Commonwealth Golf Course
Newton, MA
Before 1952-Unknown

Commonwealth Golf Course ran a ski area which operated from 1952 onward.  It operated with just one rope tow and one main slope. The vertical drop was probably less than 150'.

On Feb 20, 1952, the ski operated with packed powder conditions on a 6-8 inch base. There was also night skiing. Check out the ski report on the left, sent to NELSAP by Dave Vaillancourt.


Will Hynes:  My name is Will Hynes and spent most of my teen years (the 1940's) on the Country Club property, caddying during the Spring, Summer and Fall, and working on the ski tow during the Winter.  The Commonwealth Country Club was located on the Newton - Boston line very close to the terminus and car barns of the Commonwealth Avenue (now the Green Line) public transportation system.  In those days, cars were far less prevalent than they are today, and many skiers would arrive after riding on the line and then trudging a quarter of a mile to the top of the slope. This was dedication.  An assignment I had during the session's first hour was to sell each person a ticket, much like the tickets you see today.  Most evenings, this activity was routine, but I have memories of below zero, windy times when making change required a talent for rapid dexterity.

There is no comparison to the equipment the skier in the forties used and the equipment that is available today.  The length of your ski was determined by your height plus the extension of your arm over your head.  The width of the wooden ski was about five inches.  Your bindings usually consisted of one strap on each ski to slip your feet into.  If you were more fortunate, you had a coil type binder with an adjusting clasp on one side.  If you were very fortunate, you had a simple ski boot (square toe) to go into the binder.  Poles were poles - no particular brand.  The clothes you wore were your everyday outerwear.  Since this was soon after the Second World War, it was common to see military gear, e.g. field jackets, parkas, jump boots, etc. on the slopes.
The slope followed the contour of the first hole at the now defunct Commonwealth Country Club.  A golf course currently exists on most of what was the original course, but major revisions, including those on the first hole, will give a different picture as to what existed during those earlier years. The first hole was about 350 yards long - from tee to green.  It was fairly steep from the tee area to about 50 yards from the green, making the ski slope about 300 yards long.  The flattened out area close to the green enabled the skiers to form an arcing line at the slope's base while awaiting a turn at the rope tow.  It also meant that an occasional runaway skier went crashing into the line.  On a busy afternoon the line was quite long and would mean a wait of at least 15 minutes for a ride.

The tow itself consisted of hemp rope close to an inch in diameter.  It was pulled by a 1936 Ford truck engine which, on occasion, was known to break down. The rope along the side of the slope moved along automobile tire rims affixed atop wooden poles spaced about 50 feet apart.  Night skiing was made possible by high intensity flood lights on each of the tow poles.  Another assignment I had on the slope was to remain at the bottom of the tow to control the spacing so that there would be about 40 feet between the riders.  This assignment meant I had to be alert for a skier who looked apprehensive about the lift.  A quick lesson of "slowly tighten your grip before you grab the rope" was all you could say.  Unfortunately, a quick grab meant a sudden surge forward with awkward results.  Usually the skier let go or just fell down, ready to try again. Once in awhile, the skier would not let go, was spread-eagled, and was being dragged up the tow trail.  I could only shout "let go of the rope", and hope for the best.  Today, over fifty years later, when I hear or think "let go of the rope", a smile will come to my face.

The Commonwealth slope had three periods of operation on a good weekend day.  9 - 12, 1 - 4, and 7 - 10.  During the weekdays, it was open 7 - 10.  Cost for one period was one dollar.  We must remember that this was long before artificial snow.  If there was no snow, there was no skiing.  Even if there had been a snowstorm, and the slopes were packed with skiers, this would mean that within a few days the slope conditions would deteriorate into rock hard icy conditions or softer conditions (due to melting) that brought bare spots.  For a good skiing season, as I remember, you could not count on more than 25 days when you could pleasurably hit the slopes.


Betsy McDonough and I found this ski area on Nov. 20, 1999. It was 68 degrees and sunny when we stopped by, amazing for late November! The golf course was still running and there were plenty of golfers out enjoying the day.

Here are a few photos of the ski area. The ski tow ran up on the right side of the slope pictured below.

Here's a few from the top of the hill, looking into Newton.

If you have any more information on this ski tow, please let us know!

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