History ~ By the Year ~ Historical Pictures ~ Current Pictures ~ Memories
This area is on private property! Please respect the landowners and do not trespass!
Silver Bells was a classic, small, family ski area that operated in the Adirondack town of Wells from the early 1960's until likely the mid 1970's. At its maximum size, it offered skiing on 7 trails and slopes, served by a beginner rope tow and main Hall T-bar. The trails fanned off the mountain in nearly parallel arcs. Once you were on a trail, you were on it until the bottom. The area was also fairly steep - several readers comment that it was much steeper than nearby Oak Mountain in Speculator, which is still open.
The ski area was founded at some point in the early 1960's, the exact date is currently unknown. The original owners also owned Oak Mountain. During the first few years, the area was open on weekends as well as weekdays, with up to 500 skiers arriving for the weekends. Events were common, such as a Winter Carnival in 1963.
|A trail map from 1963 shows 4 trails, and another proposed expert trail (which was built). The beginner area is off to the right. Loggers Loop was a long beginner trail from the top, and was a former logging trail. Sawdust and Hemlock were intermediate trails. The Proposed trail was expert, and may became TNT and the North Slope. The Whip was a classic narrow twisty expert trail from the summit.||
Unfortunately, many areas such as Silver Bells fell victim to competition, lack of snowmaking, the energy crisis, and changing driving habits of the 1970's. During the last few years, the managers of the mountains, the Callahans and Croucher (John Callahan was a ski coach at a local school) tried running Silver Bells the best the could. The area shifted to weekends only operation, but this did not work. The area folded sometime in the middle 1970's.
Today, the lodge is still standing and is a private residence, so please do not trespass. The trails have significant growth on them and are nearly unrecognizable. The lift has been removed (or at least could not be seen with binoculars).
|A view of the area from Terraserver from the early-mid 1990's. You can see the straight liftline, and the several trails that fanned out from it. These trails are nearly completely grown in today.|
By the Year
|1963||1 rope tow, 1 T-bar||1 Expert, 2 Intermediate, 1 Beginner. 400' vertical drop||Average 35 skiers on weekdays, 400-500 weekends. Winter Carnival February 01st. Ski season: 3.5months until April 1st. New expert trail, and improvements were made to the novice trail. Cafeteria, lodge, ski shop, rentals, ski patrol. $3.00 weekdays, $4.00 weekends for adults. Kids, $2.00 weekdays, $2.50 weekends. Rope tow, $1.50/day. Halfday begins at 130PM. $7.00/hr private lesson, $3.00/hr group lesson.||Eastern Ski Slopes|
|1966||Same||Unknown||No snowmaking||America's Ski Book|
|1970-1971||Same||1 Slope, 6 trails||Rentals, $4.00 weekend rate||Ski New York Guide|
|1973||Same, 1200/hr capacity||6 trails, north exposure||Thomas Novosel, Manager. Base elevation, 1300'. Weekends only, ski shop, restaurant, snack bar, rentals, warming huts, parking for 200 cars. No snowmaking or night skiing. 6 instructors. $5.00 adult weekend, $4.00 junior weekend.||Ski Guide to the Northeast|
|1977||Same||7 slopes and trails||Low rates, operates weekends only, ski school, rentals, repairs, base lodge, food service.||Skiing USA|
|Mark Pavlus skied here in the 1960's. Here is a photo taken by his father John in 1967 of the t-bar at Silver Bells. The trail to the right is possibly the Whip.||
|Here is Mark at the top of the intermediate Hemlock Trail, the trail he skied the most. Looks like some nice snow!|
|Here is a picture of Mark's brother Gary and him taken by their dad at the top of the Whip trail at Silver bells. The village of Wells is in the background. The Whip was one of the expert trails that ran from the top.|
|Another of Mark's photos, looking down a trail to the base lodge.|
|Rick Ley sent us this great postcard showing the lodge.||
|This postcard was seen at a collection at the Ski History Congress in Park City, UT in 2002. I have lost the name of the person who had the collection. This shows the summit of the mountain and the classic Hall T-bar.|
|Cover of a 1960's brochure, courtesy Jon Regan (images also used at top and bottom of this article). Click on image for larger view.||Trail map of the 1960's brochure, courtesy Jon Regan. Click on image for larger view.|
|I visited this area in
May, 2006 with Scott Drake. The area was a
bit difficult to find off of Rte 30. We were pretty sure where the hill
was, however, access was questionable. We went into town, and driving
back south on Rte 30, could easily see the hill. We parked at a
cemetery/church near downtown, walked into the cemetery, and got this
shot of the area on the right.
