Brownell Mountain
Williston, VT
Late 1950's-1962, 1965-Late 1970's

History ~ Recent Photos ~ Memories


Brownell Mountain was a small, private ski area that operated in Williston from the late 1950's into the mid-late 1970's. It was leased from owner Renee Chaloux to local families. According to James Roberts, the main contributors to the area were Jack Griswold, Grant Bamberger from Essex, the Robert's and Oatman's from Williston, and many others. The Jaycees were also involved.

The vertical was small, less than 200'. A rope tow served 3 trails. According to James Roberts, one was "The Challenge" which was a rolling trail with a steep pitch halfway down, and a run-off flat at the end.  Grandfather's Clock was a goat trail on the south side that had an almost 85 degree pitch in it's middle, and that ran off into the other major trail (name unknown).

The rope tow was in two sections - you had to let go halfway and then grab the upper section of the tow. You could also get off at this point. The tow was powered by a blue and white circa 1960 Plymouth.


The base of the of the ski area, showing the rope tow run by the 1960 Plymouth, small warming hut, and surrounding area. Photo by Deb Conway. Date unknown. Please click on image for the larger version.

The area did offer night skiing, and was also a popular after school ski area. A warming hut served hot chocolate and other snacks, but as you can see in the photo above, was quite small.

Sugar on snow parties were common, as well as obstacle courses for the kids.

To the left is a topo map of the area. The ski area was located left of the power line.

According to J. Leopold, the area did not open from approximately 1962-1965. During the fall of 1965, him and his family helped clear the slopes, which helped in the area reopening. It would last until the mid-late 1970's.

The equipment was given to nearby Cochran's Ski Area, in exchange for allowing members a one year season pass, which made it easier for members to go to another ski area.

Today, a house has been built on the Challenge slope, and the ownership of the area is unknown. The summit is used for communication towers. The aerial shot on the right shows the location of the ski area (approximate).

Recent Photos

Peter Brownell explored the area in early 2006 and took the photo on the left of the rope tow engine. Here's what he found:

"I used to ski on Brownell Mountain with my kids in the late seventies.  We lived right down the street on Brownell Mountain Road (now Lincoln Road).  I went hiking up the hill this past weekend (January 22, 2006) and found the Volkswagen which was used to power the rope tow.  The actual power was supplied by an electric motor attached to the VW drive shaft and the rope was wrapped around the welded double wheels.  We were basically just using the transmission of the car to drive the back wheels and change the speed by shifting it into different gears. The system was started and stopped using the brake and clutch which were attached to a series of pulleys and an air compressor attached to a piston."



Thanks to Benjamin Stein, we first heard of this ski area that operated in Northern Vermont. Here are the details from him:

"Brownell Mountain-St. George. This was a small ski area about 8 miles southeast of Burlington that was opened somewhere in the 50s and stayed in operation for about ten years. As I remember it had only two trails and a rope tow and never did very well. Brownell Mountain is a small knob in the middle of the Champlain Valley and the location of TV and communications towers."

Tim Keefe also remembers skiing at Brownell:
"I lived in Williston and skied at Brownell Mountain (only a couple of miles from my parents house) a few times before it closed [perhaps I can get a picture of where it *was*; my friend built his house at the site of the rope tow/trails] in the late 60's. It was actually in Williston off Brownell Road, just north of the Williston/St. George town line.

Deborah Conway: Tim (Keefe) is right, Brownell Mt. was in Williston, not St. George. (by the way, Hi Tim)

My family moved to VT from NY in 1966, when I was 7, and I think that year we all got our first sets of ski equip.  My father, Joe Carroll, was a member of the Jaycees (sp?), which helped maintain the mountain. I remember that the rope tow was run by an old Dodge (although it might have been a Plymouth) - I think it was blue and white.  I also remember all of the leather patches that my mom had to sew onto all of our jackets and mittens after they got shredded by the rope tow.
I remember that there were 3 trails, but the trail just to the left of the rope tow was through the woods and it scared me, so I stuck to the far left trail.  My sister, Barbie, broke her leg one year on the far left trail.  We used to ski most nights after school - under the lights - and then we would go into the warming hut (it was about 10'X10') for hot chocolate.   
We used to like to race down the mountain to be the first one onto the rope tow.  We would drop our poles as we got close and just ski right onto the rope - then grab the poles when we got to the top and take off.  There were usually no lines, so it was constant motion.

