NELSAP strongly urges you to respect the property of the current owners and don't trespass.
History ~ Photos ~ Memories
We are most thankful to George Moltz, who wrote the following excellent history of the Pinnacle Skiways, a medium sized Pomalift area that operated from 1966-1976 in Randolph, Vermont. The area had a 600 foot vertical drop.
Randolph is a mid-sized Vermont town located smack-dab in the middle of the state. With a population of about 4,000 people, it has survived a bizarre series of downtown fires that gutted the center of town in the early 1990s. It’s the home of, an Amtrak stop, Gifford Hospital, and a host of other features that make it a classic but progressive central Vermont town. And, from 1966 – 1976, Randolph hosted its own , Pinnacle Ski-Ways.
There’s not much left of Pinnacle 35 years after the last lift tickets were sold. Driving down the hill into town from the Interstate, in the winter one can barely pick out the fail outline of the trails etched into the woods behind Randolph. With a little navigating ability, the curious of wistful will be able to find the base area – it’s just up “Pinnacle Road” off of Route 12, just past Shaws on the west between the White River Credit Union and South End Auto. The road ends and the remains of the ski area are to be found in a private residence’s back yard, with the old Poma lift mechanicals serving as most unusual lawn ornamentation.
Yet all in all, it’s a far cry from the heady days of late 1965 and early 1996, when Pinnacle had a whole region flush with ski fever.
Randolph’s ski history dates back to the Harold Farr invited locals to try their luck on Sand Hill, a steep portion of his pastureland to the west of town. Farr had a rope tow operating by 1948, one of the legion of old Vermonters who pioneered the ski experience as a wintertime hobby., when
With the Interstate surveyed to go through Randolph in 1964, a group of area citizens organized a small corporation to dive into the ski business in a bigger way. Led by President Driscoll Reid and eventual ski area manager Brett McKinney, the group sold stock, and began construction – not in Farr’s pasture, but on the hill southwest of town. Working with admirable efficiency throughout the summer and fall of 1965, the staff of four men managed to get the first lift running just before.
Dick Drysdale, editor and publisher of The Herald newspaper in Randolph, remembers it all very well. Like most local kids of the era, he carved his first turns and took youthful spills on Farr’s hill, and still carries the scars to prove it! Drysdale remains flabbergasted that Pinnacle even got off the ground initially. “They raised $ 50,000 – that was the total capitalization behind the concern,” he recalled. An editorial in the Herald dated January 27, 1966 confirms that memory, noting that more than 300 local people had contributed towards that total, “to launch a dream.”
The particulars seem incredible by contemporary standards, but Pinnacle had caught the imagination of the Randolph-area community. A pair of Poma surface lifts provided uphill capacity, one of which was a hand-me-down from another mountain. (Drysdale speculated that it originated at either Okemo or.) On the way down skiers had a choice of four trails.
A season’s pass for that first winter would set the purchaser back $ 70, while the basic one-day lift ticket price was $ 3.50 – which included a 2-hour lesson! By the end of the first month, over 200 kids were enrolled in a ski school program directed by Jim Condict (who went on to work at Dartmouth in later years). A ski patrol organized by John Terzakis of VTC safeguarded the customers, and Pinnacle even boasted its own Sno-Cat.
The Herald was impressed. “We congratulate the directors and promoters and management of Pinnacle Ski-Ways in getting into operation this winter, in spite of many unforeseen delays,” an editorial stated in early 1966. “It is meeting a real demand in the central Vermont area, and has already introduced many who stood on the outside in the past to the pleasure and thrill of skiing.”
Less than a month into Pinnacle’s first season, the Herald optimistically noted that “if the estimates of the ski industry are right as to the growth of skiing, Pinnacle in the future will undoubtedly share in the benefits from this growth. Investors may not see a major return from their investment for a long time, but they should feel proud that they have helped establish this fine new recreational asset in Randolph. The first year of operation will undoubtedly result in many new ideas, and expansion of the facilities is already being planned.
