Stonehurst aka Pine Top
#TBT Some things haven’t changed since the 1940s at Stonehurst, aka Pine Top. Thanks to the stories of people who lived, worked and vacationed here, we’ve been able to preserve the property’s heritage.

I haven’t had the time I’d like to understand all the history of Stonehurst (aka Pine Top), but every now and then something pops up to add another piece to the puzzle. Recently Dennis has been chatting back and forth with Jeremy Davis, author of “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont“. In researching his book, Jeremy connected with a number of people who grew up skiing at Pine Top. One of those people was Sandy Stoddard who offered these fond memories:

I am writing to add information on a wonderful old ski area, Pine Top, which was located in South Vernon, VT, about ten miles south of Brattleboro, close to the tri-state corner (MA, NH & VT). Your great website was brought to my attention by a cousin, Jack Stoddard, who lives in Connecticut. I currently live in Santa Rosa, CA, but I was raised in the Northeast and have very strong family and emotional ties to Pine Top (and its summer/winter lodging name, Stonehurst.)

The Stonehurst farm house was built in the 1700s, and it was purchased in the early 1940s by Oliver & Elsie Racine. Oliver (nicknamed Romey) was a business associate of my grandfather, Howard W. Stoddard, in Northern New Jersey. Romey and Elsie became tired of the Metropolitan New York area, and decided during WW II to move north to rural Vermont (Romey was originally French-Canadian and was born in Quebec, just across the border from Vermont). They were in their 40s, when they took possession of the old farmhouse, barn and about 100 acres of rolling countryside, which sat above the Connecticut River Valley.

Romey was a wonderfully ingenious handyman, who could do absolutely amazing things with his mind and hands. He renovated the house and the immediate surrounding property, with plans to open the place as a small inn. Elsie was the gracious hostess, who ran the house and the kitchen, with the help of several local gals (Marge Cotter and Barbara Moseley). They opened the lodging in the mid-40s, and among the first guests were my grandparents, Howard & Edna Stoddard, my parents, Don & Molly Stoddard, and my uncle and Aunt, Vinnie and Jane Stoddard.

Romey then began to clear the surrounding hills to create the future Pine Top’s ski slopes. He did much of the clearing of the trees and brush himself, with some local help, and with some summertime help from my dad and uncle. The first two slopes he created were Pelley Hill (beginner/intermediate) and Toby Slope (intermediate/advanced). Romey then designed and built two rope tows, using old Ford Model A engines as the power sources.

The area officially opened in the winter of 1946/47. Actually the first guests to the area came a year earlier, before the rope tows were in place. My grandparents, parents, older brother Donald-8 years old at the time and my aunt & uncle made their first winter visit to Stonehust, and I believe they were the first skiers to test the newly cleared slopes. A farmer up the road by the name of Marsden brought down a work horse to which he attached a “rope tow.” The horse towed a string of my relatives up the hill.

An aside: Romey also designed a fun way to get down the hill, attaching a seat to two parallel wooden skis. My grandfather scared the daylights out of my grandmother by schussing down Toby Slope in this uncontrollable device.

My first year as a visiting skier was in 1947, as a six year old. Every year after that through my senior year in high school, I spent my mid-winter school vacation (over Washington’s Birthday) at Pine Top. Those were wonderful years, as I and my brothers (younger brother Jim followed Don and me) learned to ski from local ski patrol/instructors Ed Dunklee and Bud Bigelow. Romey opened a new trail off the top of Toby Hill and named it “Stoddard Run”. My mother had a shortcut at the bottom of Toby named for her, “Molly’s Alley,” and I had a nearby ski bridge named for me, “Sandy’s Trestle.”

Romey and Elsie Racine were like second parents to me (they had no children of their own). I spent two summers in my high school years working on the property, doing chores and taking care of the dairy cattle that grazed on the ski slopes in the summer (from a local farm). They sold the property in the mid-1960s and moved to a newly built home down the hill (the new owners sadly closed the ski area). We outgrew Pine Top as our skiing improved, but it was a truly wonderful part of our family for many many years.

We’ve been in touch with the Stoddard family since receiving Sandy’s memories and are hoping they’ll come back for a visit some time this summer! If you have memories of Pine Top, give us a call, send us an email or join us on Facebook. We’d love to have you stop by when you’re in the area!