The Giffords remember skiing here too: I have a little more information about Brownell Mountain Ski area. I moved to Vermont in 1971 and began skiing at Brownell soon after. The area was open until the mid 70's. I skied there when I was in High school 72-76. It was a single rope tow with two stages. You could had to let go of the rope at the mid point and then sail across a flat area and snag the upper section. You had two trails one on the left and one on the right.  You could ski either from the top or half way. There was a small base lodge too.

J. Leopold: My family belonged to the Brownell Mountain ski area from 1965 until after 1970. By 1965 the area had not been operated for a few years. That fall my family bought a farm about 3/4 of a mile from the base of the mountain. That fall my brother and I helped clear (actually re-cutting) the trails.

The lift was driven by an old (circa 1960) Plymouth. There were two trails. And the mountain was operated as a club, and was not open to the general public. I enjoyed skiing there frequently, mostly at night, yes the trails were lit up.

James Robert: "I used to ski at the Brownell Mountain Ski Area.  The area is in Williston, not St. George.  Yes the area was opened sometime in the late 50's, but did not close until the mid to late 70's.  The land for the area was rented from Renee Chaloux by local families.  The trails and rope tow were maintained by the families.  The tow was a two section tow, powered by a VW bug ( a blue one), which had controls in the base lodge.  Main contributors to the area were Jack Griswold (although he didn't ski, he was a mechanical genius, Jack has passed away, and sorely missed by his friends and family), Grant Bamberger from Essex, the Robert's and Oatman's from Williston, and many others.  When the area closed, a majority off it's equipment was given to Cochran's Ski Area in Richmond as trade for a 1 year pass there for the then current Brownell Mountain family participants.

There were two main trails, and some other misc. narrow (goat) trails, and they were packed by use of double tracked, single ski Ski-Doos.  I remember two of the trails names, the Challenge, and Grandfather's Clock.  The Challenge was a rolling trail with a steep pitch halfway down, and a run-off flat at the end.  Grandfather's Clock was a goat trail on the south side that had an almost 85 degree pitch in it's middle, and that ran off into the other major trail.  I believe that the VW that ran the tow is still in the woods there, and the Challenge's steep pitch is now someone's back yard.  The base lodge was a small gray shack, which had a small  electric heater.  Families used to have sugar-on-snow most weekends, as well as obstacle races for the kids."

Directions to the area are:  South on Rte.2A from the interstate approx. 3 miles.  Turn right onto Brownell Mtn. Rd., the base lodge was in the woods next to the intersection of Chaloux Lane, and Lincoln Rd.

Gary Bamberger tells us: "I remember skiing on Brownell Mountain while growing up. In fact I learned how to ski there. My father, Grant Bamberger, was one of the main people who helped keep the ski area running. He did maintenance on the blue VW Bug every fall to help keep it running during the winter. "

"The mountain had three trails. While facing up the mountain Challenge was off to the right, Nightmare Alley was to the left, and the Rambler to the left of that. I think that James Robert is calling Nightmare Alley by the name Grandfather's Clock. "

"The bathroom was an outhouse and I am told that this made for a very interesting experience for the girls. It was very cold to use in the winter and if you had a full body suit on, then you had to get completely undressed in order to use it."

Lawrence Mcliverty:  I skied there in the early 70's. There were actually three trails. There was a "glades" trail once you got off the rope tow that reconnected to one of the main trails, about half way down the mountain. It was a narrow trail that went through a heavily wooded section between the two main trails. It was very challenging and fun.

Hans Buehler: I lived on the dirt road near Brownell mountain in the early 2000's.  I found the old ski trail, and cleared a few of fallen trees and branches from the trail by hand, no tools.  I would hike up and ski a bunch of runs in the morning before work regularly.  What a great way to get fresh snow!  There is also an access road that went to the top of the "mountain" where the TV tower was.  This had a flat section in the middle, but made for a good ski run if you kept your speed up over the flat part.  When I moved away I though I'd drive the 4 miles to go visit again, but it's just not the same if it's not in your neighborhood within walking distance. 

Does anybody else remember skiing here? If so, let us know!

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Last updated: November 7, 2007