Pinnacle hosted an official “ski school director Condict and his staff” , drawing a crowd estimated at over 500 people. They witnessed the dedication of the “practice slope” to Harold Farr, “for fostering skiing in Randolph,” and a top-notch exhibition of technique by
Despite all the excitement, shareholder reports later revealed that Pinnacle recorded a net loss of over $ 20,000 that initial winter, grossing only $ 11,177 to cover expenses. Unfortunately, this became a pattern that the hill was never able to shake (note graphic).
A Sea of Red Ink: Pinnacle’s Financial Summary
Year Gross Income Net Loss
1966 $ 11,177 $ 21,817
1967 $ 17,373 $ 10,147
1968 $ 20,124 $ 13,287
1969 $ 26,417 $ 8,743
1970 $ 29,795 $ 3,338
1971 $ 31,317 $ 5,434
1972 $ 23,721 $ 20,169
1973 $ 23,468 $ 7,194
1974 $ 14,277 $ 9,125
Totals: $ 197,672 $ 98,851
Average: $ 21,963 $ 10,983
Source: Report to Pinnacle Stockholders, June, 1973.
Randolph area skiers were thrilled nevertheless. Drysdale, who now favors Jay Peak when he takes to the slopes, describes Pinnacle’s terrain as “quite comparable to Suicide Six. The vertical [550 feet] was a little less, and it didn’t have anything to compare to ‘the Face’ at Suicide Six, but it just had terrific variety. It was certainly much better than Sonneneberg” [another small, central Vermont ski hill located in Barnard].
As for specifics, Drysdale related “although they eventually named the trails, for all of us who grew up skiing there they were always known by their original numbers. Number 1 was a super intermediate trail off to the south. Trail number 2 didn’t exist for some reason. Number 3 was tough, right down beside the lift-line, very steep. Number 4 was narrow with moguls, and eventually they added trail number 5, the first real novice trail down from the top.”
Quirks and character are the hallmark of such operations, and Pinnacle was no exception. “The small Poma, on the Harold Farr slope, always worked fine, “Drysdale remembers, “but the other Poma was always breaking down. Whenever we finally got a weekend of good snow, it would choose then to break down.” The Sno-Cat was another frequent casualty, according to Drysdale, but the hill regularly convinced the local vocational school to repair it for free.
An examination of the financial chart indicates that Pinnacle enjoyed a surprisingly steady series of years on the income side of the ledger during the late sixties and early seventies. Although the hill never actually turned a profit, it had developed a reliable base of support and often seemed to be just on the verge of making money.
Prospects began to dim for Pinnacle as the 1970s progressed, although the local racing program celebrated its first success with Seth Bayer’s victory in a mid-Vermont GS race at Pico on January 11, 1973.
Here's an undated trail map (likely sometime 1966-1968), courtesy of the Vermont Ski Museum, showing the trails and slopes. The year is unknown. As you can see, the main lift was listed, 2250' long, the baby lift 550', and the vertical drop 550', but the vertical was really 600'.
Note that a chairlift was proposed but never was installed. Also know that there were 3 trails, a wide slope, and a couple of glades.
The town of Randolph had been giving the hill a big tax break, listing the operation at a $ 15,700 value in the books although it had been appraised in 1970 at $ 117,000. This agreement provided Pinnacle with a mere $ 500 annual property tax assessment. Apparently, the deal was viewed a temporary by the town, and by 1973 its patience ran out. Debate began over how much higher an appropriate tax rate would be for Pinnacle.
Bill Dupras, president of the ski hill in the summer of 1973, told the stockholders that multiple challenges were in the cards for the upcoming season. “The lifts and facilities need extensive repairs, which we have never had enough money to make and have only patched up,” he reported. “We are now in the unhappy position of being unable to borrow more funds…it is therefore the decision of the directors, if possible, to give the area to the town of Randolph, or sell it, whatever is most feasible.”
