Hopedale Hill Ski Area
Hopedale, MA

Thanks to Steve Rugoletti, this lost area has been found. Here are his details on this former ski area.

I grew up in Milford, Massachusetts.  The next town over is Hopedale - a classic New England milltown.  The Draper Corporation, famous for its "shuttleless" textile looms built an empire in the town.  Ostensibly, Draper WAS Hopedale.  All of the core operations for the town were run through the mill.  The fire department, water, sewage, solid waste, schools, the schools, and most of the housing (duplex style - all company built for employees), were tied into the daily operations of the mill.  In the mid 70's the company made a huge gamble and built a multi-million dollar state-of-the-art electric foundry for casting loom frames.  The energy crisis ended that, they were bought out by Rockwell International, I think, and the operation was moved south.  The town's infrastructure collapsed.  The mill is still empty today and the electric foundry sits unused. 

Also unused is "Hopedale Hill," as we used to call it.  When I was about 10, I sledded on this former ski area that used to be the Draper-run ski hill.  I distinctly remember poles with automobile rims and the old lift shack at the top that still had the motor and big gears to run the old tow.  The rope was gone, a fire had burned out most of the old shack.  I believe the area once had three runs.  A main "intermediate"  fall line trail, a narrower winding "expert" trail off to the left of the top, and a more meandering "easy" trail off to the right.  Although I don't know when it actually shut down, I imagine it was probably running during the mill's heyday up through the late 1960's or early 1970's.

Terraserver view of the old ski area, notice how little remains.

Today, the top of the hill has been re-graded into someone's backyard as part of a new development of homes.  The liftshack and all its big gears and the huge electric motor are gone, probably buried under the re-graded backyard.  Only a couple of the old telephone poles from the lift are left, along with an overgrown grassy stretch extending down from their backyard to the baseball fields and the old parking lot below.

Robert L. Holmes has more information on this lost ski area: Originally, the ski hill was know as Darlings Hill. Not too many people will recall this tidbit. Don't know why, just was.   

I remember the ski hill very well. I have worked on it in the fall of the year to trim out the brush growth, very similar to the way that snowmobile trails are done today by snowmobile clubs.   The name of our Hopedale club was "Comet Ski Club". You talked about the electric motor that was removed from the engine hut, that was new in about 1950.  Previous to that, there was a 1934 Hupmobile engine.  It ran very well, the radiator was a leaker near the end of its life.  We had to carry water up to it, each time that it was to be used.    

Also, there was no emergency trip switch, until Donna McGonicle got her scarf wrapped around the rope and was nearly drawn into the pulley or shiv system.  Fortunately, the scarf ripped in half and she dropped to the ground, very frightened , but unhurt.  Needless to say, the emergency shut-off bar was installed immediately thereafter.

Many of us learned to ski on that little hill.  "Willie" Taft probably taught more kids to ski than anybody in the world, up to about 1950.  Willie always skied like a gentleman, with a sport jacket and regular wool pants, I imagine that he had a sweater or two under the sport jacket, but he was really "cool" as the kids would say today.  There were several others that made the kids feel pretty important. Millard and Marge Lovejoy, Woody and Jean Biggs, Ben and Barbara Barnes, Warren and Maggie Arnold and others that I don't recall at this moment.  Those were some of the people that used to take us up to Mt. Sunapee or Hogback for a Sunday of skiing on a real mountain.  I could go on for a while longer, but that is enough

Oh, just two more things, the price for the use of the facility was 25 cents if you had it, don't remember anyone getting sent away if you didn't have the money.  The other thing was that we had lights for night skiing.

This all took place, long before there was a Draper Field, Draper Field was just the town dump at that time.  

Jim Bowen also remembers this area: Thanks to Wes Hixon I received a copy of the report on the Hopedale Ski Slope. Willard Taft, Irving Broome and yours truly plus a few others whose names escape me were the original group that got the project started. We cleared the land using the old Hupmobile (I thought it was a Reo) and then drove it to the top of the hill and removed the motor which we later hooked up to a gear reducer that the Draper Corp. furnished us. I believe George Draper was the one that helped us on that part of the project. We had installed Telephone poles and fastened Ford wheels to the poles and these were used as pulleys for the rope tow. There was a good deal of trial and error involved before we got it running. We had some happy times on this slope whenever there was enough snow. Willard, Broomy and myself would go to Jackson, N.H. or North Conway on Fridays for the weekend when snow was not available in Hopedale. As I remember, we also went to a slope in Worcester. I had to listen to some tall ski stories on the drive to these areas as Willard and Broomy tried to outdo one another. It is hard for me to visualize the area as you have presently described it."

Robert Biggs: I grew up in Hopedale in the late 50's and 60's about 10 houses from the ski hill. My parents Woody and Jean Biggs were mentioned in the remembrances. I spent most New England winter days and nights at "the ski hill" when ever it was open. As I remember my dad Woody had a key to the lift so we went there often. Many of the others mentioned were tied to our family as well. "Willie" Taft was my sister Sue's Godfather and Marge Lovejoy was my Godmother. That crew was quite a fun group and there was always great fun to be had when they were there. I can remember many a cocktail party at our house after an afternoon of skiing for the adults. 

As a young kid, my cousin and I would always search the slope for money in the spring when the snow cleared and always did quite well especially on the face that had all the moguls. When people fell the warm coins would drop out of their pockets and melt into the snow to be found by us in the spring. All the kids in Hopedale learned to ski there and if you didn't have equipment some was always found for you. As I grew mine was always donated to the little kids. Hopedale was a great place to grow up and I have many fond memories which include "the ski hill".

Dick Hensel: I sure do remember the old ski hill, or as we called it the ski tow. From l948 until 1956, I and many of my class  mates spent a lot of our winter time on the hill.  The tow ran nights and weekends but it did not stop us from hiking up the hill carrying our skies or sleds during the week days.
I can remember the lines waiting to get on the rope tow.  Usually we got too many kids on the rope at one time.  The tow would loose power and you had to let the rope slide through your hands to keep your position or get off and start all over again.  I do not know how many pairs of mittens and gloves I wore holes in.  A few stuck to the rope to disappear into the maw of the tow house.
The hill was the fastest thing I had ever been on, of course I had never been any were else, but a run straight down the front side was a daring adventure.  There were some brave souls that even built jumps half way down the front of the hill.  Many a sled runner met it's doom going over, or I should say landing after going over the jump.  It seems surprising now, but I do not remember many people getting hurt on our great Ski Hill.  The Hot chocolate was good after an evening of great skiing

Does anybody else remember skiing here?

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