Two former ski areas included on Web site of "lost" New England ski areas - Jan 2001
By Barbara Tetreault
THE BERLIN DAILY SUN
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY -- Remember taking your first ski run off the old ropetow at the 12th Street ski area in Berlin? Or maybe you cut your ski legs at the small ski area next to the Town and Country Motor Inn in Shelburne. If you have information, stories, and pictures on the two ski areas, Jeremy Davis of the New England Lost Ski Areas Project would love to hear from you.
The 22-year old graduate of Lyndon State College has put together a Web sitethat documents over 300 "lost" or old ski areas that once dotted the New England landscape. Davis, who now lives in Glen Falls, New York where he works as a marine forecaster, said he has collected information on another 100 or so sites that he has yet to find time to add to the Web page. His work on the topic earned him an invitation to serve on the board of directors of the New England Ski Museum which he accepted.
Davis said the heyday for the small ski areas was from about the mid-thirties to the late sixties. A lot of the veterans from the famous Tenth Mountain Division returned from World War II and organized small ski areas in their communities. Communities, volunteers, and ski clubs worked to set up and run the ski areas where many people first learned to ski.
"That's where a lot of people learned and went on to bigger areas," Davis said.
He said the small ski areas, usually a rope tow and couple of trails, began to close in the late sixties as attitudes changed. Society became more mobile and people were willing and able to drive to large ski areas. Davis said the weather also changed and snowfall levels became unpredictable and smaller. The small ski areas couldn't afford snowmaking.
The two local ski areas appear to have followed that general pattern. Davis's site set 1939 as the date the 12th Street ski area was established. The site is less definite about dates for the Shelburne ski area. Berlin Community Services Director Laura Viger said the 12th Street ski area operated until the early eighties. It included a small ski jump that many locals practiced on before graduating to the larger Nansen ski jump.
Viger said she believes the death knoll for the 12th Street ski area was the high cost of liability insurance. It became cheaper to take students to Wildcat Ski area for lessons.
Davis said he first became interested in "lost" ski areas as a youngster. He was skiing at Black Mountain in Jackson when he noticed an abandoned ski area off in the distance. It was Tyrol ski area that had closed in the early eighties. A few years later his interest was peaked again when he saw the closed Mt. Whittier in Center Ossipee. It started the Chelmsford, Mass., native on a quest to find out more about Mt. Whitter and old ski areas in general. He discovered there was limited material on the subject.
"There wasn't a whole lot out there," he said.
He found some information on old road maps and guidebooks. Postcards were another source of data. In the fall of 1998, as a sophomore at Lyndon State in Lyndon, VT., he decided to put his stuff up on the Web and see if he could attract some interest in the topic. Slower but surely, the site developed and Davis began building up contacts.
People contributed information and tips on different ski areas and eventually he had what Davis believes is the world's largest ski history web site. "I don't think there's anything out there like it," he said.
The web site is clearly a labor of love for Davis. He estimates he spends ten to twenty hours a week on it. All of his work is on a voluntary basis, he receives no money for his site. He said he hopes in the future to write a book or do a documentary based on the research he has collected.
In his free time, he likes to track down and explore abandoned ski areas throughout the region. "I've been in places I never would have been," he said.
He said it is amazing how quickly the land and foliage grows back after ski areas close. Within ten years, he said the trails become filled in and after twenty to thirty years it is often difficult to tell that a ski area existed. Once a ski area closes, Davis said it is rare for one to re-open. Davis said he has pictures, either current or historical, for about half of the ski areas he has identified. The site has current photos of both of the local ski areas.
In addition to the two local sites, Davis has identified 19 other abandoned ski areas in northern New Hampshire. Included in that tally are two that were in Pinkham Notch and Jackson.
Davis calls public input critical to the future growth of his site and encourages people to e-mail him with information, photos, and stories. He can be reached at email@example.com. To view his web site, go to www.nelsap.org. People with information and pictures about the local ski areas are urged to forward it to the Berlin Daily Sun and we will publish a follow-up story detailing what we have learned. We will also forward the information to Davis for inclusion on his site. Information can be e-mail to the Berlin Daily Sun at firstname.lastname@example.org or dropped off at our Main Street office.