None of the above proved to be the eventual scenario. Pinnacle somehow staggered through three more years of skiing, albeit on an ad hoc basis for 1976. Drysdale, a member of the Pinnacle Board of Directors by that time, recalls “the bank called in the mortgage. The year before we’d had a decent enough year, compared to some, but the bank just decided that ‘enough was enough.’”
Closed for the first time in a decade on New Year’s Day, 1976, Pinnacle had one last hurrah that winter. The former Pinnacle Ski Club reorganized as “The Valley Ski Club,” and arranged to lease the area from the Randolph National Bank for $ 1 for the rest of the winter. Operating exclusively on weekends and holidays with volunteer labor, the Ski Club only permitted members to use the slopes. However, the $ 5 yearly membership fee hardly discouraged many potential skiers, nor did the additional daily lift ticket fee of $ 2 for adults and $ 1.50 for children.
Later that January, Nancy Hall of the Ski Club told the Herald that “it was a super response; it worked beautifully.” Indeed, 270 individuals anted up for club membership, and 137 youngsters were enrolled in lessons held on Farr’s Slope.
|However, the early months of 1976
proved to be a temporary respite. Pinnacle continued the downward
spiral Dupras had noted in 1973 into disrepair, and no new buyer
stepped forward, even when the bank lowered the asking price to a
relative bargain of $ 95,000
Nevertheless, some dreams die hard, and Pinnacle seems to be one of them. As recently as 1986 a study committee got together and drafted a proposal to reopen the facility. Hoping for a community grant to cover 75 % of the expenses, it called for installing a 2000-foot chairlift, snowmaking equipment, and enlarging the base area. Based on an estimate of 200 skiers a day for a 50-day season, the group projected a yearly operating cost of $ 99,660, including debt service. When the grant never materialized, the idea fizzled out.
Given the competition, perhaps Pinnacle’s demise was inevitable, especially lacking deep pockets to pay the bills. Among the small areas still around today, for example, Suicide Six is funded by the Woodstock Inn, and the Middlebury College’s healthy endowment insures the stability of the Snow Bowl. Perhaps the co-op model that enjoyed temporary success in 1976, since proven to work at , might have saved at Pinnacle. But it was fun, if not lucrative, while it lasted, an intriguing chapter in the history of Randolph and central .
Jeremy's note - the Pomalifts installed here may have been brand new, as according to skilifts.org the following two lifts were installed in 1965:
Summit Lift - 600' vertical, 2300'
long, 1000 skiers/hour, 900 feet/minute.
In the 1975-1976 season, only the shorter Poma was inspected by the state - likely due to the area's last gasp that year.
An aerial view of the area in 1995 showed the trails still visible. Later Google Earth Images indicate that Pinnacle has nearly returned to forest, except for the beginner slope at the bottom.
|Presently the base area has
been developed into a home. Thus, the area is clearly on private
property. Thus, NELSAP strongly urges you to
respect the property of the owners and don't trespass. If
the owners (or if you know the owners) read this and would like to
permit some of us from NELSAP to check out the property, please let us
Steve Kijak, a NELSAP regular, checked out this area during the spring of 2000. Here are his pictures. The first one, on the right, is a view of the area from the distance.
||The base area (taken from the main road). Notice that there still is a snocat! You can see the beginner Poma on the left.|
|A close-up of the beginner Poma, again taken from the road.||
||A close-up of the main Poma lift, still standing even after 25 years. Taken from the road, not from the person's property.|
Several other NELSAP readers have a bit more info on the area:
Dufresne: The Poma lift still stands and the lift line and trails are
Kathleen Bauman: Pinnacle Mountain - I found it while working in the area. It can be found by traveling south on Route 12 from downtown Randolph, and turning right onto Pinnacle Road about a mile outside of town. The ski area is at the end of the road, and the base lodge has been converted into a private home. The ski area is visible on USGS topo maps, so I can say that it had a 600' vertical, and two lifts - a Poma which ran base to summit is still there, in rusty condition. There were about 5 main slopes and a number of smaller trails, which are overgrown now, but still recognizable.
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