I wanted to share the history surrounding the Snow Barn and Snow Lake because in many ways, that is where it all started. Unfortunately, I feel that we do not have much of this history recorded and I hope you will share your memories to help fill the gaps.
Much of the information I share below is pulled directly from the history of Mount Snow on our website. http://mountsnow.com/mount-snows-history/ Laurie Newton researched and wrote this history – thank you Laurie – it was a very big undertaking. I also used photos and stories shared by guests and the Mount Snow history archives which include photos, brochures, articles and files from my many predecessors, including Walt Schoenknecht. Speaking of Walt, let’s start with him.
1940’s – Walt first visits Mount Snow and has a vision.
According to an article in the West Hartford Patch http://westhartford.patch.com/groups/opinion/p/the-phenomenal-snowman-of-connecticut-walter-schoenkn1914750f3a, which ran in January 2012, Walt described his vision.
WHP: A seemingly tireless promoter of skiing, Schoenknecht soon turned his attention to southern Vermont, where he planned to create the world’s largest ski resort. Standing on the top of Mt. Pisgah in Dover, VT, in October of 1946, Schoenknecht realized he had found the place of his dreams:
I stood at the top of that mountain — Mt. Pisgah they called her then — and I looked all around me. I looked down at the snow at my feet — October snow 18 inches deep. I looked out over that broad and beautiful valley falling away below me. And most of all I looked far off into the future. And there, just waiting for me, I saw the ski resort of my dreams: it would be the largest in the world, it would be second to none, it would be absolutely fabulous.*
*Sports Illustrated—March 20, 1961 issue
May 1953 – The Land is Purchased and a Ski Area is Named
Farmer Reuben Snow, who owned land at the base of what is now Mount Snow, passes away (Reuben Snow purchased the land in 1925). Walt buys his land for $15,000 — $30 per acre, including his farmhouse (what is now the Snow Barn). Walt wrestles with what to call his ski area; Mount Pisgah doesn’t sound quite right. Then it comes to him – he’ll name it Mount Snow, after Reuben Snow.
I was able to find from multiple sources that the original parcel purchased was the 370 acre Reuben Snow farm. I was also able to find this was the first of several parcels so maybe it means the total amount he purchased was 500 acres.
1954 The first season of operation. The Mount Snow chronological history says the Reuben Snow house and barn converted to ski lodging (at this time called the Snow Farm.)
1958-59 Reuben Snow’s farmhouse has been transformed into the Snow Barn, a ski lodge that will later be the home base for a freestyle racing camp. The 1959 brochure calls it the “new unique Snow Barn, with 150 bed capacity – round hearth fireplace.”
1960 – A Lake Would be Nice
I need you to close your eyes and envision standing in front of the Snow Barn and looking towards the lake but all that is there is a brook. That is what Walt did but in his visions he dreamed of a lake and all he could do with that lake.
Sept 1960 – Walter receives permission from of the Water Conservation Board to construct a Dam on the North Branch of the Blue Brook, to impound 500,000 cubic feet of water (Snow Lake) for recreational and other purposes. Today it is referred to as the North Branch of Deerfield River. I am not sure when they started digging the lake, but I can guess it was probably the day after Walt received permission. Snow Lake was dug before Snow Lake Lodge was built.
What I find interesting is that many people think that Snow Lake was built to impound snowmaking water. However, according to history, it was for recreation purposes.
1962 – Snow Lake Lodge is Built
After three years of planning, Walt builds his dream hotel at the base of the mountain. The original four-story hotel is square-shaped, instead of its current rectangular shape; five rooms on each floor at the north end are added later. Walt enjoyed traveling, and when he saw something he liked, he brought the idea back with him. While in Japan, Walt saw Japanese Dream Pools – two soaking pools (one hot, one cold), with a waterfall surrounded by huge tropical plants. Walt installs Japanese Dream Pools in Snow Lake Lodge modeled after the ones he saw in Japan. Visitors would relax in the hot pool, then jump in the cold one or vice versa. There is now a giant hot tub which sits atop the floor of the original hot pool.
1964 – the Air Car
As iconic as the Japanese Dream Pools was the “Air Car,” a lift that transported guests from Snow Lake over to the ski area.
I went to chairlift.org to see if they had the type of lift listed and they did. Great site – I encourage you to check it out! http://www.chairlift.org/mtsnow.html According to chairlift.org the Air Car was an Aerial Tramway manufactured by Carlervaro Savio and was built in 1964. It held four people and there were 2 of these cars.
I am not sure when the air car was taken out. I started working here in 1985 and it was not here then but a few years later they made one of the cars into a play structure for the kids in childcare. There are some great photos and more history of the air car on chairlift.org Click on this link http://www.chairlift.org/mtsnow.html
January 18, 1965 – Snow Lake Erupts
Once again in his travels, Walt sees something he must have. In this case, it was the fountain that shoots out of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. From that seed, Fountain Mountain is born. Fountain Mountain, a 350-foot geyser, out of Snow Lake, is powered by twin Westinghouse 600-horsepower pumps that shoot 3,000 gallons of water per minute straight up through three Worthington centrifugal pumps. It was said to be the largest man-made geyser ever built. Governor Phil Hoff was on hand to launch Fountain Mountain.
During the winter, Fountain Mountain erupts 24/7 and as the water freezes, a giant ski hill is formed. The hill is large enough to hold races; a rope tow transports skiers to the top. Fountain Mountain lasts into the summer months and is the site for summer race camps in June. I believe those camps started around 1969.
Walt had many plans for Snow Lake and it was noted in the Mount Snow chronological history that “a new band shell will be built in the lake with an on-shore amphitheater, seating 5,000 persons. This new band shell will feature concerts along with elaborate dancing water programs. A highlight of the new lake will be its new boat less water skiing. Skiers will have their skis on, be handed their tow rope and at a signal from them be clicked into an overhead moving trolley and cable system which will run a special slalom course around the perimeter of the lake. Speed of this system can be varied for novice or experts. ” I was so lucky to find this hidden vision that was scratched on paper but never came to fruition. I am assuming there are thousands of others that Walt dreamed of along the way.
I wish the history of changes to Reuben Snow’s farmhouse were better documented. The transformation from farm to ski area has made so many people happy over the years but not everyone. I believe Reuben Snow’s brother, Leon, best sums it up in his letter below.
From’s Walt’s letter below we know that the farm house and barns became the ski lodge. The horse barn and carriage house became the large living room. Rocks from the barn yard became the round fireplace. The wood shed was converted into a dining room. There were eight bathrooms and the lodge slept about 120 people. I was able to find that in 1983 The Snow Barn become a night club.
In closing I will share an aerial photo that Jeff Rousin, our Snow Lake Lodge Manager, sent me. This photo encompasses all of the area I set out to discuss in this blog and provided me with a great game of, “That Was Then, This is Now.” I noticed the tennis courts. All three lodges behind Snow Lake Lodge (L to R: Inn at Mount Snow, Ironstone (no longer there) and Lodge at Mount Snow.) Notice the trees just planted on the dam that we had to remove a few years ago to be in compliance with our dam permit. Check out the Snow Barn before we eliminated many of its outcroppings and the pump house (this photo was taken after the installation of snowmaking.) And the air car was still there.
I have been working on this since last winter and was only able to piece together this much. History hunting is fascinating but time consuming. Your feedback is always appreciated.
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