Back when I researched the history of the North Face I started setting aside photos and news clips so I could do a similar blog on the summit. I have been working on it all winter and the more I dig, the more obsessed I become. I decided it was time to cut line and post the darn thing before the season ends (relax – that is not happening anytime soon.) To keep things organized I am presenting what I found in chronological order.
1954: According to notes from the Mount Snow News Bureau, in the summer of 1954 the first lifts were installed. These included lift #2, referred to as the Lodge Trail double chair tram (3,700 ft), the longest lift at the mountain (load in front of the Main Base and unload at Somerset Rd.) The upper rope tow was also installed. The rope tow was 1200 ft and brought skiers almost to the summit. So in that first year, there was ALMOST summit access.
1955: In the second building season, summer of 1955, the longest lift in the East was installed – lift #3, the Upper Canyon Double Ramsey chair tram (4,040 feet) and this lift went to the summit. This enabled skiers to take lift #2 to Somerset Rd and lift #3 to reach the summit, over a trail that you could not ski down, known today as Choke and Drifter. #3 chair loaded around the top of today’s Canyon Express and unloaded where the Bluebird Express ends now. It is also during the summer of 1955 they extended all existing trails up to the summit.
An excellent source, that helped me with my research is http://chairlift.org/ Many of the descriptions and photos below are from the chairlift.org website. If you like ski history, visit this site!
- The first chair, #3 Ramsey, to reach Mount Snow’s summit. Low to the ground probably helped with wind but there was no skiing under this chair. Appreciate the view without any development – breath taking.
1956: In the summer of 1956, construction began as soon as the season closed on May 7th!!! They were very busy adding the trail South Bowl (then the widest summit slope in the East (1,000 ft wide) and they described it as a gigantic engineering and construction task, running from the 3600′ elevation at the summit to the Somerset Road trail at 2,600′. They also built Deer Run (called Long John today) a four-mile novice trail from the summit into the Beaver Hill. Hmmm – we refer to that as our 2 ½ mile novice trail. Did we lose a mile and a half in 60 years?? They also constructed a two-story summit lodge, a fantasy of glass, timber and stone with sundecks and observation deck. A fantasy of glass? I can almost hear Walt Schoenknecht dictating that description!
Photo above of the Summit Lodge from chairlift.org by Donald Cosgrove.
1957: During the summer of 1957, the 3rd floor of the summit lodge and glass enclosed sundeck was built. It was also noted that the summit lodge was the recipient of interior décor. The summit lodge had a snack bar and large fireplace and matched the architecture of the base lodge. Now the summit lodge was complete.
1957: Jaws of Death trail was cut on the North Face and Mount Snow started development for 6 planned trails on that face.
1958: Summer of 1958 installed the South Bowl #6 double chair lift, 4,800 ft. You would load this lift around the intersection of Somerset Rd and Exhibition and unload where the Grand Summit Express unloads today. This gave skiers two chairs to the summit. In the amazing picture below you can see chair #6 on the left and chair #3 on the right. Imagine when the skis-on-gondola was installed, there were 3 chairs accessing the summit. Chair #6 was dismantled several years after the gondola was put in because it saw little use.
1959: Summer of 59 – construction of the new expert areas, North Face, including new trail system: Jaws of Death, PDF and Fallen Timbers – all trails with average grade of 26-34’. I believe that you would be towed out of the North Face by a grooming machine as a lift was not installed until 1963. So this means you would take Lift #2 and then lift #3 to the summit, take your run down the North Face and then hike out or be pulled out by a snow cat or rope-tow. It was referred to as a one and a half hour loop and I can see why!
1960: Summer of 60 – Installed # 7 Sundance Lift (7600’), a Carlervaro and Savio double chairlift took passengers from the base of the Sundance Lodge to the same spot where the Sundance Triple (lift #7) unloads today (top of Shoot out.) Not quite the summit but pretty close.
