(With a winter storm bearing down on much of the region, it seems like a good day to dip into the archives of our old site for this article on lost ski areas.)
As the birthplace of American ski culture, New England was once home to hundreds of ski areas that are now gone. But Jeremy Davis is making sure they are not forgotten.
Davis created the New England Lost Ski Areas Project in 1998 to record the history of the many ski areas that have long ago closed-up shop. Since then, he has chronicled more than 580 lost ski areas in New England.
His passion started as a teenager, when he collected postcards, brochures and articles about lost ski areas. He then started a website, www.NELSAP.org, so he could post what he knew with the hopes that others would share their knowledge. And they have. Tens of thousands of visitors to the site have shared their memories, stories and photos of lost ski areas. And the site has inspired similar projects for such places as Quebec, Germany and even Afghanistan.
It’s important to record this information now, Davis says, as many of the people who worked and skied at these areas 50 or 60 years ago are getting older, and if their stories aren’t preserved now they could be lost forever. Also, he says, many of these closed ski areas are rapidly returning to nature or they have been developed, making them almost undetectable.
While some lost ski areas are developed for housing and other reasons, most are abandoned and then become overgrown. “Just last week I was able to explore Intervale and Thorn Mountain in the White Mountains,” says Davis. “Completely overgrown. Yet significant traces such as lift cables, foundations and collapsed buildings remain at some.”
Although many of the ski areas have become overgrown, some are still skiable, and many visitors who want to ski these places use the NELSAP website as a guide to find them. “A few years ago we had an NELSAP ski day at Snow Valley in Vermont,” says Davis. “With two-to-three feet of powder and bluebird skies, it was an awesome day.”
NELSAP recently published the book Lost Ski Areas of the White Mountains, which Davis says is the first book to focus on only lost ski areas. The book is a visual tour of the past and present of 30 lost ski areas in the White Mountains, with shorter written histories for 30 more. It covers some well known places such as Mittersill, Tyrol, and Mt. Whittier, along with lesser known areas such as Iron Mountain House and Mt. Agassiz. The book has 180 photos that show the ski areas when they were thriving, and also more recent photos. Several trail maps and aerial maps are included.
After 10 years of work and more than 580 lost ski areas recorded, you might think there would be no more to find in New England. But Davis estimates there might be 30 to 40 more undiscovered areas still out there.
“We continue to find more. Once in a while somebody will be walking in the woods and come across an old ski lift,” says Davis. “Occasionally finding an old lift that was previously not known leads us to a more interesting history.”
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