Newport Outing Club
Chamberlin Birch

Newport, VT

1930's-1988


History    Memories    Pictures

History 

Chamberlin Birch, or the Newport Outing Club Area, was a local rope tow that operated from the 1930's until 1988. First located off of Lake Road, it was moved to Lower Glen Road in the early 1970's. 

Now Located off of Lower Glen Road in Newport Vermont, this area operated with a 700' rope tow. Its name was officially changed to Chamberlin Birch in 1986, but was referred to it by that name since at least 1971, according to Doug Rooney. I looked for this area with a few friends in April of 1998.  We came across what looked like the hill, but turns out it was a bit further down the road. Doug Rooney sent us some information and pictures below which correctly identified the area's location.

I later found the area with Scott Drake on Jan 15 2006 on a VERY cold day - pictures are below.

To the right is an aerial shot of the area today. You can see the slope off of Lower Glen Road, and the summit lift building, which is still standing. Some trails are possibly visible near the top of the tow.

Memories

NELSAP heard from several readers who remembers skiing here:

John Ferrara:
I grew up in the town of Westfield (which, for trivia's sake, is where the summit of Jay Peak actually is located), and went to high school in Newport, VT.  While on the ski team there, we practiced at Chamberlin Birch during the week since Jay Peak was too far to get to in the afternoon.  I distinctly remember using the hill my freshman year (83-84) and junior year (85-86), so it was operating to some extent beyond the '70s.  I also remember joining some friends night skiing there my senior year (86-87).  We just built jumps and tried to do tricks.  At the time there was just a single rope toe that went a few hundred yards up the hill.  From what I remember, there was only 2 or 3 ways down and really only 1 "main" slope.  We could usually set up a 10 to 15 second course on which to practice.  A season's pass was available and was $20 or $25.  There was a small warm up hut that operated on weekends, and I think they even had a small amount of rentals and a little snack bar with sandwiches and drinks.

I hadn't been back to Chambo until a year or two ago and I had a hard time determining whether the field I looked at was the old area because it looked so different.  When I looked at your pictures, however, that's the same view I looked at a couple of years ago, so I think you found the right spot.

William Gokey:
I was teaching and coaching skiing at North Country Union High School from 1978 to 1983. We used to practice at Chamberlin Birch. We did ski there in the early 1980's. It was one of the places my son learned to ski. I don't think it open the last year or two I live there due to lack of natural snow.

John Hanley:
I grew up in Newport, VT and skied at Chamberlin Birch from the late 60s thru the 70s.  I believe the pictures that you have on your web site are indeed Chamberlin Birch.  There is now a VT state prison near the area.  

During the period that I skied there, the area actually got a lot of use from kids in the Newport area.  Most kids who skied regularly, skied at Jay Peak on Saturdays from Jan.-March, as 10 weeks of lessons on Saturday mornings, plus free skiing in the afternoon, cost $25 per season.  Meanwhile, most of these same kids would then ski at Chamberlin Birch on Sunday, when there were races according to age categories.  For kids in Newport, this was the logical thing to do, as Chamberlin was inexpensive (50 cents a day, I believe) and it was right there as opposed to Jay, which can take up to an hour in the winter to get to from Newport.  Also, CB was open on certain weeknights (Thursday, and maybe Wednesday).

Rentals at that time were fairly extensive at CB.  The area was run by Newport's Recreation Dept. and I'd don't recall if they charged for rentals or not.  If they did, it was very inexpensive.  So, on top of the kids who skied at Jay, a lot of other kids from Newport, who might not otherwise have been able to afford Jay, also got to ski.

By the late 1970s, when I was finishing high school, use of CB has dropped dramatically.  I recall going there on many Saturdays and Sunday in 1978 and 1979 when I was one of a handful of skiers.

One of the most interesting aspects of CB was its atmosphere.  At the time I skied there, particularly in the late 60s, CP railroad still operated a rather large rail yard about right across the road.  So, despite the fact that you were in this bucolic setting, the sound of clanking trains could sometime overwhelm the setting.

Yes, there was also a ski jump in Newport as referenced on your web site.  It was about a half mile from CB and was largely unused after World War II, I am told.  I think Newport High School used it in the in 60s to train and by the 70s, North Country Union High School's ski team tried to patch it back together to train on.  It was not a traditional ski jump, just a hill with an elevated jump platform and a landing area.

Cynthia Adams: One reader talked about the ski jump that used to be near Chamberlin Birch on the Glen Raod. There was a jump there constructed in the late 30's early 40's and it was used by Newport High School. Both my father and my brother trained and
jumped there. Jumping was pretty much discontinued in the high schools by the early 70's as a couple of students got seriously injured in 1970 or 1971 - I think a couple of students broke their necks and I believe one or two students died as a result of falls. Not Newport students, but at state meets.

Pictures

Thanks to Doug Rooney, we now have an older photo and a current picture of the area. Here are his details:

 I have very fond memories of the Chamberlin Birch Ski area ... in fact, I was foolish enough to think it was actually still open and kids were still learning how to ski on this hill as I did.  The memory is still very fresh in my mind and I could still draw a map of every trail that was on that little hill.

Although my old neighbor John Hanley mentioned the train tracks, If everyone will recall the train tracks were right next to the parking lot, which was right near the road... You had to cross the road and there were power lines immediately overhead that supplied power to the ski shack.  Everything was right near each other...


Here is a picture of Doug Rooney's cousins taken in March of 1971: Kathy, Karen and Colleen Poutre.

A co-worker and friend of mine from Newport, Mark Lucia, knows exactly where the sight is and took this picture last weekend 9/6/03. The pictures were taken from the old parking lot was and the train tracks are still right there.
 

2006

 

Jeremy and Scott Drake rediscovered this area on Jan 15, 2006. I had not been there since 1998. Amazingly, the slope is still fairly clear for an area so long abandoned. Perhaps it is still kept clear. The rope tow ran up on the right hand side of the slope, into the woods at the upper right. 

With windchills of -20 to -30F that day, we decided not to explore the slope. However, the zoom on the camera was able to show the top of the tow quite clearly here. The summit lift shack is still standing.

2009

Jonathan Regan and Alison Napolitano visited on April 18, 2009 and had a chance to explore the hill and take some detailed pictures of what remains. For each photo, click on it to view the larger version.

   
 
 

Although all have been cut down and moved from their original locations, the majority of the towers for the tow still remain on the hill.

 
   

The drive house for the rope tow is located at the top of the hill and remains extremely well preserved. This tow was powered by an electric motor and even featured a fairly complex safety system for a tow of it's age. The large wheels that grabbed the rope remain in almost perfect balance and with the gentlest touch seemed to spin for minutes at a time. The exterior of the building also featured some nice trim work, it's obvious that some TLC was put into this building.    

   
   
   
 

Looking up the hill at the signature white birch trees that grace the hill.

 

As of April 2009 this property is available for purchase.

 

 

Last updated: May 7, 2009

If you have a memory or photo of Chamberlin Birch, please let us know.

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