “Nose Dive Parking Lot” was an old horse barn.
The valets for early skiers were dog sleds and the main food was baked beans. Then there were the restaurants with no running water or indoor plumbing for bathroom facilities. The ski industry has come a long way to become one of Vermont’s biggest recreational attractions today.