Amherst-Bedford Ski Area
Bragdon Farm
Amherst, Nh
1936-early 1970's

The Amherst/Bedford ski area operated at the former Bragdon Farm in Amherst, NH from 1936 in the early 1970's. The Bragdon Family operated the area. Several nearby schools trained at the hill, which also had night skiing.

The area was located on Route 101 on the Amherst/Bedford border. Today, the area is growing in, but still visible.

State Senator Peter Bragdon's grandfather owned and operated this ski area, and Peter provides us with the following detailed history of the area:

The Amherst-Bedford Ski Tow operated from 1936 to the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, with the exception of “the war years”, on Bragdon’s Hill on State Route 101 in Amherst, NH.
The ski tow was started in 1936 by Amherst farmer Orson Bragdon, Sr.  The Bragdon farm consisted of several hundred acres of land, part of which was a large hill in Amherst with fields at its base in Bedford, informally known as Bragdon’s Hill. 

As the story goes, the idea for a ski hill at this location came from a relatively famous skier of the day who either lived nearby or who had friends and family living nearby.

Above: An aerial shot in 1998, showing the slopes nicely. These have grown up greatly in 7 years to the below picture, taken in 2005.

This Google Earth Image of the ski area in 2005 shows the above slopes have grown in tremendously.
Click on image for larger version.


In 1936 a used 1930 Ford Model A convertible was purchased for $25 from Clark’s garage (itself a unique part of Amherst’s past) in Amherst village.  The car was driven up to the top of the hill (from the back side of the hill, which was all fields and pastures) where the frame was cut in half with a hacksaw - no fancy tools back then!  The front half was then bolted onto a frame made up of 6x6 timbers which was fastened to chestnut posts driven into the ground.  The remnants of the Model A were connected to a pulley system that pulled a 1,200 foot loop of rope up the hill. 
A small shed was built at the bottom of the hill for the lower operator, and the engine operator had a roof over his head by 1938.  A larger shed was built close to the highway for ticket sales and concessions.

Since the property was used as farmland, the hill and field were relatively free of trees.  However, being in New England meant there were  a lot of rocks to deal with.  The field at the base of the hill was free of rocks, as it had been used for agriculture for decades.  The hill, however, was used only as a pasture for the dairy cows.  The rocks on the hill were dug up by hand and then rolled down the hill, where they were put onto a sled towed behind a truck.  On at least one occasion, the truck was disabled by an errant rock rolling down the hill and hitting the battery.

The operation was run by the entire Bragdon family, including Orson and his wife, Helen, and their six children.  The work included running the engine, taking tickets, selling homemade snacks at the snack shop built at the base of the hill, etc.  At least one of the Bragdon children met their future spouse while working at the ski tow.
It seems that the ski tow was a relatively safe operation.  Mr. Bragdon’s oldest son, Robert, could only recall one incident where somebody had to be taken to the hospital.  He drove his flatbed truck, with the injured girl riding in the back, all the way to Manchester.  She checked out okay at the hospital, probably having suffered more from the ride to Manchester than from the fall itself.
Sometime in the 1940s or 1950s a new trail was cut to the right of the main trail.  A ski jump of sorts was then fashioned on that trail.  It does not seem that trail was operated very much, as trees had overtaken it by the 1970s.
In the late 1960s, thought was given to installing lights at the ski tow, however the project never really got started and the ski tow shut down shortly thereafter.  The ski tow operator, Orson Bragdon, Jr. then went on to operate the Twin Tows ski area in Milford until it closed.  The ski hill was still used for sledding for another ten-or-so years after the ski tow closed, and was even frequented by hang gliders in the mid 1970s. 
The hill is now owned by the town of Amherst as part of it’s Bragdon Farms conservation area.  Another, smaller hill on the property on the other side of Route 101 is still used for sledding, but the original ski area is now overgrown.

If anybody has a chance to take current pictures, NELSAP would love to see them!

Many NELSAP readers remember this area:

P. Van-Ham contacted NELSAP with some more information:
"Yes, there was a lift operating there.  I never skied it myself, but do remember riding by with my parents and stopping to watch.  I know for sure that it was operating in 1971 and was used by the Derryfield High School (Manchester;  I think it closed a couple years after that and suspect that it opened in the mid sixties.  There was a central tow facing east on the north side of Rt 101 with a trail on either side.  This is all growing in now, but the wide open field at the base is still there.  My estimate is about 150 ft vertical. 

Bill McKeller: Bragdon's Hill was a slightly bigger hill several miles east of Amherst on Rt. 101 at the Bedford town line. It had lights for night skiing. I remember my brother Bruce and I taking ski lessons from Annie Middleton there in the 60's. During the early 70's I was on the Derryfield School Ski Team and we trained there and also held some of our ski meets there, at night usually.

In 1974 a group of us known as the New England Bushwackers learned to Hang Glide there. We flew there all year long since it was a poor snow year. I recall that on Thanksgiving day in 1974 we had over 300 cars lined up on Rt. 101 watching 12 of us hike up and fly down. This was the first hang gliding anyone had seen and the result was many illegal parking tickets handed out by the state and local police after the motorists ignored the police demands to not park there. Shortly after that dozens of No Parking signs were erected and remained there for years. We used to fly there all night when there was a full moon and an east wind.

Bill Keefe: The easterly slope at Bragdon's Farm in Amherst, New Hampshire is still pretty visible.  The Milford High School (MASH) ski team used that slope for training races in the early 1970s.  The tow was gone by then (or wasn't operating).  I can recall at least one training race there in 1971 or 1972.  The slope was still clear and had a good pitch.  The main attraction for the ski team, however, was the price, 0, and the hike up was good exercise.

David Bailey: I just discovered your web site and share a fascination for the subject.  It was located on the north side of Rte 101 facing east just over the Bedford line in Amherst on property owned by the Bragdon Family who were prominent farmers. Family members still live on the property. It was a single rope tow and existed until the 70's (?) I believe. The slope can still be seen even though it is overgrown with saplings as it remained clear for many years.  I don't know when it opened.

Jim Pasqualoni: If you are traveling east, the former ski area, which I believe was run by the Amherst Town Recreation Department, sits to the left of Rte. 101.  The area can still be made out as a former ski hill, but it is no longer cleared. There is a sledding hill just opposite the road, but this was not the ski area operated by the town.  I'm not sure of the dates involved, but I believe that sometime during the late 60's or early 70's, the Amherst town ski hill, along with the rope tow, was moved to a location on Brook Road, in the Northern section of town.  I believe there was just the single rope tow, and the hill had a fairly steep grade.

Steve Biddle: I don't know too much about the area except that it contained cows in the summer and skiers in the winter. I skied it only once when the rope tow was operating, that must have been around 1968 or 1969. At the time I was only about 8 and the place seemed huge to me.

Tomcatm: As a kid I remember this area.  It was on the right side of the road if you are heading toward Amherst on route 101 west.  It had a rope tow but I don't remember it ever running.  As kids, by brother and friends would climb the hill and ski down.  It was pretty steep.  You can still see where the ski area was as the trees aren't grown as tall on the slope.  There is now a sliding hill across the street. 

If you have further information on this lost area, please email us, thanks!

Last updated: Dec 17, 2006

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