As New England ski areas gear up for what they hope to be a busy holiday season, there are others less fortunate. Recent articles have lamented the loss of ski areas in New Hampshire and Vermont, and they often reference the New England Lost Ski Areas Project.
So, what about lost ski areas in the Sunapee area?
Lost Ski Areas of SooNipi Country, an article by John Warren, was published by Soonipi Magazine in the winter of 2007-2008. It also referenced NELSAP and its website.
With permission from Ron Garceau, publisher of the Soonipi, here it is. Just click on the image or SooNipi Winter 2007-08 P.46-49 (PDF 197 KB).
Sunapee’s Ski Tow Hill
Unlike many lost ski areas that are sold off for private development, Ski Tow Hill on Route 103B in Sunapee is now public property, owned by the town, and has been officially named Harry Tilton Park. It continues to serve the interest of outdoor enthusiasts offering open-space, forest land and recreation. A new play area, the Lynne Peirce Memorial Playground, opened in 2010, and the town rec department is considering other features for the site.
Rope tow is gone and XC is alive at Dexter’s
At Dexter’s Inn on Stagecoach Road, Sunapee, where there once was a rope tow, cross-country is alive. The inn offers a network of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails that crisscross the 20 acre property. The ski center is managed by the folks from Norsk who built and maintain the trails and give lessons, said innkeeper John Augustine. This year, Dexter’s is adding night snowshoeing (with headlamps) and horse-drawn sleigh rides. And with more snow, some 6 to 12 inches, the ski center can open.
The SooNipi article speaks of a ski run on Burkehaven Hill and the 800′ rope tow that operated at Dexter’s Inn from 1951 to the early ’70s….”
The article went on to say:
And then there were the rope tows in Sunapee Village on Rte. 103B: “In 1949, the Sunapee Ski Tows (not Mt. Sunapee) had two 700 foot tows, in tandem with each other. There is an open slope and 1/2 mile expert trail. The lower slope was lighted weekends. This was located in the village.” (From the Where to Ski Book, provided by Wayne Silver)
David, a NELSAP reader, remembers skiing at this area. Here’s his personal account which provides the best description of the area: “In Sunapee NH, on Route 103B, just about a half mile from the harbor, and just up the road a bit from the high school, there was a ski area that I skied in the late 60s and early 70s. It had a rope tow and maybe 3 trails or so, mostly down an open field of sorts. My grandparents owned a house directly across the street from the area, and I often hiked in the summer up to the top of the tow. From there, a steep trail led further up a considerable ways, and at the top was the old Model T engine in an old building that once housed the top of the second rope tow.
From that spot, a trail led down the shoulder of the hill before taking a 90-degree right turn and heading down to meet one of the lower trails about halfway to the lower rope tow loading area. My mom, who skied there in her childhood in the 40s talked of skiing the upper section of the hill, but by the late 1960s the upper trails were starting to grow in, and the upper rope tow was removed except for that engine at the top. But I had many a fun day skiing that lower area, and enjoying the rope tow while I learned to ski. I never recall paying anything to ski there, but I have to admit that it was a small area where everyone knew each other.”
Another NELSAP reader, Carl Gissler, remembers a bit about this ski area: “I remember the rope tow at Sunapee, very well. I never skied there but I grew up in Sunapee and my school bus went right by it. When I did ski, I went over to the state park where my grandfather operated the rope tow.”
Jonni: “The Sunapee Ski Tows were opened in winter of 1938/39 on Blaisdell Hill by the Town of Sunapee. It opened with one tow and shortly after in 1940 a second tow was added farther up the hill on the adjacent property. Ernest Holt was the tow operator, and he was paid 50 cents an hour to run the tow. School children were recruited to maintain the trails and pack the snow. A warming hut was added at the base in 1954. The little ski area was destroyed by fire in the mid seventies. They reopened the next year under a temporary license and using a second hand rope for the rope tow. The tows closed after that season for insurance reasons. Both tows were operated by Model A engines and both engines remain in the woods to this day. The cables for both tows are (believe it or not) in my barn! They were sold to my grandfather after they closed.”
Read related articles:
Down — and out? (Boston.com)
Website lists ‘lost’ ski areas (Nashua Telegraph)
Filed under: Commerce, Nature & Outdoors, New Hampshire, On-Line, Recreation, Stories, Sunapee, NH 03782 Tagged: | Burkehaven Hill, Cross-country Skiing, Dexter's Inn, History, New England Lost Ski Areas Project, New Hampshire, Ski Tow Hill, Skiing, Snow Sports, Sunapee NH