photo credit: Harriet Wallis

Quick. Look over there. Do you see what I see?”

The fog was as heavy as a wet blanket. I’d already been driving for 3 hours and most of it was in the pea soup as I headed north up the Connecticut River Valley. High beams were too much. Low beams weren’t enough. Just stay on the road.

Destination: Killington, Vermont.

We left home in Connecticut in the middle of the night with the intention of being first on Killington’s slopes. It was the late 1970s, and Killington was the only New England ski area that was open – on just a few trails on the top of the mountain. We’d have to ride several chairlifts to get to those trails. We built in extra time for that, but we hadn’t expected heavy fog and slow travel.

It was the first Thanksgiving that I was a divorced mom. The three of us – Craig, 12; Alison, 10; and I – agreed that it wouldn’t be any fun sitting around a turkey by ourselves, so we decided to start a new Thanksgiving tradition. Let’s go skiing!

That’s where we were heading. It was vaguely becoming daylight as I left the fog-bound interstate and headed north on 2-lane roads toward Killington. Fog was thinning a bit, but I still had a white-knuckle clench on the wheel. I was beginning to wonder if we’d get to Killington in time to make the long drive worth it.


Waves of fog continued. Horses looked over pasture fences and exhaled plumes of frosty breath. Little farm houses appeared ghostly and then quickly dissolved away. The images were magical, but we wanted to get to the slopes.

Just beyond Ludlow, the wispy curtains of fog opened for a moment and we saw snow guns blasting snow at Okemo.

Quick. Look over there. They’re making snow!”

It was still another hour to Killington, but I needed a break. I drove to Okemo and we took a look. Snow guns were pounding the beginner slope – and skiing was free for anyone who dared to ski it.

Skip Killington. We’re here. Let’s ski Okemo’s beginner slope. The price was right and the drive was over. The snow guns turned us into frosted doughnuts on every run. We crinkled from our wool hats to our ski boots, and we had to chip the ice off each other after every run. But we’d started our new ski on Thanksgiving tradition.


  1. Alison Wallis Rabinoff says:

    I love this story. I remember it being so fun and unexpected. Who cares that there Was only on run open!

  2. Great story from the early days of snowmaking. Many of us searched for the Ski Areas open at Thanksgiving. We made a 10 year tradition of going to Gray Rocks in Canada. For 2 of those years Mt Tremblant was open so we had a bonus day there.

    • Wow !
      Yes Gray Rocks had the first snow making in the Laurentian mountains, near Mont Tremblant
      I taught at Gray Rocks in the early 1960’s , with Real Charette, and now live there in Lac Tremblant Nord.
      Many American tabloids back then gave it the nick name, the University of Gray Rocks.

  3. It was Thanksgiving 1958. I was new to Long Island and could not find I restaurant open and went hungry that day. The next year a friend and I started a tradition of going skiing for Thanksgiving.

  4. Richard Kavey says:

    Wonderful Thanksgiving day ski story! Including the fun (hah) of skiing through active snowmaking.

  5. 1990, after 2 days of long lift lines at Killington, in part due to limited ski area opened, two of us felt our legs could take one more day. Off to Okemo we went. Shorter lift lines were welcome. I also recall the evergreens. I decided to try following in the tracks of my expert ski instructor friend and, unable to negotiate the fast GS curve, found myself underneath one snowy Christmas tree, inhaling the smell of pines!

  6. Edit, please Add before 1990, “Thanksgiving, 1990…”


    Loved your story. Skied Killington beginning the Monday after Thanksgiving for years. And Okemo? A favorite for early season skiing as well. An on- the-way-home choice! Thanks for sharing!!

  8. Great history

  9. Alicia Schilder says:

    Great story Harriet! I bet Craig and Allison remember it as well! Thanks for sharing.

  10. Thomas Williams says:

    Great Story. Taught all my children to ski at Okemo!!
    For us the tradition was NewYears!!
    Living on Long Island, Okemo is still a family favorite
    Thanks for sharing

  11. Russ Lacoste says:

    In the 60’s I told everyone that Okemo was native American for broken poma or tear lift.

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