~1965-1998 (last skied in 1997)
History ~ Personal Memories ~ By The Year ~ Current Photos
|Belle Mountain was a small,
community type of ski area that operated in Mercer County. It was
founded sometime in the late 1960's, and closed officially in 1998,
though it was last skied in the first few months of 1997.
Initially, there were just 2 rope tows, from 1965-1968. A chair was installed in 1969, which, according to Skilifts.com, was a 786' long Hall Double, that moved 350'/min, served 1000 skiers per hour on a 175' vertical drop. Later on, the ski area had 4 lifts, and about 7 "trails", though there were only really three ways down from the top (longest trail just 1100'), and a couple of smaller beginner slopes near the bottom. The main lift was a a top to bottom Hall double chair. A top to bottom rope tow also brought skiers to the summit. A Pony lift and a smaller rope tow served the beginner's area.
Here's an overhead view of the mountain, looking from the base to the summit. This map has been reversed - true north is where south usually would be. 1's are rope tows (one on far right was top to bottom), 2 is the Hall Double Chair, and 3 is the Pony lift.
was really just a hill though, with about a 190' vertical. In later
years, guidebooks listed this as 235'. But as you can see by topo map on
the left (1 marks the site of the ski area), the vertical does not
exceed 200'. Note too how close the ski area was to Pennsylvania.
Many skiers learned at this small, friendly family mountain. Its gentle slopes, surely introduced many to skiing, and its night skiing gave local residents a chance to ski after work.
Unfortunately, in its final years, the mountain operated at a severe loss due to some terrible winters. According to an email from Frank Ragazzo, of the Mercer County Park Commission, to David Cronheim, during the last 3 years of the ski area operating, it was operated by a management company. The County lost about 70-100K per year in those last 3 years. The management company had a 5 year contract but terminated it 2 years early. The County could not afford this loss (prior to the management company they had lost 100k-200k / year!), and unfortunately had to close the area. Its an understandable action, while we would all love to have small areas like this operate, somebody has to pay for it.
Skiers last rode the lifts in 1997, and the area officially closed in 1998. It's a shame, but unfortunately, some ski areas can not operate due to the market conditions.
Many lament the loss of smaller areas like this. In an article by Martin Griff, Times of Trenton, dated Dec 13, 1998, and sent to NELSAP by J. Bewley, the former head of ski patrol, Bruce Runkle, is interviewed. In it, he talks about the mountain and what it meant to him. He had learned at the mountain in 1970, and says the area opened around 1966. He talks about how great it was watching young people to learn to ski, and how much fun everybody had at the mountain.
In recent years, the Mercer County Wildlife Center was considering building a center at the mountain. No news if this has happened yet or not.
For a discussion forum on Belle on Skilifts.org, please click here.
In 1965 through 1968, we did not have a
chairlift. That came a bit after. Through the initial years the area was
serviced by two rope tows. The long tow serviced the main hill and would appear
on the right side (looking up), the hill. The short tow serviced the center
area that was the beginner area.
In essence, we had three "trails": The main trail on the right/west side of the hill was the steepest; this was our "expert" trail. The "intermediate" trail was serviced by the main/west tow rope. You skiied across the top of the ridge for access. It was on the east side of the hill and was more of a pleasant meadow than a trail. The "novice" area only went half way up the hill and was located in the center portion of the area, serviced by a slower rope tow.
Rates at the time are a bit of a hazy memory, but I recall a "student, in-county" rate of something like $2.50 for a night session. The last time I skiied the area was in 1992.
Belle Mountain in Hopewell Township NJ. ( central NJ ). where I learned to ski.
located next to the Delaware River. Vertical was 200'. One chairlift, 3 rope
tows, 5 slopes. The main slope was pretty steep. It had a warming hut /
refreshment stand, and a ski rental trailer. It was subsidized by the County of
Mercer. I believe it opened in 1964, and its last season was 1997/1998.
After several warm or inconsistent seasons the
County did not want to subsidize operations any further. They had a primitive
Matt Danilchick: Belle Mountain was the first place I ever skied, along with my two younger sisters. My aunt Vicki took us skiing there during the winter of 1986-87 when I was living in Northern NJ and was a junior in high school. I remember starting out on the practice slope using 135 cm skis, but by the end of the day was able to successfully make it down the main slope on longer 155 cm skis. I immediately became a skiing fanatic and still remember that first skiing experience at Belle Mountain like it was yesterday. My wife, daughter, and I now live in Breckenridge. A far cry from learning to ski at Belle Mountain!and our daughter got her first pair of skis before she turned two, getting up on them at
Eckart A. Weeck:
I learned to ski at Belle Mountain in the late 60's and throughout the
70's. Rope tow ticket prices were $1.50 and the chairlift price was $2.50.
