Jake's Hill Part 2
Ben's Hill
Amherst, NH
Late 1950's/early 1960's-1964

This area was built by the Amherst Ski Club in the late 1950's to early 1960's. The area was on the site of an earlier tow. It was basically an open farm slope with a single rope tow, very typical of that time. Many skiers enjoyed the hill as it was close to town. The area closed in the mid 1960's and was moved to Mont Vernon, NH.

Thanks to Nancy Mitiguy, we first heard of this ski area. Here are her details:

There were 2 rope tows in Amherst NH in the southern part of the state. The one I enjoyed was in the 1960s, a place called "Jake's Hill" named after the farmer who leased the land for skiing. It was literally that, a small hill with a rope tow, a cow pasture in the summer. We had our own ski patch, a happy cow on skis, complete with cow bell. Typical of the era, upkeep of the hill somehow was divided by gender. The men tended the tow and the motor, the women supervised the "grooming" of the hill (the groomers were us kids who sidestepped uphill, packing as we went and in deep snowfall, resorting to snowshoes). This was a town affair; weekends were crowded with picnic lunches brought in coolers, along with folding lawn chairs. The local Congregational Church moved up its winter services so the churchgoers could get out to the hill at a decent hour. A distinct advantage of belonging to the church choir was wearing a robe over ski clothes (including boots) and the recessional hymn which landed the choir first out the door. The choir's entry and exit was a noisy affair especially when a new batch of powder snow had fallen.

According to Peter Terkow, the area was operated by the Amherst Ski Club, which then migrated the area to Mont Vernon, NH. According to David Brooks, this was in 1964.

Bill McKellar  has some more information about the founding of the ski area:

My name is Bill McKellar and I grew up in Amherst NH since 1960. My mom was a ski pioneer in the North Conway area in the 40's and 50's and taught skiing to many of us kids in the 60's.

We learned to ski at Jake's and Bragdon's ski hills in Amherst NH. Both were cow pastures turned ski hills in the winters. Each hill was on a small but active dairy farm and had a single rope tow powered by and old automobile engine. It was a place where you would see most of the towns people on the weekends. Of special note was the masquerade day we had each spring. Everyone would show up in a crazy costume and ski all day in the sun. We all brought picnic lunches. It was a great social setting. This is where you got to know practically everyone in town.

Jake's was a wide open, 110' high hill, facing southeast with a moderate grade and had a stone wall along the bottom that had an old barbed wire fence. I still have the scars on my forehead and neck as a result of riding a snow wing into it. One Sunday we built a jump and I somehow managed to break my leg and spent the next twelve weeks in a cast.

It was named after the farmer who owned the property on Christian Hill Rd. His son still lives in the house across the Rd at the bottom. The barn and cows are gone as are all components of the ski lift which were moved to another location.

It was started by a bunch of Amherst NH skiers. In particular Fran Lathrop was a driving force. He had been a member of the 10th mountain Division and had trained at Camp Hale and Ski Cooper in Leadville,CO.  His son Steve trained there after school each afternoon and eventually became the first alternate on the 1972 U.S.Olympic Ski Team competing in Sapporo, Japan. Steve later turned Pro and now owns Apple Rise products in S. Londonderry, VT -Stratton Mtn. area and makes Kid Ski devices for introducing kids to skiing.

Jamie Ramsay:  

Jake's Hill" was on Christian Hill Road here in Amherst, about a half mile or so from the village, and was just a few minutes walk (with skis over shoulder) up Christian Hill Road from my house.  It was here, at the age of three, that my father put me on a pair of skis.

It was also known as "Ben's Hill" as the property was owned by Ben Jacobsen, a dairy farmer, who leased the property to the Amherst Ski Club in the winter months, and who's cows graze on the hill during the summer months.

I do not know the year in which the Amherst Ski Club commenced operations.  I suspect that it was sometime in the mid to late 1950's as the engine powering the rope tow was, I believe, from a 1954 Chevrolet.  My first venture into skiing would have been in the Winter of 1960 (I was three years old).  I will ask my father and get back to you, he may have some recollection of when it all began.

The rope tow equipment, like most of that vintage I suspect, was a marvelous bit of Yankee Home-Spun engineering ... all of it built with parts and pieces machinery that served, no doubt, purposes other than recreation.  But, with regular maintenance and repairs by members of the club, it worked like a charm for years on end.  It even had a "safety-gate" that would kill the engine if a skier went beyond the onloading point.  Bet some head scratching, late evenings and bashed knuckles went into building extracting that apparatus from the drawing board ... or paper napkin ... whatever.

I recall that there was a State of New Hampshire Tramway registration (looked like a regular license plate) attached to the tow house, so I suspect that the equipment might have been subject to periodic inspections by the State???

In any event, "Jake's Hill" remained in operation until the late 1960's or thereabouts.  It was about this time that the club started thinking about moving its location to Brook Road in Mont Vernon.  I vaguely recall there being some sorts of complications in the lease arrangement with Ben Jacobsen, and some of the more avid skiers were looking for more ambitious terrain.  Mont Vernon's main trail beside the rope tow provided a much steeper and, perhaps, a bit longer run.

As a parting recollection, every Christmas the Amherst Ski Club would decorate a tree at the bottom of the hill at the right hand side of the property ... it was decked out in blue lights with a large gold star at its peak.  With no other lights to be seen on Christian Hill, what was then a remote country road, this Christmas tree was something wonderful to behold on a dark winter's night!

Does anybody else remember skiing here?

Last updated: Dec 17, 2006

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