History ~ Historical Photo Gallery ~ Listings by the Year ~ Memories ~ Recent Photos
Note- if any member of the Durbrow family reads this, we'd love to talk to you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Area is on Private Property - Please do not trespass, thanks!
Above - a view of the area in 1966. Shows the liftline, narrower trail on the left, wide open slope, the Stabil Disc Lift, and another slope on the right. Note the fresh dusting of snow on the trees. Photo courtesy Bill Jenkins.
The Underhill Ski Bowl was a long lasting ski area nestled near Mt. Mansfield in Underhill Center off of Stevensville Road. This location of Vermont does receive substantial snows, even when nearby Burlington has bare ground. Underhill Ski Bowl developed on the site of the former Eagan Farm Ski Area, which had closed after 1941. Here's a direct quote as to what happened during the early stages of development. This is from the book "Mansfield-The Story of Vermont's Loftiest Mountain."
"Following the war the Halfway House area on state land remained quiescent. In 1946, however, John and William Durbrow purchased the Eagan Farm area to revive skiing there and from that has grown today's Underhill Ski Bowl. A few years later William Durbrow brought out his cousin."
||According to a
Underhill Town Report provided by Andy Dufresne, "Underhill Ski Bowl,
1937-1981, was a pioneering ski center in this part of Vermont. Located
on the former Lawrence Eagan Farm between the lower Stevensville and Mountain
Roads, it was founded by the Underhill Winter Sports Club, a group which
included Eagan, Lawrence Casey, Jesse Holmes and Giles Willey of Underhill,
In 1946 the property was purchased by Em and Bill Durbrow, with John Durbrow. Later, such facilities as a disc lift, a warming hut with a snack bar and lights for night skiing were added. The bowl reached its heyday during the 1960's with weekend ski races and meets for all ages and twice weekly night skiing, which could attract 200 to 300 sports enthusiasts from the Burlington area."
The Underhill Ski Bowl was truly shaped like a bowl. Initially it was more wide open, with rolling slopes. In time, trees grew around the liftline, and a few distinct slopes and trails were developed. Views of Mt. Mansfield are incredible from this area!
|In 1953, skiers would sometimes ski at midnight under a full moon. Here's a photo from the New England Ski Guide, 1953. Note the wide open nature to the slopes.||
Andy Dufresne found more historical photos of the area in the 1940's and 1950's. Here's a view looking down the slopes to Mt. Mansfield. This is an awesome picture! (1940's/1950's)
Another view of the slopes, with the tow/lights on the right (circa 1940's/1950's)
In 1955, Ski racer Billy Kidd made one of his first races here when he was 12.
|In 1966, the Ski Bowl got
a serious upgrade when a Stabil Disc Lift was installed by Bill Jenkins.
This lift was nearly identical to one at
Birdseye in southern Vermont that was built a few years earlier.
This lift has many advantages. While it essentially a platterpull lift
(not a poma), the lift itself has a flexible rubber tube and not a rigid
metal one. This is much more comfortable, and safe, to ride.
The image on the right shows the loading area at Underhill, and a skier riding the lift. Note the flexible rubber hosing. More on this lift can be found below in our extensive historic photo gallery.
The rope tow did not get removed - and you can see the drive building for the tow on the left. It was still used until the area closed.
Unfortunately, around this time, several nearby, much larger areas were taking off. These include Smuggler's Notch, Bolton Valley, and of course, Stowe. The competition become tough for Underhill. The area switched to a weekends and holidays only with schedule, with some night skiing. Clientele were mostly Burlington and some Franklin county towns, and was mainly a learning and training area. Some jumps were also built at some point in the area's history.
All this competition, along with poor snow years around 1980, likely closed the area in 1981. According to Bill Jenkins, the lift was donated to Hard'ack Ski Area, which had its own ups and downs. The lift was never installed, but was located in a pile at the bottom. I personally saw this lift in the late 1990's at Hardack, but did not know where it came from. I found out ten years later though! Hardack is now operational, and that is good news!
A Burlington Free Press article called "Forgotten Slopes" mentioned this area in the late 1980's:
"It was a learning hill," said Abair, whose parents, William and Emily Durbrow, owned the ski bowl from 1946 to 1982. "We grow up there with all our friends. It was a community type atmosphere. Parents were very comfortable about dropping their kids off and leaving them for a day."
|In 1999, this Terraserver image was
taken, showing the mostly clear trails and lift line.
