Bristol - New Hampton, NH
1938-c1967 (closed WW II)

History ~ Older Rope Tow Pictures ~ Skiing Pictures ~ Ski Lessons ~ Grooming ~ Current Pictures ~ Memories

History

Before we get into the history of Mailbox Hill, I first want to thank Fred Fellows, whose father Ralph was the second owner and longest operator of this lost area. He has provided us with invaluable photos of the area in operation, which are shown below.

Mailbox Hill was opened and owned first by Sherburne Graves, as he purchased the property in the spring of 1937. He operated it during the 1937-1938 season, and then Ralph Fellows purchased the area in November of 1938. The area had a 1200' long rope tow, a 250' vertical drop, and a few slopes. It truly was a classic, local rope tow area!

The area operated until about 1942, then closed for a few years during World War II, as Ralph was away to fight the war. Upon his return, the area reopened, and was operated commercially until the early 1950's.

Thereafter, Mailbox Hill was leased out to the New Hampton School, which operated the area until around 1967. The lift was removed sometime in 1967 or 1968, though some parts of it remain today.

Since 1968, the Fellows family has kept the slopes clear, and the ski area is still recognizable today.

 


Ralph Fellows circa 1935.

Fred provided us with his first hand account of the area:

I learned to ski (or at least to stand up and fall down with skis) at Mailbox Hill, and my recollection is that the New Hampton School last operated it in 1967. I remember arriving there with plans to ski, and finding the place deserted. The uphill end of the motor house was cut out, and the engine was gone. That was probably 1968, and no oneís skied there since, to my knowledge. Ralph Fellows died in 1982, and weíve tried to keep the slope clear since then.

(To the left, a variety of old tickets from the area)

Working from the other end, I can say that Ralph did not actually start the ski business at Mailbox Hill. Sherburne Graves owned it first (he bought the slope in the spring of 1937), and Ralph bought it from him in November of 1938, after he found it didnít make enough money. Ralph paid $700 (the lot covers about 16 acres), and he made the investment back the first year he and his brother Ted ran it. I suppose that would have been 1938Ė1939, which lines up with the ski handbook listings on your Web site. After a year or two of good business, Ralph and Ted, along with their father and an uncle, put the skiing profits into an ice cream parlor, which was Mill Stream Ice Cream, in Bristol. The name Mailbox Hill comes from the small forest of mailboxes that used to stand at the foot of Carter Mountain Road, at the top of the slope. I think the real name of the hill is Sanborn Hill, which goes along with the number of Sanborns in the cemetery at the bottom of the slope. (The stone wall of the cemetery is visible in several photos.) The hill is in New Hampton, across the Pemigewasset River from Bristol, and in fact in a different county.


A view of the area across from the Pemi river, 1967.

Sherb Graves took the running equipment with him (I think he started another area, farther south), and so Ralph installed a Buick 6 for power. The pulley wheels were the front wheels of Ford Model Aís. The downhill end of the tow was near a large maple tree, which still has a wheel bolted to it. The Buick wasnít up to the job, and it was retired to the woods across the river in Bristol, where it still sits. Ralph replaced it with a Studebaker V8. I donít know how long the Studebaker lasted, or what the later engines might have been. The Plymouth Cordage Company made the tow rope.

(Left - skiers riding up the tow).

When Mailbox Hill first operated, there was just the engine house. Later there were a warming house and a lunch shed. I believe those were both hauled up from the abandoned railway depot in Bristol. The engine house collapsed twenty years ago or more, but the other two are still standing.

I canít tell you what the prices were or who skied there. There were ski classes, taught by Charles Proctor and Arnold Pierpont. Also, the state-of-the-art snow grooming I find amusing. The man with the horse might be the late Alfred Jenness, but he might just as easily not be. 

(To the right - a photo from the top, 1950's)


Cars parked for the ski area, late 40's.

The ski handbook listings suggest that the tow didnít operate during World War II, which makes sense, since Ralph was drafted in 1942, and served through 1945. Iíve got some old tickets, one of which is dated 1947 (see photos), and it was probably the early fifties when the area last operated commercially (again, consistent with the ski handbooks). After that time, the New Hampton School leased it from Ralph, I think for $200 a year. And Ralph sold some hay from the hillside in the 1960s, if memory serves.

As far as the pictures go, I think Ralph took all of them, and that explains why he doesnít seem to be in any of them. In fact, with the exception of three or four pictures, I canít identify anybody in these photos. 

We also heard from Diane Dacey, whose father and uncle, Ted & Ralph Fellows ran Mailbox Hill. Here are her memories: I skied there until they closed it to the public and rented it to the New Hampton School. My grandparents, Fred & Sadie Fellows lived directly across the river and that is where we all stayed. They also ran the snack bar and "Nannie" made the donuts ! Ted & Ralph also owned and ran Mill Stream Ice Cream in Bristol during the summers as they were both school teachers. I have many wonderful memories of Mailbox Hill !

