Groton Hills
Groton, MA

Before 1962-c1980

Priest's Logo, from Paul Lemieux and "Tiny" Mcwade

History  *   Memories   *   Stats by the Year


Priest's Ski Area was founded sometime during the early 1960's in Groton, MA. The area had a verticaly drop of 150', several straight, slopes, a plethora of rope tows, and even offered hang gliding in the summer. Originally called Priest's, it became known as Groton Hills in its later years.

Jed Diehl found out the following info from the Groton Town Historian: 

"As for the allusive Priest's Hill - Part of the Lawrence Brooks Estate on Martin Pond Road was sold to a Mr. Fletcher; his grandson, Richard Priest opened the ski area. Later the area was sold to Joseph Cappelletti (still living in Groton) and the area was renamed Groton Hills (so Priest's and Groton Hills are the same areas).  She said Joseph Cappelletti has now developed the property (I assume she means for housing)."

Here's a view of the slopes in 1963, from Buxton's Ski Guide.

At one point during the early 1960's, the area served over 1200 skiers in one day!  That's a huge accomplishment for the ski area. Sometime in the late 1960's/early 1970's a surface lift, most likely a T-bar (though one guide called it a Poma) was added.

Here's an early 1970's map of the area. Great slogan huh?

Here's a shot sent in from Don Cosgrove skiing at Groton Hills. Note the old New England stone walls on the slope.

A 1974-1975 brochure, courtesy of Joshua Segal. Click on it for a larger version.

The inside of the brochure shows a trail map, rates, and additional information. Click on it for a larger version.

Unfortunately, the area closed sometime near 1980 or the early 1980's, likely due to poor snow years (the years around 1980 were awful) and due to local competition such as Nashoba, which offered chairlifts.

The area served hangliders until a housing development took over at the bottom in the 1990's.

Later Life as a Hanglider School:

The Hang Gliding Place, also known as Aeolus Hang Gliding, operated here in the early 1990's. Michael Connell sent us this brochure which described the hang gliding here. This brochure is from 1990, click on both pages to view the larger version:

  John Calis posted this excellenct video of hangliding at Aeolus Hang Gliding from 1991. The video shows hangliders practicing as well as views of the ski slopes.


David Rodenhizer: I learned to Ski @ Hartwell Hills (approx '68-69?) and quickly graduated to Groton Hills where I can remember terrorizing the slopes with my third grade buddies while the Beatles played on the PA.  Soon enough we were at Nashoba, Blanchard Hills (our high school included Dunstable, so Blanchard was the natural place to hang out weeknights), or Watatic (our school bussed a group of us there once a week for lessons).  Weekends saw us break away to Vermont for a little more vertical.  When I took off for college in '80, only Hartwell & Groton Hills had closed.  I guess that Blanchard & Watatic weren't far behind.  Unfortunately, I did not have the foresight to take pictures, save trail maps, or the like.

Callie Mack shared this great photo with us: Here is a photo of my family skiing at Groton Hills ca. 1969 (my dad, in silver jacket, my 2 twin brothers, and me at far right). Note that most of us are tentatively snowplowing down!

My mom had written on the back of the photo:

"Groton Hills, Jan.1969. Hill is quite steep, camera flattened it out."

(Which would account for the petrified snowplow positions.)
Lew Garvey:  I used to hang glide at Groton Hills. Thought this might help... Started hang gliding there in 1979. A guy named Chuck Searles owned and operated Aeolus Hang Glider out of the building shown in your photo. They actually made a lot of hang gliders there. They sewed hang glider sails up in the loft if memory serves me right. The ski are a still operated, but as your site says accurately, snow was in short supply back then. We could hang glide there year round. It was rare that the hills were covered in snow (I think I can remember NOT hang gliding for short periods of time in Feb/Mar. Chuck also ran the skiing end of the business, but I'm not sure there was much. 

The hang gliding hills were the farthest right two hills. Your photo is deceiving. The farthest hill is somewhat hidden by a thin line of trees and looked very much like you're 60's photo. Advanced flyers used that last hill. You could fly down with about 20+ feet of height all the way down the hill, then turn left and land in the field at the bottom of the hill. The hill directly adjacent to that was for beginners. You'd mostly hear them rolling down the hill when they're take-off'- weren't so successful. Moved to NY in 1981 and they were still flying there, but they had started putting emphasis in becoming a dealer and kite manufacturing slowly died off. Don't know what happened after that...


