Early New England Tows We Still Miss.

Susan, second left, with her family in the late 50s.  Note chic attire.  Dad has spats; Susan's in a loden coat and white jeans.
Susan, second left, with her family in the late 50s. Note chic attire. Dad has spats; Susan’s in a loden coat and white jeans.

I’ve been skiing for 65 years, grown and raised in Concord MA.  I made my first turns on Punkatasset Hill, a no-lift neighborhood ski hill. That’s where I side-stepped to the top to pack the snow before picking my way down through the labyrinth of slalom poles my dad had set for me and many other local kids.  In the late 1920s, the Norwegian National Team used the jump at the short, steep hill for practice.

When I was seven or eight, Dad took me to Suicide Six in Woodstock, VT, where going up meant tackling a big, ferocious rope tow. Standing in line, I prayed that no one tall would step in behind me; I hoped that the person in front would hold on tight, lift the rope off the snow and stay in the track. Garnering all my courage, I’d try to grab the rope quickly, one hand in front and the other wrapped behind my back – ski poles dangling from each wrist. When I first caught hold of the tow, clutching hard with my leading hand, my arm felt as if it had been jerked out of its socket. If no one was in front of me, I was dragged along the snow, squatting in order to keep my body over my skis. If, as I had

Rope Tow at Woodstock, VT. Credit: New England Ski Museum
Rope Tow at Woodstock, VT. Credit: New England Ski Museum

dreaded, a taller person loaded on the tow behind me, I was lifted off the track into the air, hanging from the rope all the way to the top. When a skier in front lifted the weight of the monstrous rope for me, I was happy until that person unloaded and dropped the rope to ski off, leaving me again dragging along the track, hands soaking in my leather mittens and determined to make it to the top.

But the worst menace of all were the teenage boys. I quivered when one of them was up front for I knew what they did for fun. When dismounting, those boys deliberately snapped the tow as hard as they could, sending rippling waves of rope down the track. Yanked up and down, I was soon dislodged. Skiing down the hill covered in snow and disgrace, I slid to the bottom to get in line and start the ascent all over again.

I miss the old T-bar which took me to the top of Cannon Mountain in Franconia, NH. It was magically quiet gliding up through the hoar-frosted evergreens with the sun shimmering off the clear ice which encased the very tops of the

T-Bar at Black Mountain, NH.  Credit: New England Ski Museum
T-Bar at Black Mountain, NH.
Credit: New England Ski Museum

trees. Of course, it was uncomfortable when my side of the T-bar was in the middle of my back with my father riding beside me, struggling to help me, leaning down to hold his side of the bar behind his knees. What a relief when I was old enough to ride the lift with kids my own height or go up on my own holding the T-bar out in front of me, making “S turns” in and out of the track. I danced the whole way to the top.

And then there was Burke, in the “Northeast Kingdom” of Vermont that had a Poma lift running from the bottom to the very top of the Mountain. Here, I bumped off the growing mounds of snow which got larger with every run until I catapulted right to the top of the spring, hurled high into the air – boing, boing, boing.  Going up was half the fun.

For more about Suicide Six’s 75th Anniversary.

For more about Gunstock’s old Rope Tow, another favorite.

 

 

Susan Winthrop is a long-time skier with memories of the sport extending back more than seven decades.  A contributor to SeniorsSkiing.com, she currently lives in Ipswich, MA, enthusiastically skiing in and around New England whenever she can.

Suicide Six also had a Poma lift Credit: New England Ski Museum
Suicide Six also had a Poma lift
Credit: New England Ski Museum

 

Special Thanks to the New England Ski Museum, Franconia, NH.

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Grant Winthrop says:

    Wow! Does this ever evoke memories. I can so well remember having all the experiences and feelings and frustrations and joys you wrote about. This story is also so well written. Well done, Susie.

    Grant

  2. Avatar John Hartigan says:

    When “I was a lad” we could earn a free pass if we packed snow (side stepping up the hill) for a couple of hours.

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