Horn Pond Mountain
Horn Pond Mt./Mt. Towanda

Woburn, MA

Here's another unlikely candidate for a lost Massachusetts ski area. Horn Pond Mountain is located in a fairly developed section of Woburn. It was founded around 1939, according to the Skier's Guide to New England. In that year, a tow was planned, with a trail and an open slope. It is unknown if that rope tow opened or not. A rope tow was also possibly used at this area in the 1940's/1950's.

The complete details of the history of the area come from Walt Kearney:

I am a lifelong native of Horn Pond and I live on the shoreline of the lake and I climb that mountain everyday. I was one of the first to ski it in the 60's. In fact I can tell you that in the late 40's and early 50's they had a tow rope and an annual 'winter fest' ski contest on "Mount Towanda'. The history from day one is documented in a vanity publication by a local attorney John Mcelleny (Woburn A History) he published in 1999. 

Briefly the Ski 'resort' was an effort done in the 60's early 70's by then Mayor Gill who tried to turn it along with the golf course into a money maker for the town. The Woburn Golf & Ski Authority was formed as a quasi-town body to get the monetarily Woburn Country Club out of debt. Mayor Gill was a fiscal conservative (some say reactionary) who held that the Country club was run by people who drove it into bankruptcy. The city acquired the Country club and all the land that defines the ski trail after the Depression of the 1930's for back taxes. It was leased out over the years to private operators one of which was George Paige of the more famous Colonial CC in Lynnfield. When Paige decided he could not make a go of it Woburn's mayors setup the Woburn Country Club and Ski Authority which was granted Mass state gov approval. The 'Authority" still runs the Golf club today but skiing was dropped long ago for two reasons. One was the weather which became less snowy and which shut down operations. The second was that Mayor Gill purchased Ski lift equipment from an Italian company, but the City Council never approved the purchase and the company in Italy never got paid!! They sued the city and the mayor and won their case. The ski lift and all equipment was then sold at action for cents on the dollar. Looking back I can tell you that the lift seats, the lodge etc were never completely finished. This was just one of several efforts to 'improve' the Horn Pond recreational area.

Other failed tries have resulted in two abandoned swimming beaches, and an abandoned 15,000 sq foot parking lot, as well as a lot of paved roads that led to now where. All now seem to agree that Horn Pond and its surroundings are best kept as passive recreation.

We have several additional sources regarding this area: Mark Gillette says that the area operated in the 1960's and then closed in the 1970's. The area had a double chairlift, which was supposedly removed and reinstalled at Nashoba Valley. This chair was likely the one described above as being sold at auction.

The Southern New England Atlas, given to NELSAP by Tom Moore, says that Mt. Towanda operated in Woburn. This is was the second name given to the area. Perhaps when the chairlift was installed, it received a new name?

Rob Johnson remembers this mountain: I grew up in Winchester, and Horn Pond Mountain (Towanda) was an area I frequented a lot through the 60's and early 70's (I was born in 1960). Yes, my family took me skiing there in the late 60's and I remember an old rope tow. It seems that we went through a period of light winters after that where there wasn't enough snow to warrant opening the area. In later years, I remember poking around the abandoned ruins of the ski lifts and climbing into the old chairs.

Paul Murray: Regarding Horn Pond ski area in Woburn Ma. Yes, there was a small ski operation in Woburn. It was right off the old  route 3 behind a group of stores and near the Winchester line. There may have been a small golf course in the area and I know that there was a toboggan run (an iced wooden chute there as well). I skied there one night in the early 70's and damn near tore my leg off. At the bottom of one somewhat steep run there was a pipe running across and above the trail on one side.

njohnson: Mt Towanda also called the Woburn Ski area was open in the mid 60s - 70 or so. Did have a chair lift, night skiing and snow making. A base lodge was started but never finished. The trails are being overgrown now but remains of lights for night skiing remain in the overgrowth. Foundation of lodge also remains.

I (Jeremy) found this area in late May, 2000 while hiking with a few friends. Very little remains. The area is a public park, with hiking trails all over the summit. However, finding the area was a bit of a challenge. We finally found the old unloading ramp, which led us to the foundations for the double chair. It appears the area had two-three main slopes, which are somewhat clear. Here's the Terraserver picture...notice there is not much to see. According to Walt Kearney, the area marked "quarry" is really an abandoned reservoir.

If you try to find this area on the top of Horn Pond Mtn, be sure to do your searching on the western slope, above the supermarket. The area is actually quite a nice place to visit...park near the reservoir and hike to the summit. Great views of Boston!

More photos of this area today:

The old unloading ramp.

Looking up one of the main slopes, about 200' of vertical drop.

Another double chair foundation.

Looking down one of the slopes, to the parking lot in back of the supermarket.

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