Williston Academy (on Mt. Tom)
Easthampton, MA

History ~ Current Photos ~ Memories


Rick Teller contacted us at NELSAP with some great information on the history of this area, along with some rare photos. Here's what he has to share:

Teak Kelley, a Williston Academy alumnus, suggested I contact you with information concerning the Williston ski run on Mt. Tom. (I was pleased to note on the web site that you've already heard from my Williston classmates Greg Creedon and George FIsher.)

(Students line up for the tow, circa 1950)


The Williston Academy ski slope was located on the west slope of Mount Tom in Easthampton, Mass., off East Street, on land leased by the school. It was in use from 1946, when the school began competitive skiing, through 1972. Beginning in 1973 the school’s teams used the Mt. Tom Ski Resort on the other side of the mountain, in Holyoke.

The Williston run was constructed gradually during the years 1946-1950 under the direction of ski coach and school business manager Wilmot Babcock. (Babcock would switch his coaching attention to swimming in 1953 and become the most successful swimming coach in secondary school history.) Much of the clearing of trees and rigging of the rope tow was accomplished by students themselves.

(Riding the rope tow, circa 1950). Looks like a spring day based on the snow cover.

There were no facilities except a rope tow. Alumni recall the slope as more challenging than it appears in the accompanying photographs, from 1950 and 1964.

A couple of summers ago I tried to find the property and discovered that the access road is no longer passable.

In the 1940's and early 1950's the school also maintained a ski jump on a very steep hill behind some campus dormitories on Main Street in Easthampton. I have no record that it was ever used for anything other than recreational jumping.

(A view of the slopes, circa 1964. Looks like some glade skiing was possible too. Notice the very thin cover, just a few inches! Tom Kelley might be the guy 3 up on the right)


Current Photos

Thanks to several NELSAP readers, including Tim Riley and Rick Teller, we believe we have found the approximate site of this ski area. We know it is near a water tank, or more correctly, a water storage underground pond and that it is off Reservation Road. This Terraserver image shows the approximate location of the area. The area listed as "trails" in white is the location of the ski area.
Tim Riley tells us a little about the history of the area, and shares the following two photos of the area from September, 2005 with us:

"The ski hill was actually in Easthampton on a road called "Reservation Road" which led up to the roads on MT. Tom. It was a steep, narrow run, very good for racing, and was serviced by a rope tow. There could have been another trail somewhere around there serviced by the lift, but it is unknown to me. I in fact still ski the hill when natural snow covers it"

To the right is some rusted machinery from the rope tow.

To the left, one of the trails.
Richard Ziomek explored the area later in the fall of 2005, and took some more photos. Here is a lift tower near the bottom at a point above the engine shack. It may be the same tower as above in 1950.


The top of the former ski lift, looking downhill.

Post and pulley at the top of the former ski lift.

Upper portion of former ski trail, beyond the end of the ski lift.
View of one of the former trails.


Thanks to Greg Creedon, we first heard of this ski area that operated on Mt. Tom.  Here are his details:

Williston Academy in Easthampton had their own ski slope on Mt. Tom on the Easthampton side. I can't tell you much about the history of it except that it had a rope tow and was active until the early 70's. I was a manager of the ski team then and we raced private schools in the area.  

Eric Emerson has a bit more info: My father attended Williston Academy as a in the 1940's and remembers skiing on this slope.  He believes that it was lift serviced.

Tom Kelley: Early afternoon the Ski Team left, by school bus, for the ski slope. Mt. Tom had been a volcano: the "front" side (Holyoke, where the Mt. Tom Ski Area was) had a gradual decline from the absolute top; the "back" side (Easthampton, where the Williston slope was) was rock, from the top, straight down, and then the "slope" began. The ski hill was steep and there  were a lot of trees. As you know, in those days, there were Slalom and Downhill events. The Downhill races at Williston caused a few spectacular crashes/injuries, however, because of the hill's tightness. We fared well at Cranwell and Deerfield - and Monson/Wilbraham Academies - our slope was a great training ground. 