These rates were in effect through the mid 70's. The hill opened at 10:00AM
andclosed at 4:30PM . It then re-opened at
6:00PM for night skiing until 10:00PM
It was the best deal in skiing and great place to go whether you were a kid, teenager or adult. Typically, the season began in mid-December and closed early March.
This is where I started skiing in 1976. 76/77 was a cold and snowy winter
so people were skiing off the trails. At this small ski area that meant
going 10 to 30 feet off the trail. This area was run by the Mercer County
Park Commision so it was weird (looking back at it) having a "resident" card
to get a discount. The prices were very cheap and I still skied at this
little 190' ski area at nights even when I was a expert skier doing most of
my skiing in the Catskills and
Vermont. The rightmost main trail was the steepest and you could get
a few good turns in. Then there was the curved trail that went left to
right. This trail was not used when you were better because you couldn't
get many turns in. Then there was the rope tow and t bar trails. These
were 2 trails with probably 50 to 75' vertical and for novices only.
Originally the ski shop/rental shop on premises was run by Lange's ski shop
out of Trenton. I believe it was someone from the Trenton Ski Club that
noticed this tall hill at the edge of
Mercer County was ripe for a small ski area.
Although this was a very small ski area it provided my start in skiing since it was so close to home. I remember taking private lessons (they were affordable) with an instructor with an Austrian or German accent. Yes, these were different times. Rising insurance costs, mild winters, and the County of Mercer not wanting to subsidize skiing any more brought it to an end around 1998.
Jason Dively: I must say I was thrilled to see Belle Mountain has not been completely forgotten. I have not been there since I was about 12 but I remember it like it was yesterday. I can tell you it still sits the way it did when the pics on your web site were taken and theWildlife Center still has yet to take up residence on the hill. Many of my friends and I learned to ski there, as we got older it became affectionately known to us as Belle Bump! Keep up the great work, I am very into history and now I can combine two of my favorite things!
By The Year
|~1966||unknown, likely at least the double||unknown||unknown||Approximate year mountain opens|
|1977||1 double chair, 3 rope tows||5 trails, longest 1100'||"low"||Operates daily 10am-430pm, 530pm-10pm for night skiing, snowmaking||Skiing USA|
|1982||1 chair, 3 tows, 1500 skiers/hour||Vertical drop: 190'||none||Operates 10am-430pm, night skiing, open weekends/holidays, open December-March||Billy Kidd's American Ski Guide|
|1987||3 tows, 1 chair, 1500 skiers/hour||4 trails over 20 acres, Vertical drop: 190'||Adults: $8 weekend, $10
Holiday, $7 halfday, $9 night
Kids: $6 weekend, $8 holiday, $5 halfday, $7 night
|Open daily 9am-5pm, night skiing 6pm-1am, halfday begins 1pm. Ski school director: Barry Vuolo, snack bar, rentals||White Book of Ski Areas|
|1995||4 lifts||7 trails, vertical 235'||none||none||Ski Atlas, USA Today|
Many thanks to George Pace who visited this area in late March, 2004, and took the following photos, helping us to document this lost area. George also sent us some links with information on this area.
|A view of the base. Double chair loading area visible at far left. You can also see the double line through the trees.|
|A view of the base buildings, all boarded up. Looks like the ticket window to the right.||
|A "Return Rental Equipment" sign.|
Far Right Rope Tow
|A view of the loading area of the tow. Quite the contraption, with numerous pulleys.||
|Looking up the rope tow slope, a relatively moderate slope.|
|Double chair loading area.||
|Looking down the Hall double chair lift line.|
|The unloading ramp of the old double. Note the unique umbrella shaped cover to the bullwheel.||
|Looking up the Pony lift line.||
|The beginner pony lift and far left rope tow.|
|The top of the beginner rope tow and Pony lift.||
|The top of the double chair and the wide open slopes under it.||
|At the top. Notice the rope tow pole, snowmaking|
Many thanks to Joe Silvestri who took the following photos of Belle on March 17, 2001, after a recent snowstorm. As you can see, the area is still used extensivle by sledders. Please click on each image for the larger version.
The beginner area/sledding hill.
The beginner area/sledding hill.
The "expert" slope.
|Base of the ski area, showing drive for double chair.||More around the base.||View of the base and rope tows.|
If you have more information on this area just let us know.
Last updated: Dec 30, 2007
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