Mount Snow’s History
The History of Mount Snow – 57 years and counting!
The History of Mount Snow is a long and storied one that includes numerous wacky and crazy events that took place over our 50+ years of skiing and riding in Southern Vermont. One of the very first ski resorts on the East Coast, Mount Snow is continuing to define the ski industry even today. Below is a timeline of events and photography that we feel are significant facts within our history.
October, 1949 – A Vision
Walter Schoenknecht, 30, an ex-Marine who has founded Mohawk Mountain in Cornwall, Connecticut, stands atop Mount Pisgah (now Mount Snow). He has been searching for a spot to build his ski area. As he stands in 12-18” of fresh snow left by an early autumn storm and surveys the land around him, he decides that someday, this is the spot where he will build his ski area.
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. Walt buys his land 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.
November 14, 1954 – The First Skier Descends Mount Snow
Pat Danahy, from Boston, hears about this new ski area soon to open. After a Saturday night snowfall leaves behind 8” of fresh snow, he decides to check it out. He hikes up to the first pitch near the current Standard trail where workers are still laying cable for lift #2. He makes a few turns and is met at the bottom by two men; one, a tall, lanky man with a crew-cut. “Where are you from?” the man asks Pat. “Boston,” Pat replies. At this response, the tall man is visibly excited. Turning to his companion, he exclaims: “I told you they would come!” Pat later learns the tall man is none other than Walt Schoenknecht. And on this date Pat begins a 50-year relationship with Mount Snow.
December 12, 1954 – Mount Snow Opens
Walt’s dream becomes a reality as Mount Snow opens with 2 chairlifts, 2 rope tows, 7 trails (Beaver Hill, Beaver Tail, Mixing Bowl, Lodge, Ledges, Canyon and Overbrook) and a base lodge. Mount Snow’s first lift – Little Beaver, #1 – is revolutionary for its time. A mono-rail lift, it ran from a series of conveyor belts. In the day when single chairs provided about 250 rides per hour and doubles were at 600 or less, Little Beaver transported an astounding 1200 skiers per hour.
Winter 1958-59 – More Skiing. . . and Swimming?
In just four years, Walt’s endless energy has transformed Mount Snow into the Playground of the East. The trail count now stands at 32, including Jaws of Death – the first trail on the North Face. A three-story summit lodge with a glass-enclosed sundeck sits atop the mountain. At the base, the first outdoor swimming pool east of Sun Valley opens, with the water temperature a toasty 100 degrees. Meanwhile inside the base lodge a skating rink offers skiers another diversion. 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.
November 1960 – The World’s Largest Ski Area
With the development of the Sundance area, the Boston Globe calls Mount Snow “The World’s Largest Ski Area.” Lift tickets cost $6.50 for 35 trails. Meanwhile next door, Austrian Walter Stugger, who was the first certified ski instructor at Mount Snow, opens Carinthia Ski Area.
1962 – Snow Lake Lodge is Built
After three years of planning, Walt builds his dream hotel at the base of the mountain. A man-made lake is dug out, which will be the future site for snowmaking water storage. 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.
1963 – North Face Lift Opens & Mount Snow Survives a Bomb Scare
With the opening of the North Face double chairlift, skiers no longer have an hour wait between runs. The North Face features six trails including the super-steep “Slalom Glade” (now Ripcord). That same year, Walt commissions the Atomic Energy Commission to explode an underground nuclear bomb to create a bowl for skiing and add more vertical feet. Fortunately, wiser heads at the AEC prevail and Walt’s request is denied.
1964 – First Skis-On Gondola and Air Car
Mount Snow continues to be the ski industry leader with the introduction of the first skis-on gondola to the summit. These brightly colored cabins, which resemble eggs, allow skiers to keep their skis on yet at the same time be shielded from the weather. A second gondola is added six years later at the site of the current Ego Alley triple chair (the gondola top terminal is still in existence). Years later when theses gondolas are replaced, their base terminals are put to good use: the G-1 terminal, next to the Discovery Learning area, houses the lift and rescue departments; the G-2 terminal, now the Clocktower Building, houses rentals, child care, guest services, season pass office and administrative offices.
The gondola isn’t the only unique lift Walt adds that year. The space-age air car transports skiers from Snow Lake Lodge across the lake to the base of the mountain. Two cars are on each cable; each car holds six passengers.
January 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 two 600-horsepower pumps that circulate 10,000 gallons of water (30 tons) per minute. 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.
January 1969 – Lifts Receive Bubbles
To keep skiers warm in the winter but enable them to enjoy thefresh air on spring days, Walt installs “bubbles” on certain chairlifts. The Plexiglas bubble covers the chair, but on warm days the skier can open the bubble by raising it back. The old Standard lift was the first to receive bubbles; later Sundance and the old Canyon double follow suit. While a good idea at the time, it was found these bubbles made the chair highly susceptible to wind and the bubbles were later removed.
January 9, 1969 – Summit Lodge Burns
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, has consumed the Lodge.