The day started with a walk up the dirt road from the place the bus dropped us off to an old shack which housed an even older 
Model-T chassis. The Manager or Coach would advance the spark, tell everyone to "stand clear" and turn the crank on the front of the skeleton of the vehicle. The engine chugged - the exhaust escaped up a bent tailpipe thru a hole in the ceiling. The rope for the tow (other schools were envious of us even having a tow!) was wrapped around a wheel, as I remember; the Coach then squatted in the vehicle, depressed the clutch, and shifted the transmission into 1st. After some "protest" by the engine, the rope - fed thru a hole in the front of the shack - began to carry skiers up the hill - a couple at a time, lest the engine cough, sputter and quit (memories of times we got to shift it into 2nd - wow-what a ride!)

George Fisher: I, too, skiied the WIlliston Academy slopes on Mt Tom suring the winters of 1968 - 69 and 1969 - 70.  As one of the ski team managers,  my job was to set the poles for each practice and to reset after each run.  My memory is it was a fairly challenging run, without the advantage of a ski lift.  I can't remember if there was a rope to to the top, or if we walked between runs.

Jarlath Crowe: I was a student at the Williston Academy from 1963 through 1968 and was on the ski team. We had to ride the school bus 2 to 3 miles to the slope on the western side of Mt Tom. The rope tow ran up about 300 feet, so it was a fairly small...2 trails and had just 3 dips. Our  races were limited to giant slalom and slalom. if there wasn't enough snow cover, we'd have our practices and races at Mt Tom Ski Area in  Holyoke on other side of the mountain from our little slope.

Richard Ziomek: Williston Academy maintained a ski area on the West Side of the Mt Tom range for many years including the 1940's 1950's. It was off East Street in Easthampton MA. almost directly above Clark Street which intersects with East Street. It could be accessed by using Reservation Road. I believe that the land was leased. The ski area was comprised of 3 trails and utilized arope tow that went about half way to the top. Several of the trails went to the top. There was also a ski jump at the extreme right trail facing the mountain. Skiers could be observed from various point within the town. 

A characteristic of the ski area was a very steep slope about 100yds from the bottom. The area above the steep slope was primarily wooded mountainside through which trails were cut. 

Recently there were 5 houses constructed at the lower portion of the slope, however the trails are still quite evident through the wooded areas. Use of the ski area was discontinued about the time that the Mt. Tom ski area began operation. I lived about a mile from the slope and in fact did fall preparation work on the ski area one year while working part time for Williston and going to college.

Because of its western face the ski area was the recipient of direct sunshine which likely presented a snow quality problem. There never was any snow making capabilities at this site........ Following its discontinued use, it remained a popular sledding / skiing site for local residents until the lower slopes became overgrown.

Ted Mead: I attended Williston from '43 to '45. When I first came there was little skiing and the part of Mt. Tom at the end of Reservation Rd. had not been cleared for ages.We worked through the autumn clearing a slope that was about 200' x 50' with a similar size runout at the bottom. It was a bit steep at the top, at least to me a 14 year old tyro skiier. I had a brand new pair of Dartmouth ski boots that I almost wore out hiking 3-4 times a week from the town up to the slope. While I had skied before I came to Easthampton I really cut my teeth on that slope along with a sprained ankle. This was well before the advent of the rope tow. While Wilmot Babcock (physics teacher) was an active skier and mentor we skied alot with another faculty member, Bink Hyde. In fact he escorted a group of us kids in March '44 for a week of skiing in Stowe. This was the second season that the Mansfield Chair was in operation. There was a long rope tow on the toll house slope. My skiing at Williston and in Stowe really made a invererate skier of me. I later went on to the University of Vermont (class of '54) where I managed to make 2 years on the ski team. Coached by Bob Searles (Dartmouth ski team in the late thirties). 

Russ Bennett: I skied on the Williston Academy trails between 1964 and 1967. There was a rope tow servicing most of the area. There was a very long downhill racing trail that went from near the top of the mountain, but this trail was not serviced by the tow. To reach the top, the team got into the back of a truck and took the long road around. When I skied there, there were also the
remnants of an old nordic jump that had been torn down a few years earlier.

Has anybody else skied here before? If so just let us know.

Last updated: Sep 25, 2005

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