A Brief History of Skiing in Brattleboro at Memorial Park Location
Part 1. 1937-1950’s
The primary people, with a far reaching vision of skiing, who got together in the early summer of 1937 and formed a plan to build and operate a ski tow in Brattleboro were Robert Billings, Elliot Barber, Floyd Messenger and John Dunham. These men, who were looking to the future, were prominent citizens in town.
On November 10, 1937, on the Charles Clark Farm, where the Living Memorial Park is now located, construction of the “Guilford Street Ski Tow” was begun in earnest. It was an 1100 foot rope tow that had its’ terminal building built up on two large timbers and located across the street from the William Cushman house which still stands today. IT was quite modern by any standards in that it had a fairly large electric motor for power that would easily handle 300 skiers per hour. When the rope reached the top it traveled around a three foot bull wheel and came back to the bottom riding on Model A Ford wheels fixed to the top of light poles about 16 feet high and 60 feet apart. At the end of the day the bottom rope that traveled along the ground pulling skiers to the top of the fill was lifted up by a ski patrol member and placed on the lower wheel about five feet off the ground so that it would not freeze to the ground.
It was planned to open the Guilford Street Ski Tow to the public in December that year; however, there was very little snow. While some old timers say they skied there in December, it is generally believed that these were the five prominent citizens and their families and friends along with prospective members of the soon to be organized Brattleboro Ski Patrol. The facility opened to the public the first Saturday in January 1938. An all day ticker cost 35 cents, after 1:00 p.m. the half-day ticket cost 25 cents. In 1939, lights were added, and the tow operated three nights each week and the ticket price was 25 cents. There were numerous promotions, such as four tickets for 75 cents.
After war was declared on December 8, 1941, there were many changes in the town. Members of the Vermont National Guard unit in Brattleboro left in mass, more that 200 at one time. Men were being drafted, and men and women were volunteering in considerable numbers. Of the four original men, only John Dunham remained behind, and with the help of Holland Douglas and several others the Ski Area continued to operate during the war.
The Brattleboro Ski Patrol was formed in January 1938. Some of the original members included Holland Douglas, “Ozzie” Stowell, Edward Dunklee, Dr. Richard Stevens, Bruce Buchanan, Madeline Messenger, “Benny” Zakauskas, Floyd Messenger and Clyde Benedict. This group functioned as an independent patrol until 1941, when it formally became affiliated with the National Ski Patrol System. Today the Brattleboro Ski Patrol is the second oldest, continuous NSPS Ski Patrol in the Easter Division. In 2001 the Brattleboro Ski Patrol celebrated 60 years of service within the National Ski Patrol System and 63 years as a ski patrol.
Our family lived just across the Creamery Bridge at 125 Western Avenue and from all the windows facing the avenue we had an excellent view of the ski area. My mother had a pair of Northland double groove skis and with those skis I had the good fortune to ski at the Guilford Street Ski Tow in 1938. After the tow closed for the day, I would shovel snow into the ruts, and then pack the towline with my skis. They paid me in lift tickets, which was fine with me.
Brattleboro Ski Patrol
Part 2. 1957-2001
It recently came to our attention, thanks to Nick Collins, that skiing at what is now Living Memorial Park, began back in the 30’s and was one of the first three ski areas in the US with a lift east of the Mississippi. Bus loads of skiers from Connecticut and New York would come on weekends to ski here. Some report up to a thousand people would be lined up for the winter sport.
In 1957 the current Dopplemeyer T-bar lift was installed and the town began running the operation. Due to undependable snowfall (and other factors) the town ceased operating the hill in 1995. A private group of citizens banded to re-open the hill in 1997, knowing there was no money from the town. We hated to see this treasure sit idle and fall apart.
We called our newly formed not-for-profit operation: Living Memorial Park Snow Sports, Inc.