Here are some listings in guidebooks:

Year Lifts Trails Other Information Source
1938-1939, 1940-1941 1200ft Rope Tow Novice and intermediate 250' drop, ski school 1938-1939, 1940-1941 NH Winter Sports Map
1947-1948, 1948-1949 Ski Tow unknown operates holidays, weekends, and by arrangement 1947-1948, 1948-1949 NH Winter Map
1951, 1953 Ski Tow unknown operates holidays, weekends, and by arrangement 1951, 1953 NH Winter Guide

We have too many pictures to share on this page, so to view more, follow the links below!

The Rope Tow in Operation

Skiing Pictures

Ski Lessons

Grooming

Current Pictures

 

Here's a picture of the rope tow in March, 2001, taken by Betsy McDonough and Chris Bradford. You can see the lone pole still standing.

 

This picture on the left, taken by Betsy McDonough and Chris Bradford, shows the likely rope tow hut at the top of the slope.

The same view in 1952, courtesy of Fred Fellows. 

The picture on the right, taken by Ken, shows a closeup of one of the tow towers.

Memories

Several NELSAP readers remember this area:

chasesisland: "There was once a ski area called Mailbox Hill in New Hampton NH.  Rope tow and a one room warming hut at the top.  It was an upside down area.  Can't remember much else for it was about 50 years ago."

Ken Norton: In asking around, I've discovered another area about 3 miles away, I went by on my bike.  It is on the back road between New Hampton and Bristol.  Somebody told me it was called "mailbox". Anyway the lift pole from the old rope tow sits in the middle of a long field.

Dan Paradis:  Prior to the creation of the Burleigh Mountain ski area, the New Hampton School operated a small area on the north side of the Old Bristol Road about 2 miles west of New Hampton called Mailbox Hill.  This was little more than an open field served by a rope tow.  The only visible remnant of this area is a single pulley from the old rope tow that stands on top of a pole near the top of the slope.

Elibet Moore Chase: I grew up skiing at Mailbox Hill. My parents, Bud and Jinga Moore, remember that Mailbox Hill was built as a ski area in 1938 by Ralph Fellows, the same man who started Mill Stream Ice Cream in Bristol. It was a commercial venture and charged $1.50 for a day of skiing and $.75 for the afternoon and drew skiers from as far away as Boston. My mother, whose father was the headmaster at New Hampton, skied there as a teenager and in her twenties was almost killed when her scarf got caught in the rope tow. She was dragged through the wooden safety gate and into the engine house where a Chevrolet engine powered the lift. Fortunately, the engine cut out and she survived. In those early years there was also a roughly 15-foot high chute at the top of the hill to add speed for the relatively short trip to the bottom. Some time in the late forties or so, it was leased by the New Hampton School as a ski area for its students. In the 1960s, Penny Pitou and Egon Zimmerman (then Penny's husband) came over from Gunstock to give ski lessons to the New Hampton School boys. I loved skiing there as a young girl. When I was very small, I would have to wait at the bottom for someone I knew well enough to take me up the rope tow with them. Most kids wore tight black ski pants and lace-up boots.

Jeff Tulis: I was a student at the New Hampton School from 1964-68.   I skied at Mailbox Hill most winter weekdays for four years as part of the school's required athletics program.   Dozens of boys would pile on an open truck each afternoon for the ride out and back to the Hill which was about six miles west of the school toward Bristol.  The rope tow was pulled by an old truck engine.  On several occasions the engine's governor, installed to  regulate the speed of the tow, fell off and the engine ran in a kind of overdrive.   If you could actually hold onto the rope, the ungoverned tow pulled you up the hill faster than you could ski down it.  We all wore these very heavy rope tow mitts, but when the engine was out of control the rope would burn right through them.  On some Saturday's we would travel to Gunstock Mountain for "real" skiing, but my memory of skiing in New Hampshire returns to Mailbox Hill as if it were yesterday.

William Turville: I saw Elibet Moore Chases's write-up for it. She pretty well covered the story; her extended family really established and ran New Hampton School in the twentieth century (the school is over 150 years old now). I remember Mailbox Hill, its rope tow and the monster leather ropetow mittens well. I was a student at New Hampton from 1961 to 1963 when Elibet's father, T. Holmes "Bud" Moore was Headmaster and I was learning to ski (as a flat-lander suburban boy from the Philiadelphia area) under the guidance of Penny Pitou and Egon Zimmerman, as Elibet mentions. Many students learned to ski there from those Olympic stars and many went on to become serious junior and collegiate racers. Elibet's brother, and my classmate, Tom Moore, was one of those and my then roommate, John Rogers, was another; John dated the daughter of the former owner of Temple Mountain (also on your list). I got good enough to be a member of the cross country ski team but never gained the speed and finesse of the downhill and slalom racers. Jeff Tulis' recollections are pretty much mine also but he mentions going to "Gunstock" but I recall it by its earlier name, Belknap Ski Area. 

 

Does anybody else remember this ski area?

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