Readers provide memories of old ski areas - Jan 2001
By Barbara Tetreault
THE BERLIN DAILY SUN
ANDROSCOGGIN VALLEY -- Conrad Aube of Gorham remembers skiing as a youth atthe old rope tow ski area just south of the Town and Country Motor Inn in Shelburne. Good mittens for grabbing the rope were a must, he recalled, and an afternoon of skiing cost a dollar. Aube was one of several readers who responded to a recent Berlin Daily Sun article about old ski areas that operated in the Berlin and Gorham area. The story reported on the New England Lost Ski Area Project undertaken by Lyndon State College graduate Jeremy Davis. The 22-year old marine forecaster has put together a Web site that documents over 300 "lost" or old ski areas that once dotted the New England landscape. Davis has identified 21 abandoned ski areas in northern New Hampshire including two local ones - Berlin's 12th Street Ski area and the Shelburne rope tow.
Two people reported another ski area that operated for a short time inBerlin. Walter Nadeau of the Berlin and Coos Historical Society and newspaper columnist and local historian Paul "Poof' Tardif both provided recollections of the Mt. Jasper rope tow. Nadeau said he believes the rope tow was built in the last forties and lasted only a year or two. He said the motor and building were vandalized and the owner never repaired the damage. In fact, Nadeau said for years the remnants of the tow motor machinery was left there. The slope was between Mt. Jasper and what is now the Berlin high school. Tardif remembered that the run ended about where the running track is now. He said there were two trails.
Nadeau said the Nansen Ski Club at one time also had a cross country skitrail that went around the top of Cates Hill. Tardif noted that the 12th Street ski area is referred on Davis's web site as the Cates Hill ski area. He said the correct name was the 12th Street ski area. The web site sets 1939 as the date the ski area was established and it was run by the city until the early eighties. It included a small jump that locals trained on before graduating to the larger Nansen Ski Jump. Conrad Aube provided pictures and recollections of the Shelburne rope tow where he skied from 1943-45.
"We would take the Berlin Railway Bus on Pleasant Street in Berlin, got offat junction Route 16 and 2 in Gorham, and walk to the ski tow," he wrote. He said the ski area operated on weekends and, time and weather permitting, some weeknights. He said the tow operated from a small building at the top of the hill which enclosed an old automobile engine with two old transmissions - one behind the other - to reduce the speed needed to operate the tow rope. He said the set-up caused problems for a time because the second transmission was working too hard and would break down frequently. He said eventually a bigger truck transmission was installed and that solved the problem.
The rope would ride over old automobile wheels. About 20 feet beforereaching the building, a swinging gate was installed near the rope. The gate functioned as a safety gate and would shut the engine if moved to prevent skiers from "kissing the building". "The whole set-up was almost all old auto and truck parts," Aube said. While he noted the set-up was very primitive compared to today's modern ski lifts, Aube said a lot of people enjoyed it. He said on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, the area would be packed with cars. Aube said he believes there was another rope tow that operated for a few years on Cates Hill around 1950. There were also reports that a rope tow operated in Gorham across from what is now Libby Pool.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 continue to publish material that comes in. We will also forward the information to Davis for inclusion on his site. Information can be e-mailed to the Berlin Daily Sun at email@example.com or dropped off at our Main Street office.