A poster from Priest's, from Paul Lemieux and "Tiny" Mcwade, date unknown.

Bruce White:  Near the end had J bars and possibly T-bars. Originally had just rope tows. Another catch - Upper trails had the bars, Lower had rope only. So if you went from upper trail across the flat to the lower bowl it was rope tow up to flat and then across to a second tow.

First time was there (64/65) remember several things - Part time - tows only ran weekends. (Remember sledding there during the week when it was closed.) Was open February vacation week. Don't recall snowmaking - ever. If it did it was much later in life. The additional trails were added in the 70's - seem to recall early 70's for 2 and mid for two more. By 76 all were in. Lodge - Big open fire place. Four sides open, steel hood to bring smoke through roof. Sledding. As kids we would often sled there - they allowed/tolerated that on the bowl at the bottom. Outhouses. His and hers. They had "modern" toilet seats, but no water. Let's just leave that memory there. 

Bob Sled - There was an old Bobsled on the wall outside. This is not like the ones they race today. It was a long plank with 4 skis, and a steering wheel. Think Semi on runners. Was about 12-14' long, you would sit on it with plank between legs. (Like a See-saw). It was no longer in use as the previous year during a (believe Unitarian church) tobogganing party it had tipped over and a young lady broke her leg. Due to liability it was retired. As I was young I did not connect dots. Looking back and knowing who was driving as well as injured, I now have to ask "how drunk was XXXX (Name obliterated to protect the guilty) and how did YYYY's parent's react? 

Trails (cross country type - not downhill) - If you are familiar with Groton (which I don't expect) - you know there were lot's of old trails in the woods. Was possible to go from in back of the new Cemetary (in back of where I grew up) and wander over to the Ski Area. There were 2 ways. One by the old roads/trails. These led to the power lines (and Dunstable) or through assorted Orchards. (Also part of the Priest's holdings.) That was doable in those days, after the early 70's was not a good idea. (Times and orchard management had changed. If I recall correctly Dick Priest died in 1964, so that changed a lot of things. In the Mid to late 80's some of the trails used to get there were closed off (translation: wiped out and converted from woods in to backyards) by development. After it's demise - for a few years was Aeolous hang gliding school. That too is long gone.

Tony Martin:

Wow, I thought I would never be reunited with my first ski experience but thanks to NELSAP I can relive some great memories.  I was stationed at Fort Devens in the winter of 1969 and one of the diversions was that the Post offered ski rentals.  Never having been on these things I was intrigued by the opportunity to slide down a hill on something other than a flexible flyer!  I rented skis (beartrap bindings), tie boots and oversized poles and set off for a nearby place called Groton Hills which was advertised in the Post rental shop.
I went on a weeknight with a couple of buddies and despite our status as rookies (we were awful) we had a great time. I remember the folks there being very patient and helpful with us.  After that I think we went every available night until the end of February when we shipped out. I ended up in Germany where I was stationed a mere 90 miles from the Zugspitze.  What I had learned at Groton Hills motivated me to learn more and after much toil I became a true alpine skier.
As the years passed and my family got into skiing in upstate NY I joined the Ski Patrol at SOng MOuntain.  I'm now an old and tired veteran with fond memories of where I got started and am glad to have assisted a few beginners along the way.

Priest's/Groton Hills by the Year

Year Lifts Trails/Slopes Other Info Source
1962 4 rope tows 6 slopes, novice and intermediate, with snowmaking Ski patrol, instruction Eastern Ski Map
1963 5 synthetic rope tows Same as above Ski Season: Mid Dec-Mid Mar
Rentals: release equipment for skis, short skis available
Warming hut, toboggan chute, lunch counter
Manager: Richard F. Priest
Vertical: 155'
Operates weekends, holidays, and Wed. afternoons
Eastern Ski Slopes
1966 Rope tows unknown Vertical drop: 145' America's Ski Guide
1980 5 Rope Tows, 1 T-bar 10 slopes, beg-expert, 2 trails, longest run 1000' Hang gliding, $5.00 daily rate, Instructor: Dave Meade, open same hours as below, 2 Olympic ski jumps, lessons, snowmaking, day lodge White Book of Ski Areas
1982 1 T-bar, rope tows Beginner to advanced Operates 930am-430pm, weekends/holidays Dec- Mar
Vertical drop: 150feet
Billy Kidd's Ski Guide

Do you remember this ski area? If so, let us know!

Last updated: Jan 7, 2012

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