Long-Time Ski Patroller Remembers How Lift Blankets Made Mischief.

Long ago, lift blankets and fur coats kept you warm. Here Mad River GM Ken Quakenbush checks tickets on the single chair. Credit: Mad River Glen
There was a time lift blankets and fur coats kept you warm on chilly days. Here Mad River GM Ken Quakenbush checks tickets on the single chair, circa 1953.
Credit: Mad River Glen

Remember the good old days when we did not have high tech fabrics, boot heaters, hand warmers, and lots of layers to keep us warm as we rode up the single chair lift in our wooden skis with screwed on steel edges and Dovre safety bindings. The lift could be a very cold, one-mile long ride.

At Mad River Glen and other resorts (I remember Stowe), we would pick up a wool poncho type blanket off the rack, slip it over our head, and try to not get it twisted as we loaded the lift. The blankets are no longer there, but the single chair is.

We would then hide under it on the way up the lift. And for a small kid, we also had to worry about not tripping on it when we got off.

I joined the patrol at Mad River in 1962 and still remember those blankets being in use. The lifties at the top would bundle up three or four and try to slam them across the arm of the chair so they would stay there until they were removed at the bottom. On windy days, the occasional bundle would be lifted off the chair, separate into individual blankets and gracefully descend onto the trail below. And, if it was particularly gusty, one or more would end up in a tree anywhere from 10 to 30 feet off the ground.

One of the duties of the patrol was to regularly to ski the lift line and pick up the blankets that had blown off the chairs on the trip down the hill.

This was in the days before the entire lift line was designated trails. On the top of the lift line above mid-station (remember the old 1/3 tickets they gave out if you got off there), picking up blankets on the Chute was relatively straight-forward. We would pick up two or three, roll them into a bundle, and heave them underhanded up to some willing customer in a chair. Of course, this provided great entertainment to the other customers on the lift as many of the throws and catches were not major league quality.

And, if we were in an area that was too high to toss them, we would end up wearing them, sometimes up to five or six. We looked and skied like a gray version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy.

Much of the lift line from mid-station down was not legitimately skiable terrain. So only the hardy patrollers ventured into that territory to retrieve blankets. And as the lift was rather high off of the ground, this usually entailed wearing them down over the cliffs and through the underbrush, again to provide entertainment for the customers. There are great stories of tumbles down the steep faces, and blankets getting tangled up and tripping the patroller.

Fifty years later, former GM Ken Quakenbush rides the restored single, blanket and all. Credit: Mad River Glen
Former GM Ken Quakenbush takes the last ride up the single chair at Mad River before it was restored in 2007.  Credit: Mad River Glen

3 Comments

  1. Avatar Bruce Sherman age:85...still truckin! says:

    25 below zero and wind on Mansfield…a two poncho day! We’re a just a little nuts…wearing everything in our ski bag and then some. But, we didn’t drive over 300 miles Fri. Nite to sleep late. Ah…youth.

  2. Avatar Susan Winthrop says:

    In the photo above, there’s a woman in a fur coat. I used to wear my father’s raccoon coat when going up the lift, then I’d hand it to the attendant after getting off at the top. When I got in line at the bottom there would be a pile of coats on the railing. I would sort through all the furs to find mine and put it on for the next ride up.

  3. Avatar Lee Hall Delfausse says:

    Great memories. At times there were not enough blankets which made for a very cold ride for a ten year old. Of course, that was when you could buy single ride ticket for 50 cents.

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