The base lodge at Underhill was torn down around the turn of the century, as high taxes on a vacant building mandated this.
In 2007, portions of the rope tow are still standing, and most trails are kept clear. Houses have been built at the bottom.
Historical Photo Gallery
Bill Jenkins provided NELSAP with tons of slides, negatives, and photos of the area, showing the lift he constructed. All of the below photos are from 1966, and all can be clicked on to view their larger version. Thanks to a new scanner, at NELSAP we are able to show these never before seen photos of Underhill!
Constructing the Stabil Disc Lift
The following six shots show workers installing the Stabil Disc Lift, and splicing together the cables.
Views of the Loading Area
|The above four shots show the drive for the Stabil Disc Lift, and some views of Mt. Mansfield in the background.|
|Rope tow and Stabil Disc LIft, Mansfield in background.||Beginning up the lift.||A lift attendant helps a skier load the lift, rope tow on left.||Riding the Stabil Disc Lift.|
|The above for images show more skiers loading the lift.|
|Above three images show skiers disembarking the lift.||Unload area, showing Mt. Mansfield.|
|The above four images show more views of the unload area, and some have Mt. Mansfield in the background.|
Closeup of Lift Tower
|On the right is a closeup of a lift tower.|
View of the Slopes
Bill took some fantastic and rare views of the slopes with his lift in operation.
|Color slide showing skiers riding up the Stabil Disc Lift.||A view of the slope, and an unknown building.||Clearer view of the slope and bullwheel.||Looking down the main slope, showing skiers riding the lift.|
Listings by the Year
|1973||1 Disc Lift, 1 Rope Tow (1600/hr capacity)||2 trails, 145' vertical||Base elevation: 1200'. NW Exposure. Operates weekends and vacations, night skiing for private parties, parking for 150 cars, no snowmaking. Spencer Wright - director of ski school, American technique, 2 instructors. $3.50 adult, $2.75 junior rates. Owner: William Durbrow.||Skier's Guide to the Northeast|
Here's a great history of the area, as told by Don Adams:
" Having grown up in Burlington, VT and been skiing since I was a little kid (every year for 53 years now), I have enjoyed your website very much.
I learned to ski at Underhill Ski Bowl in about 1946 (at age 8) and thought I'd let you know what else I know about the ski area in those days. You entered the parking lot a couple of miles off of Route 15 on Mountain Rd. and then walked a little ways through the woods to the base shelter. That is about all it was too, a shelter with a few picnic tables and a pot belly stove for heat. You could also park on Stevensville Rd. at the top of the hill but that was often too steep to navigate in the winter and there was parking only on the road.
The ski hill consisted of a trail on the left (looking up the hill) of the tow, another trail on the right, and a wide open slope further to the right. The open slope had a small drop off the top of the tow, then leveled off before opening up to the main slope. The web site says that the vertical was 145 feet but comparing it to places I've skied since it must have been 300-400 feet.
Further to the left of the tow, there was a ski jump built into the hill. I never saw anyone actually go off the jump but high school ski teams had their meets there so they probably used it (and there were stories of how some college boys who had too much to drink nearly killed themselves by going off on a toboggan). They also had slalom, and probably GS and downhill races on the trail to the right of the tow, and cross-country down in the valley.
Further up the road to the state park, I remember once seeing an abandoned "real" ski jump made of a wood structure just like were used in the Olympics and so on. In the '50's it was all overgrown and falling apart. I wonder if anyone knows more about it or if any remnants still exist. Also, further up the road and visible from the valley was a trail on Mt. Mansfield coming down from the nose, which we called the Teardrop trail. It wasn't serviced by any lift but, I understand, people used to climb it and ski back down before lifts were built on the other side of Mansfield. Maybe someone would have more information on that trail.
