Snake Hill
Berlin, MA


Snake Hill operated during the 1960's, and was owned by John and Mary Niedzial. This was a classic smaller ski area, with a steep trail and a rope tow or two.

Thanks to NELSAP reader Jim McGrail, we now know of this area that operated in Berlin, MA. Here's his description:

"There was a small ski area in Berlin, Mass. in the '60's, closed by '69 or so, called Snake Hill Ski Area.  It was on Route 62.  It had a rope tow, maybe two, and maybe a small t-bar.  There was no lift lodge at all,  there was just a little place to warm up and get hot chocolate.  I never skied there, but we used to take out toboggans there. It was a real ski area that charged money to use it, however.  I remember the old white sign with black lettering.

As far as I can remember, it was on West Street in Berlin, which is State Route 62. If you approach Berlin from I-495, get on Route 62 west, go through the center of Berlin, past the Parish Church and the small Fire Station, you will come to St. Joseph the Good Provider Catholic Church (where I used to go). On the other side of the street is a Gulf Service station. Continue on Route 62, and the ski area was, I believe, on the left, maybe a half mile down the road. It was a large, steeply slanted field, with a white sign at the side of the road that said, Snake Hill Ski Area. On a cold, snowy winter day, it would be very crowded. There were not as many cars in those days, but I remember a traffic problem nevertheless, because there was no parking lot! The cars just parked on the side of the road! I believe also that although there were skiers there, some kids such as myself, would slide sleds or toboggans there. However, I am not 100% sure that this location was correct, and some other people may remember it on Willow Road in Berlin. But, racking my brains, it seems still that it was on Route 62. There were no separate trails, just, as I said, a steeply sloping field facing the road. Now that I think of it, I do remember that it was just a rope tow. But, I do remember the area being crowded."

Sean Cassidy has some details as well:

"My older siblings started skiing at Snake Hill in Berlin. To verify some info on Snake Hill, it had a warming hut and one rope tow (no T-bars) on a vertical of about 150 feet and closed because it could neither afford snowmaking nor some required safety update on its tow."  

Jim Norvold: Saw your story on "Chronicle." Had to look this up, as my house, along with 2 others is built at the bottom of what used to be Snake Hill.

Snake Hill is indeed located on Route 62 (Boylston Rd), about 1/2 mile from the intersection of Rt 62, Barnes Rd and Derby St.

The hill was run by the Nietzal family during the winter. Their grandson still lives across the street. In the summer, the meadows were used to graze sheep and cows. Evidence of the rope tows is still present in the wheels nailed to trees throughout the woods that have overgrown the upper part of the hill. Much of the lower section is still exposed as the town pays to have the fields cut and bailed annually; the sleigh riding is excellent! The Wachusett Viaduct, part of Boston's water supply runs across the hill.

The land was subdivided and sold in 1995, following the death of Mr. Niedzial. While about 6 acres have been developed (three houses), the town of Berlin purchased the remaining approximately 80 acres for recreational use. There's a great trail that takes you to the top of the hill. Evidently Mr. Nietzal cut the trail, as a training run for his two-horse hitch.  

Tara Gonelli: My grandparents owned that ski area, John and Mary Niedzial!!! I learned to ski on that hill. I am glad I am still alive that rope tow almost killed me!!! Do you know how many pairs of gloves I lost to that rope tow!!! I used to help them out, selling donuts, and hot chocolate and candy. I still believe that I ate most of the profits. I am now almost 44 years old and both of my grandparents are gone now, But I do have fond memories of the ski area. I can remember one time the hill had a light coat of freezing rain on the snow, coming down the hill the tips of my skis got caught in the ice, ouch!!! that hurt, or the time when I could not stop and landed in the brook, which was at the bottom of the shack. Snake Hill was located on Boylston Street, in Berlin Mass.

If anybody else remembers this one please let me know.

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