January 1970 – The Sunny Side Opens
With the opening of the Sunbrook Area, Mount Snow boasted 44 trails spread over three mountain areas. Walt has cut trails that are revolutionary – wide swaths, such as South Bowl and Sundance, when narrow tree-lined runs are the norm. Twenty years later, these “super trails” as they are called, are the latest trend at ski areas.
1971-76 – Tough Times
After prospering in the 50s and 60s, a four-year snow draught, the oil crisis and subsequent price increases take their toll on Mount Snow. The resort goes through a series of mergers, but in 1975, must file for bankruptcy under Chapter 11. The First Wisconsin Bank owns Mount Snow.
August 8, 1977 – A New Era
Meanwhile up north, another ski area is making great strides. In 1977, Preston Smith, owner and founder of Killington Resort, purchases Mount Snow.
1977-82 – The Mountain Is Back
In the five years since Mount Snow was purchased by Killington, skiers see improvement in almost every facet of the operation. Triple chairs are installed on the Main Mountain and North Face, boosting lift capacity by 58%. Snowmaking is added to almost 30 trails increasing coverage from 7% to 52% of the mountain. By 1985, snowmaking will blanket 78% of the mountain. A new Summit Lodge is built in 1982, replacing the Lodge that was built right after the fire of 1969.
April 28, 1986 – Mount Snow’s Boundaries Grow
Once again Mount Snow grows, this time by acquiring neighboring Carinthia Ski Area with its 14 trails, 3 lifts and base lodge. Four short connecting trails join Mount Snow to Carinthia, and to skiers it seems like Carinthia was always part of Mount Snow.
October 1987 – Legendary Founder Walt Schoenknecht Passes Away
At the age of 68, Mount Snow’s energetic founder, who is often compared to Walt Disney, passes away. Walt’s many accolades include the 1978 Sherman Adams Award, which is annually presented to an individual from the East who has significantly contributed to the ski industry. He was inducted into the National Ski Hall of Fame in 1987.
1987-88 – More Space, Fast Lift
A new base lodge addition, which extends over the site of the outdoor pool, increases space by 33% and includes the Midstation Bar, deck and food outlet. The Yankee Clipper Quad (now the Grand Summit Express) cuts travel time to the summit from 16 to 8 minutes, and increases summit lift capacity by 46%.
1990 – Sunbrook Expands
Sunbrook gets six new trails, a quad chairlift and snowmaking. On March 3, 1991, the Sunbrook trail “Thanks Walt” is dedicated, in memory of Mount Snow’s extraordinary founder.
1991 – Haystack Joins Mount Snow
Haystack Mountain, which opened for skiing in 1964, files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Mount Snow signs a three-year lease to operate the mountain; the two resorts are connected via a shuttle bus.
1992 – Un Blanco Gulch
The first snowboard park in the East is established at Mount Snow. Named by snowboarders themselves, Un Blanco Gulch features jumps, a half-pipe, quarter hits, spines, wedges, banked turns and a buried van.
1993-94 – Killington & Mount Snow Unite
For the first time, Mount Snow and Killington offer an interchangeable lift ticket. Skiers and snowboarders now have access to 282 trails on one lift ticket.
1994 – The Stack is Added to the Family
After a three-year trial, Mount Snow purchases Haystack Ski Area, including the base lodges. A three-mile-long underground water line connects the Haystack and Mount Snow snowmaking systems, increasing the snowmaking firepower at Mount Snow by 40%.
December 12, 1994 – Mount Snow Turns 40
Mount Snow celebrates its 40th birthday with season-long activities including an exhibit of vintage photographs and memorabilia and “Tales from the Mountain,” a 30-minute video of Mount Snow’s history. On December 12, lift tickets are $19.54 to celebrate Mount Snow’s birthday.
1995-97 S-K-I, American Skiing Company and Mount Snow Grow
In 1995, S-K-I, which includes Mount Snow, Haystack, and Killington, purchases Sugarloaf in Maine, Waterville Valley in New Hampshire and enters into an agreement with Bromley in Vermont. Lift tickets and season passes are good at all six resorts. A year later, the American Skiing Company, which includes Sunday River in Maine, Attitash and Mount Cranmore in New Hampshire, and Sugarbush in Vermont, acquires the assets of S-K-I (Waterville Valley and Cranmore were sold shortly thereafter). Mount Snow hand-clears terrain and opens tree skiing and riding for the first time in 1995.
February 23, 1998 – The Grand Summit Resort Hotel Opens
Mount Snow’s new Grand Summit Hotel and Conference Center opens to the public. The remainder of the hotel opens a few months later. Mount Snow comes full circle as the hotel once again offers a heated outdoor pool and jacuzzi open 365 days a year. The Grand Summit Hotel also includes a health club and spa, owners locker room, restaurant and bar, deli, sport shop and 15,000 square feet of conference and meeting space.
1998-99 — $5.2 Million in Facilities and Terrain Invested
Mount Snow revolutionizes learn-to ski and snowboard programs with the construction of the Discovery Learning Area. It consists of the brand new Discovery Center, a three-story 20,000-square-foot lodge with its own welcome and registration area, equipment rentals, snack service and theatre.
March 1999 – Pat’s Pitch is Named
A new expert trail, Pat’s Pitch, is named after the first person to ever ski Mount Snow. Pat Danahy himself cuts the ribbon and skis the trail followed by dozens of ski patrolers and mountain personnel.