The Underhill Ski Bowl was operated by Carl Bogue, the uncle of a friend of mine. He may have purchased the area later on. There was a single rope tow powered by a Lincoln engine (evidently way overpowered according to today's standards) and it had a large diameter rope, perhaps 2 in. as I recall. Lift fees were $1.50 all day or $1.00 for the afternoon. The area operated weekends and Wed. and Fri. evenings. There were only a couple of lights on poles or trees for the whole slope, but it was skiable and certainly this must have been an early use of lights for night skiing. The tow rope dragged along the ground unless it was being held up by a passenger and it was very heavy. In fact, the first year or two, the rope was too heavy for me to hold up and so I herringboned up the hill and skied back down, straight to the bottom until I made a sharp turn at the end (at least the edgeless skis turned sharply even if I didn't). Extremely tiring work and ever since then, I have been very reluctant to walk up any hills on skis. It was very embarrassing for us kids to fall off the lift so we didn't start riding it until we figured out that if we got on right behind someone else, they would hold up the rope for us. Of course, if you grabbed on before the little red flag, the operator would yell at you, but that was better than not being able to hold the rope up and falling off.
When small, the technique was to hold both hands in front of you on the rope. As we got bigger, it was all right to start off that way but once you got going, you would put your left hand behind you (the rope was on the right side) and if gripped tightly the rope would PUSH you up the hill instead of pulling your arms out of the sockets. Come to think of it, after graduating from rope tows, I have been very reluctant to ride them since, also. My friend, Fred McClellan, the nephew of the operator, had a gadget on his ski pole that could be twisted onto the rope so that he at least didn't have to grip the row with all his might; he only had to pull his own weight up the hill. Those grippers wouldn't be allowed today for safety reasons but they made the ride up easier. At the top of the hill there was a string across the lift line which would disconnect the ignition of the motor at the base so that no one would go through the wheels at the top. Of course, whenever someone went through the string there was a big commotion and yelling up and down the hill until someone put the string back in its place so that the tow motor could be started back up again. (No snowmobiles in those days for the operator to buzz all over the hill.)
I skied at Underhill until the early 1950's when I graduated to the T-bar at Stowe and then to their single chair. Since then I have skied throughout Vermont, the US and Canadian West, and even in Europe once besides my home Western New York for the past forty years but I still have a soft spot for good old Underhill.
P.S. I recently went back to the site of the Underhill Ski Bowl after 40-45 years and was amazed how much of my recollections were correct as given above. Today, I could only reach the ski hill from the top; it appears as though some houses have been built around the bottom entrance and you would have to enter across someone's property from the bottom. (At the top the property is strictly posted). The rope tow poles are still in place with the wheels on top. There are still lights mounted a few places on the hill. A couple of concrete bases for probably the Disc Lift added later were evident to the left of the rope tow path. The only thing I had forgotten was how much of a bowl it actually was probably because the western half of the bowl was not used for skiing. The day that I went back the sun was shining brightly on the western side of a snow covered Mt. Mansfield looming over the Ski Bowl and it was a truly beautiful sight.
Maybe someone else remembers Underhill in the old days and could either confirm or deny the above. I would be interested in hearing from them.
~Donald E. Adams, email@example.com"
Here are some of Andy Dufresne's photos of this area:
|"A picture of the base lodge. The base lodge has been torn down since I took this picture. I was told by a nephew of Bill Durbrow that the town of Underhill was taxing him for the empty building so he tore it down."||
||"Lift line to the disc lift at the Underhill Ski Bowl. Notice the old tower footings and the lift shack."|
|"This is the lift line for the rope tow. You can see the rope tow building at the bottom on the left, and you can also see some of the old towers with the wheels on them. The night skiing lights are still standing but you can't see them in these pictures."||
||"This is a picture of the Ski Bowl that I took while X-C skiing. At the far left of the picture is where the jumping hill used to be. You can see this clearer on the Annual Town Report photo."|
April 9, 2007
I visited this area on April 9, 2007 with Scott Drake. As you can see from the following pictures, plenty of snow blanketed the landscape. It looked more like winter than the day after Easter!
The area is on posted private property, so I did not trespass. Good views are available though from Stevensville Road. The base area is not accessible.
For the following photos, click on each image for the larger version.
|A view of the western slope.||Another slope view.||Slope, along with Mt. Mansfield!|
|Unload area for the disc lift.||Rope tow remnants.||Summit view - no trespassing signs.|
If you remember this area, and have memories/photos, etc to share, please let us know.
Last updated: June 6, 2007
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