The Canton Ski Club operated a ski tow on Sweetheart Hill in Collinsville from 1948-1975. The land is now owned by the Canton Land Conservation Trust, Inc., and can be explored by anyone.
Amy Goedecke Gavalis provided us with this great article about the Ski Club. The article was written by Phil Griggs and appeared in December, 2000 in Canton Life. It tells the complete story of the ski area.
The photos accompanying the story were taken by Woodcore in April, 2005, and show various aspects of the remains of the ski area.
Canton Ski Club was organized by a group of skiers shortly after World War II.
Among them were Richard Lewis, Fred Swan, Stuart Gillespie, Herman
Bristol, Dick Miner, Lloyd Hinman, Wesley Barns, Dick Barlow, Norm Wheeler, and
someone named Elliot. The first ski hill was an unimproved trail near
Slaymakerís house across the street from the apartment house on Rt. 179 in
Canton Center. Later they moved to
a larger hill in Collinsville called Dunnís Hill on the west side of the
Farmington River. It was named after the Dunn family who owned the land.
winter of 1947-1948 was one of the snowiest on record. The ground was
club grew slowly through the Ď50ís. Stuart Gillespie, Herm Bristol, Dick
Lewis, and Fred Swan formed the nucleus of a ski patrol for the club. Some
lights were installed during this time and the tow engine set up was improved.
All work was done on a volunteer basis with the exception of professional
mechanics that were called sometimes to work on the tow engine.
next major change occurred around 1960 when Mrs. Dunn died.
Her house and all the land were offered for sale.
A group of investors bought the house and land and sold to the Canton Ski
Club approximately 20 acres and access to the property for $5000. To raise the
$5000, shares of $50 were sold to each adult member.
new tow house with a steel frame supporting steel sheaves for gearing the rope
tow was built. Mark Goedecke, a mechanical engineer, and member of the ski club,
designed the equipment. The steel firm of Phil Griggs, also a member of the ski
club, built the framework. Ernest Henchke did most of the engine work. The old
wooden trestle had always been a problem. When someone fell off there, it was
very difficult to walk down the trestle. It was decided to regrade that part of
the mountain to eliminate the trestle. Mal Chandler, with help from others,
surveyed the towline so that cuts and fills could be done to regrade it. Though
it was better, it was never perfect. The rope went through this area very close
to the ground and young children liked to go behind a strong adult who would
hold up the rope for them.
a couple of years a second rope tow was constructed near the top of the lower
tow. This tow was built similarly to the lower tow and served a gentle slope
called Mothersí Meadow. More lights and trails were built on the mountain. One new
trail was called the Ernie Brown Trail after one of the volunteers who designed
and worked on it. One place on it had a huge boulder with an over four-foot drop
on the downhill side. One day the whole ski patrol jumped off this rock on a
dare and it was a wonder that none of them were hurt.
the 1960ís the ski club grew and grew. At one point the club had 100 adult
members and over 500 children. The ski patrol was expanded around 1960 to
include about a dozen members. This was made necessary by the fact that the club
operated seven days a week when there was skiable snow.
One year during the Ď60ís the club operated over 50 days in one
large barn was purchased near the bottom of the ski slope. It was renovated into
a warming shelter and storage area. A snowmobile and a small tread type of
machine were purchased to haul equipment and to help with packing the slope. The
packing could never be done well with this equipment. The old method of having
members side step down after their first tow ride proved to be the best method.
The parking lot was regraded and graveled to provide a number of off
street parking spaces. The access driveway was paved.
60ís and early 70ís were the best years for the club.
However, an unfortunate accident also occurred in the early seventies. A
young girl caught her long hair on the rope tow and the safety gate stopped the
tow at the top. Due to miscommunication the tow was started up again with the
result that the girl lost most of her hair and must always wear a wig. The ski
clubís insurance company paid for this accident. This accident did not put the
club out of business, but did make things more difficult. A new insurance
company had to be obtained and insurance became much more expensive.
end of the ski club was caused by the very successful operation of Ski Sundown
in New Hartford. They could make
good snow and operate over 100 days a year - twice the record of the Canton Ski
Club. The sixties were good snow years- the seventies were not.
For the above reasons, 1975 was the last year that the club operated.
Today the Canton Land Trust owns the land and walking trails have been made.
There are still remnants of the old tow shacks and lift and light poles.
looking back on the years that the club ran, I think it did a great service for
the town. Many children as well as
adults learned to ski there. Families had a great skiing experience and the
opportunity to make new friends. This was possible with little cost because the
members volunteered to do the required work.
Phil Griggs -Feb. 21, 2000
Some more memories.....
also shared her memories with us: This is
a great site. I've wandered through lots of old favorites like Hogback and
King Ridge from childhood, Mt. Tom from college and Jericho from only 10 years
ago where we taught our kids to ski. However, I've got lots of new
information for you from my "formative" years at the Canton Ski Hill,
now Sweetheart Mountain, in CT.
dad, Mark Goedecke, died in 1999 at 86 and he was the guy who taught me how to
ski at Canton in the late 50's and throughout the 60's.
Ski Club was a great deal for families. For a small area, it offered
lots of variety in terrain. Mothers' Meadow was gentle and sunny, the
North Side of the main hill was moderate to gentle and the South Side was steep,
tough and had THE JUMP! Hickory had trees as obstacles and Dunn Run had a
tough pitch too. The rope tow would zip along on fast, cool days and
nights and slog endlessly on those wet, hot days where your chopper mittens
soaked to the skin and the rope tow "fuzz smell" clung to wet sweaters
and parkas. Nothing in this world has ever seemed as heavy as a wet rope
tow to a little kid. I remember long ski lessons on Saturday mornings with
willing dads/patrolmen, lots of sidestepping and herringboning to pack the
slope, wiggling through lift lines, crashing into snow fences, and smoke rising
up off leather lace ups in the warming hut."
Canton Ski Club was on Sweetheart Mtn. in Collinsville.
Thanks to The Colorado Skier, we have this reference for Canton Ski Hill:
CANTON SKI HILL
(Collinsville), [obscure], This area closed around 1974 according to one of TCS's readers.
Vertical Drop (est.): 400 ft Lifts: 2 rope tows
Visiting the area: (From http://www.cantonlandtrust.org/)
SWEETHEART MOUNTAIN TRAILS
Distance: three trails totaling 1 1/4 miles
Time: 1 1/2 hours but can be shortened
Difficulty: moderate to difficult - stairs are provided at steep sites.
Special features: signs of an old downhill ski operation, views of Collinsville.
Location: The preserve is reached by crossing the Farmington River on Route 179 in Collinsville. Travel straight up the hill onto Bridge Street, then turn right on Dunne Avenue (one-way). The parking area for the preserve is reached by turning left into the fourth driveway (a sign at 84-98 Dunne Ave. marks the trail) and continues to the end of the pavement.
Three Trails: The Hickory Trail, Hickory Loop Trail, and Mother's Meadow Trail; have been developed on the Sweetheart Mountain Preserve off Dunne Avenue. Signs of the old downhill ski operation are evident throughout the property. Light poles and wires are still standing, as are the remains of the upper tow house that housed the lift engine that once pulled skiers up the slope. Please use care to avoid these artifacts as you enjoy the trails.
Anybody else remember this one?
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