Feb. 3-6, 2000 – The X Games at Mount Snow
Mount Snow hosts the 4th Annual ESPN Winter X Games at Mount Snow. More than 350 international athletes compete in 10 events. The Games shatter previous attendance records, attracting 83,500 people and outdrawing all other Winter X Games combined. The Games are broadcast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC, and worldwide reach more than 20 million viewers in 140 countries.
Feb. 1-4, 2001 – The X Games Return
The successful ESPN Winter X Games return to Mount Snow, this year drawing 85,100 spectators. Danny Kass wins gold in men’s Superpipe; Ross Powers takes the bronze.
February 10, 2002 – Mount Snow’s Clark Goes Gold
At 18 years old, Mount Snow’s own Kelly Clark wins the first American gold medal of the XIX Olympic Games in Salt Lake City in women’s half-pipe. In second place going into her final run, she skies above the lip of the halfpipe far above her competitors, and then nails a “McTwist” – a 540-degree inverted spin – and a 720, earning her the gold medal. Kelly is an ’01 graduate of the Mount Snow Academy and the first athlete ever from Mount Snow to win an Olympic medal.
December 12, 2004 – Mount Snow Turns 50
As Mount Snow enters the half-century mark, many special events and activities are planned to celebrate her birthday, including celebrating each decade of Mount Snow’s existence.
December 13, 2005 – Kelly Pawlak named Managing Director
American Skiing Company today named long time employee Kelly Pawlak Managing Director of its Mount Snow resort in Vermont. Pawlak brings 20 years of ski resort industry experience to the Managing Director position, and is the first woman to head an American Skiing Company resort.
June 16, 2006 – Mount Snow to Host USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships
Mount Snow announces that it will host the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships July 19-22, 2007. This will be the largest event of its kind in the U.S. and will decide the nation’s best in several categories and disciplines.
April 5, 2007 – Mount Snow Joins the Peak Resorts Family
The $73.5 million sale of Mount Snow and Attitash from American Ski Company toPeak Resorts is completed. The new owners’ first official act is to give the go ahead to Mount Snow’s request to re-open the mountain for a “bonus weekend” due to the great late season conditions. Skiers and riders rejoiced. A day later, the new Nor’easter season pass is introduced, providing unrestricted access to Mount Snow, Attitash, Crotched Mountain and Jack Frost/Big Boulder.
Summer 2007 – The $6 Million Dollar Summer
Peak Resorts wastes little time putting their stamp on their new acquisition, spending $6 million in time for Winter 2007-08. Changes include a $3.5 million investment in energy-efficient snowmaking technology, giving Mount Snow the most fan guns of any resort in New England. In addition, every building in the base area is refreshed with new carpeting, tile, and interior and exterior paint and other improvements – including a new clockface in the Clocktower!
Summer 2008 – $5 Million More in Snowmaking & a New Carinthia is Born.
With the rising diesel prices Peak Resorts invests in 150 more state of the art snowmaking fan guns bringing the total up to 251 and giving Mount Snow the largest fan gun fleet in North America. Mount Snow also announces that Carinthia mountain face will become the only New England mountain face dedicated entirely to freestyle terrain parks with 12 parks, a new mini-halfpipe, learning area, a redesigned base lodge complete with a lounge, expanded deck and a skate ramp. Carinthia will also be the only East Coast stop for the inaugural Dew Winter Action Sports Tour in January of 2009.
January 7 – 10, 2009 – 25,000 Fans Experience the First Ever Winter Dew Tour
The Winter Dew Tour makes its first ever stop at Mount Snow and the mountain is blessed with incredible weather and amazing storylines. The first ever live event filmed at Mount Snow millions of fans around the world watched live on NBC a signature pro field including Olympic medalists Shaun White, Hannah Teter, and Mount Snow’s own Kelly Clark compete in superpipe and slopestyle competitions at the new Carinthia. Clark earns gold in a Vermont sweep of the female superpipe compeition. The mountain receives snow every night and the competition venues are raved about by athletes.
Summer 2009 – The Summer of the Festival
Mount Snow hosts the first ever Vermont Blues Festival at the resort with headliners Mavis Staples, Elvin Bishop, and Shemika Copeland gracing the stages. While the weather wasn’t to write home about (rain all three days) the performances were phenominal and the Vermont Blues Festival is born. Two weeks later the 15th Annual Mount Snow Brewers Festival is the largest ever with over 5,000 guests in attendance making it one of the largest (if not the largest) in the state!
Winter 2009-2010 – Winter Dew Tour Returns for the Toyota Championships
The weekend before the Winter Olympics start the snowboarding and freesking world converge on Carinthia again for the Winter Dew Tour. This year Mount Snow is host to the Toyota Championships the final stop of the tour.
Mount Snow replaces the Summit Local triple chair lift with a new Leitner Poma high-speed detachable six-passenger bubble chairlift. The “six pack” chairlift, dubbed The Bluebird Express, is first of its kind on the East coast and demonstrates Mount Snow’s commitment to providing the best experience possible for their guests.