1963: Opened the North Face double chairlift, #10, a 4,500’ Carlevaro & Savio telecabine double, which followed the same path that the Outpost lift follows today. The North Face featured six trails including the super-steep “Slalom Glade” (now Ripcord). This chair was the only chair on the North Face until 1982 when the Challenger triple was installed parallel to it. The Lift #10 chair evolved over the years. The original North Face double received a Yan drive in 1982. In 1985 it received a Yan return. Finally in 1987 new CTEC towers were erected and triple chairs hung. The lift became the North Face Triple and today it is called the Outpost and is still #10.
1964: Installed Gondola 1 or G1 (Carlevaro & Savio) – Billed as “Vermont’s Only Skis On Gondola.” Clam shell like covers wrapped around skiers in detachable double chairs keeping them warm on the long trip from base to summit. This lift became Mount Snow’s signature lift until 1986. It was disassembled due to a mechanical failure and was replaced the next season by the Yankee Clipper Quad (Grand Summit Express). The old G1 terminal building (where you loaded onto the Gondola) is now the lift/rescue building. FYI: G2, another skis on gondola that you loaded in the base and unloaded at the top of Ego Alley also had its terminal building relocated and now it is the Clocktower building. I found this interesting observation on chairlift.org: PHB/Hall tripod towers were probably added around 1972 to lower the profile of the lift for wind protection (shown in photo below).
1969: On the Mount Snow history timeline we record the date that the summit lodge burnt down as January 9, 1969. I was talking to John Christie, the General Manager at the time, and he remembered a different date. So I called the Deerfield Valley News and Mike Eldred was kind enough to dig back to the old newspapers and find the article. The publish date was 1/23/69 (a Thursday) and the story says, “an early-morning fire last Sunday…” which would be January 19th. So I believe, we are going to have to update our timeline! Anyway, the stories are similar.
Early one morning after a foggy night a group of Mount Snow employees head up the mountain, which is still enshrouded in fog. As they get above the fog, they are shocked to see the Summit Lodge, charred and smoldering. An overnight fire, not seen because of the low cloud cover, consumed the Lodge.
The Valley News reported that 80% of the summit building was destroyed, with another smaller blaze starting in an adjacent chairlift terminal. Shovels of snow thrown on by Sonny Whitney extinguished the second blaze.
I am not sure when the lodge was replaced but John Christie remembered going a few years without a lodge at the summit. What year was this lodge built? Around 1971? Please share the date if you know.
Mount Snow received their Act 250 permitting to increase the size of the Summit Lodge in 1982. I assume that construction was done in the summer of 1982. They used the existing lodge (pictured above) and added on to construct the lodge we use today. I snapped this photo of our current summit lodge recently. Can you figure out how they added on? Hint: Look at the roof line of the 1st picture.
1978: Summit Triple #17 (Yan) built to supplement the original summit gondola. This lift was disassembled in the winter of 2011 and was replaced during the summer of 2012 by the Leitner – Poma 6-pack detachable bubble chair and named the Bluebird Express. Both are lift #17.
1982: Challenger Triple #18 (Yan) – This chair was added in 1982 to supplement the original North Face Double.
1987: Yankee Clipper Quad (#11) a high speed, detachable, Yan chair is installed and follows the line of the former summit gondola. Around 1997 the quad received its first rebuild by Poma and was renamed the Summit Express. After the Grand Summit Hotel was built the quad received another name change to Grand Summit Express and at the same time the Summit Triple was named the Summit Local. The lift has undergone additional upgrades by Poma since then. When first modified the summit terminal looked like the base terminal with no glass top. The chair was upgraded a second time to increase capacity and the glass top was added to the summit terminal. In 2011, at the same time as the Bluebird Express was being built, the Grand Summit Express received new Leitner-Poma chairs (with foot rests!!!) and a cover for the base terminal.
The more I learned about the early years of our summit and Walt Schoenknecht’s ideas, the more I wish I could have known him and worked for him. I can easily picture myself agreeing to every idea he threw out, be it good, bad or crazy. I guess I just wish I had the opportunity to be a part of all those early year memories that Walt helped to create for so many.
I’m digging (literally) Mount Snow’s history and I will work on another segment to share this summer. Parting thought: Boy, do we love to change the names of things. While I am in this seat, I will try to do less of that. Parting shot:
- The view unique to Mount Snow’s summit.
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