Notice that the trails are nearly totally grown in...but you can still clearly make out the liftline in the center of the hill!
|We wanted to find access
to the area. There was a National Grid powerstation just off Rte 30 that
appeared to be the entrance of the area. An electric worker happened to
be at the road in his truck - we asked him if it was the site of Silver
Bells. He had no idea what we were talking about. I asked him permission
to walk up the National Grid driveway to see what we could see, he gave
At the substation, we could easily see the lost area. It is now a private home and had do not trespass signs on it...we respected this completely and stayed on the National Grid property. Here is a view of the old lodge, and the still somewhat clear liftline. Note how no trails are visible. The red building may be the old T-bar base building.
Andy Taylor:I skied my first tracks at Silver Bells, which was located on the Southern edge of Wells, NY, off to the right as one headed north on route 30. It had a rope tow for the beginners area and a T-bar for the main slopes. I'd guess the vertical at roughly half that of Oak Mountain in Speculator, which has a 600-foot vertical. I skied there in the late 60's until the early 70s, but my family much preferred Oak Mountain and Gore. I suspect Silver Bells simply couldn't compete.
Connelly: I was
excited to find your site. I grew up skiing in the late 1960's and early 70's
at Silver Bells in Wells, NY. I can remember two of the three trail names -
Logger's Loop( left off of the T bar) and the Whip (right off of the T bar) The
lodge, which still stands and is used as a private residence, I believe, was a
large (or so it seemed to a small boy) one room with natural pine, large windows
facing the slope (a squeegee was always available to wipe the condensation from
the inside), and a large stone fireplace along one wall. On the opposite wall,
the snack bar served lots of hot and delicious food.
Dave Singer: I skied at Silver Bells in Wells, NY in the late 1950's and early 1960's. I had already been skiing in our back yard in Amsterdam, where I started in about 1951, and at Oak Mountain in Speculator. Both my parents learned to ski and did their only skiing at that area. I thought they were terribly old to start such an activity (my Dad was in his mid-fifties and my mother was in her mid-forties). After a couple of lessons, my father skied down the beginner's slope and crashed into my mother. Neither was hurt, but that was the last time they were on skis.
recollection is that there was one rope tow and one t-bar at Silver Bells. I
also recall that I thought the slope from the top of the t-bar was much steeper
than the terrain at Oak Mountain.
Bruce Schine: I skied it many times in the 1960s while I was growing up (along with Royal Mt and Speculator/Oak Mt). It closed in the early 1970s. A lot of small ski areas closed then do to lack of business. There was 1 main t-bar and I think a beginner rope tow, along with 5 trails. My favorite trail was The Whip (the expert trail).
This was a great little ski area. I first skied it around 1970. It was about
three miles from my cabin. It had a t-bar and a rope tow. There were probably
about a dozen slopes. The ski patrol would groom the "whip", the expert trail by
side stepping down the hill. It had a snow cat for grooming the wider, less
steep slopes and dragged a mattress spring to break up the frozen granular. I
think the owners of Oak Mountain also owned Silver Bells because the snow cat
had Oak Mountain painted on it. It had no snow making, which killed it
eventually, but after a chilly snow storm it was the best powder anywhere! It
had a big wooden lodge, that still exists, either as a home or an office. I was
in charge of lighting the fire in the fireplace in the morning. They built jumps
out of a sheet of 4X8 plywood that were fun.
At the end of the season regulars were invited to a covered dish party. The lodge supplied the main dish (ham, I think) and the kegs of beer. It was a great time. When it last operated it was run by two couples (the Callahans and the Crouchers) as a part time job . After a few years of hard work and no return, they gave up and it closed.
Johan Duba: As a kid I skied a tiny ski area called Silver Bells in the Adirondacks of upstate New York. It was run by a family friend John Calahan who was also the ski coach at a local high school.
Don Rumrill: Back in the early '60s, my mother did the artwork for the advertising for Silver Bells and Oak Mt. In exchange for the artwork and set up at the printers, we got a family season pass to both areas (owned by the same family). I remember having bear trap bindings when I first skied Oak Mt., even though there were some types of release bindings available ....Havoom with Havam!
Mark Pavlus Another black diamond trail that was short but was very steep was called TNT. Growing up in Johnstown Royal Mt. was our home Mt. but we often skied at Silver Bells and Oak Mt. in the late 60's. I'm not sure what year it actually closed. I really liked Silver Bells and they had the best chili. My brother and I were 8 and 9 yrs. old at this time.
If you have more
information on this area just let us know.
Driving Directions from 1960's brochure
Last updated: June 3, 2015
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