This Wonderful Family Area Is Simply Out Of Money.

[Editor Note: According to the Westfield News, Springfield Ski Club’s members will be meeting on July 18 to approve the sale of assets to the owners of Ski Butternut. If two thirds of the total membership do not specifically vote yes, the ski area will close.]

Volunteers kept Blandford going and gave the small area a community feel.
Credit: New England Ski Industry

The website says: “May 28, 2017 – Ski Blandford Financially Insolvent. Could Be Sold or Closed.” The Board of Directors and the skiers are on the brink of making a gut wrenching decision soon about their ski area that’s been going for 81 years.

Harriet visited Blandford on a recent visit, finding a welcoming sign at the base lodge.
Credit: Harriet Wallis

As background, recreational skiing spiked after WWII when 10th Mountain Division veterans returned and inspired city folk to take up skiing.

But before that, in the 20s and 30s, hardy skiers skinned up mountains, built primitive lifts and were already into downhill skiing.

And so it was for the Springfield Ski Club. In 1936 it got permission to build a ski slope on a hilly farm in southern Massachusetts. It installed a 1,000 foot long rope tow and used a nearby schoolhouse as a warming hut. A few years later the club bought the land and named it Blandford Ski Area.

Today, about 60 ski areas that started before WWII are still in operation, according to data collected by New England Ski Museum Director Jeff Leich.

But it hasn’t been easy for this small, family-oriented ski area. Modernization from rope tows to chairlifts was costly. Updating to snowmaking was a necessity. But then, interstate highways whisked skiers past Blandford to bigger, destination resorts.

But Blandford—with its 450 feet of elevation, three chairlifts, snowmaking and night skiing—held on while other small ski areas in southern Massachusetts closed. Skiers simply love Blandford.

And they put in countless hours of volunteer work to keep the area ship shape. Work parties painted the picnic tables. And they walked up the slopes picking up stones pushed up by frost and tossed them into the woods so in winter they could ski on a minimal snow base.

During the 1960s and 70s, membership was capped at 5,000, and there was a waiting list to join. My family of four were all novice skiers, and we jumped at the opportunity to join when an opening occurred..

From that humble beginning at the small ski area, we all grew to love the sport. And we progressed to become instructors and ski patrol.

Blandford got us started in the right way. It inspired us with skiing. And it offered family values and great camaraderie with other families.

However, membership slowly dwindled over the years and dropped to just 1,426 in the 2014-15 season. Fickle weather and the economics of operation began to out weigh the camaraderie and the inspiration,

Blandford, like other small ski areas, is a grass roots feeder area that launches skiers into the sport. It’s sad that we might lose this icon of the ski industry. For a closer look, click here for the Ski Blanford site.

To read more from Harriet click here for her stories on SkiUtah.

Small areas like Blandford are where families grow up loving skiing.
Credit: Ski Blandford

One Comment

  1. Don Burch says:

    Hi Harriet
    Thank you for writing the two articles about Blandford. These small areas never receive the credit they deserve for their contributions to skiing. It is at these areas that so many people first started skiing. I learned to ski at nearby Otis Ridge and my children at Blandford. I hope the sale to Ski Butternut goes through.

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