Stark's Hill
Fryeburg, ME
1960's-1976 or 77

Originally we had little information on this lost ski area in Fryeburg. Now, thanks to Gary Foote, we have the complete story! I'll let him tell you the story of Ski-W:

"I am one of the old owners of Ski-W, which operated on Starks Hill in Fryeburg, ME.  Fryeburg Academy had a rope tow in place on the single slope in existence when we acquired rights to the mountain from John Weston in 1972 or so.  We [My Step-father, Keith Hodsdon and my brothers Wayne and Joel] began by clearing additional trails and clearing the land for the new lodge.  We cut trails year round.  Winter cutting on a mountainside is an experience I will never forget.

We build the lodge ourselves and cobbled together a T-bar lift using two 'portal towers' we got from a defunct ski area somewhere in northern NY, hauling them to Maine in pieces in the back of a U-haul truck.  I was one of two people who had the 'pleasure' of picking up those towers in NY.  They had to be disassembled and put into the truck in pieces.  I remember it took four men to get them out.  I am not sure to this day how Wayne and I managed to get them aboard by ourselves.  Now that we had the top and bottom towers, we welded up the remaining 7 'T' tower ourselves, adding the sheave trains from another defunct ski area.  Talk about a piecework lift!

Topo map of Starks...notice the words "Ski Area" on the northern end. This is just off of Rte. 302.

A view of the base lodge, from Gary Foote. Circa 1970. To the right end of this pic the last 15 feet of roofline was extended down to the front deck, creating a small A-frame that we used as a ticket booth and utility room. 

The area went into operations around 1974 or so.  We ran for two successful years, then had a fire at the lodge [I lost everything I owned as I was the grounds caretaker living upstairs] that burned it to the ground.  This was the abrupt end of Ski-W sometime in the spring of 1976 or 77.

What did Ski-W mean?  Well, the 'W' was in memoriam of John Weston who had been so gracious in his deeding the land to us for development.  He believed, as we did, that Ski-W had the potential to drive the winter economy in Fryeburg.  Had not the lodge burnt it might well have done so and might still be in operations today."


I recall the portal towers came from a defunct area with a name like 'Iron Ridge', or Iron something anyway.  It was in a very rural area.  The towers were stored in a barn - whole!  The towers were latticework rather than solid.  Sections were bolted together.  We had to use a cutting torch to disassemble them.  Talk about nervous - using a torch in a barn.  It worked though.  I'll look around for photos of the ski area.  I know I have some.  I'll forward scanned copies of the best of what I find.  Vertical rise was 570 feet.

On the day we first tested the lift I rode the first T up the line watching for problems.  As I approached the upturn into the steeper section the connecter turned under the cable and came up on the inside!  I waved my pole like mad, but before the lift could get shut down it hit the next tower.  At least the safety system worked and the lift shut down automatically.  We had to weld short steel stops at the side of each connector to keep them from turning under the cable.  These were 'International' T's which had a steel connector box at the top that contained a long reel of cable that was spring loaded.  When the lift rider took the T the cable played out of the connector box slowly accelerating the rider to the point where the cable was fully extended.  

A tractor on the slope, 1970. The tractor [John Deere 410] picture was developed in March 1970 [according to the pic] while Gary and crew were still cutting and clearing so my first estimate at a timeframe was a bit off.  They cut trails in the winter of 69/70 and begun ops in 70/71.  They operated for three winters because the lodge burned in April [?] of 75 while Gary was at a band practice in Conway, NH.

An overhead view of the area today. While the liftline is still clear, the trails are very much grown in.

The T itself was a two person T with about 3.5 feet of 'stick' with a ring at the end.  The cable from the connector box reel was attached to this ring.  It took a bit of skill to ride alone as it twisted sideways something awful.  The lift itself was powered by a Volkswagon engine.  It was called an Industrial VW engine, but I never knew the difference between it and a regular VW.  The engine was mounted in a framework *atop the bullwheel* - something I have never seen before or since.  First aid room was attached to the lift base station building. 

We had the existing slope that Fryeburg Academy used to begin with.  It was on the northwest 'corner' of the hill and went halfway up.  There was an existing ropetow with a big blue rope [we did not operate the rope tow.].  We extended this slope by cutting more trail to the top of the 'hill' [we liked to call it a mountain.  Mapmakers in older days called it so.]  Then we cut a main slope on the north side of the hill, about 100-125 feet wide.  We connected the two with a horizontal feeder trail from the old slope to the new main.   We also cut a narrow trail to the east of the main slope but found it to be too far off the fall line to be useful so we never opened it.

Thanks Gary! Other NELSAP readers also remember this area:

Greg Tully: I saw you on TV and I had to check this out.  I remember some of them.  Some I have never heard of.  You missed one though.  Starks Hill in Fryeburg, Maine.  It closed about 1960 I think.  Fryeburg Academy took it over for a while but it got ahead of them and they let it go. It is about 1/2 mile from the NH state line on rt. 302 coming from Conway into Fryeburg.

I was there about 10 years ago and you can still see the t bars.  Most of the trails are grown over. 

Charlie Berg: There's also another deserted ski area in Fryeburg on Starks Mountain.  I think it was used up until the 1970's, so I'm sure you could find a lot of people who remember it (my parents do).  I have hiked up there several times.  The trails are still slightly visible, though overgrown now.  There are also several poles still standing which ran a rope tow.

Paul King: There was a medium sized ski area in Fryeburg on Starks Mountain.  It shows up on the current 7.5 min USGS sheet at lat 44 deg 00'24", long 70 deg 59'02".  I will contact John Weston for more info.  His family owned the land.  He presently coaches the Fryeburg x-c team which trains at the abandoned ski area.

Do you remember this ski area? Email us if you do!

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