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Michelle and I are the only ones who’ve made it in to work today.  Snow is falling ever so gently, but it’s persistent!  We’ve got about 6″ and the forecast is for 6 more.  So I thought it would a good time to reprint this article that was recently published on Sotheby’s Vermont Country Properties blog.  We are grateful to President and Principal Broker Lisa Coneeny and Office Manager Melissa Olson for posting it.

Pine Top Ski Area Resort in Vernon, Vermont Circa 1960 | Now Stonehurst Fine Furniture Showroom
This is how Pine Top looked in 1960.  If the rope tows were still here, Michelle and I would be out there skiing today!

What to Do with a Lost Ski Area?

Jeremy Davis, author of “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont” estimates there were 119 ski areas in the Green Mountain state during the mid 20th century.  It seems that 2/3 of Vermont’s towns had their own ski area!  Of course they were a far cry from today’s luxury resorts like Mount Snow, Stratton, Killington and Stowe.  But back in the day, they were the center of winter activity in the communities they served.  Now what has become of them?

A group of local enthusiasts at Vermont Woods Studios has recently transformed the former Pine Top ski area in Vernon, Vermont into a showcase for Vermont’s handcrafted, fine furniture and home décor products.  The 220 year old farmhouse that used to welcome Nordic and alpine skiers has been lovingly restored.  Known as “Stonehurst” since c1870 when it was sold to Lucretia Kendall for a sum of $2000, it is now home to a high end interior design gallery.

Stonehurst Today | A Fine Furniture Showroom and Luxury Home Decor Gallery
Here’s the same scene today.  Pine Top, the little lost ski area in Vermont is beckoning Michelle and me to bring our sleds out and play.  On days like this the mountain longs for the good old days of the 1940s, 50s and 60s when skiers packed the slopes.

“With all it’s rich history we thought Stonehurst would be the perfect place to showcase the high quality home décor products coming out of Vermont”, said Peggy Farabaugh, new owner of the property.  “The homestead is situated on a hundred acre wood with beautiful views of the mountains, forests and Connecticut River Valley.  Customers can look out our windows and see Vermont’s sustainable working lands in action.  Stonehurst gives us a way to show and tell the story of Vermont’s high quality, handcrafted products:  where they come from and how they’re made.”

The lovely view at Stonehurst | Fine Furniture and Home Decor Gallery
Here’s what Pine Top looks like today.  The farmhouse that’s been know as Stonehurst for over 2 centuries has been lovingly restored.  It now houses the finest handmade furniture America has to offer along with many luxury brands of home decor.  And everything here is made in Vermont.  Come visit us before the snow melts!

The gallery features a revolving selection of fine furniture from Vermont’s iconic brands including Copeland, Lyndon and many custom and specialty furniture makers.   Original artwork by Linda Marcille, Susan Osgood, Donna Scully, Georgie Runkle and other local artists accents the furniture and is offered for sale.

“We’re adding new products daily and hope to soon have a consummate collection of Vermont home goods with glassware by Simon Pearce, lighting by Hubbardton Forge, kitchen accessories by JK Adams, pottery by Laura Zindel and a creative selection of specialty handmade items from the area’s top craftspeople,” said Farabaugh.

Visitors are warmly welcomed at Stonehurst.  Hours of operation are 9am-5pm, Mon-Sat.  Details and directions to the gallery on Huckle Hill Road in Vernon can be found on our website.  Be sure to bring your sled, skis or snowshoes!

For more Stonehurst photos, visit our Pinterest board.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios.  Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Finding a Beautiful Vermont View After Nemo
We found a beautiful Vermont view after Nemo blew through Vernon yesterday.  The storm made for great skiing and sledding on Vernon’s lost ski area, Pine Top and throughout the state.

Like most Vermonters we were lucky to find Nemo pretty tolerable– for a winter storm, that is.  Vernon got about a foot of fluffy white snow and our dedicated road crew was out pushing it around in no time.  Finally it’s winter in Vermont!

When I was a kid, storms like this were routine throughout the winter.  We grabbed our skis and happily headed towards the slopes.  So today I thought it fitting to give the snowy slopes of Pine Top, aka Stonehurst a try.  I found the old toboggan my parents gave my siblings and me for Christmas many years ago and pulled it up to the top of the hill (fortunately Ken had re-conditioned it when Kendall and Riley were little and it’s still in great shape).

I found a spectacular Vermont view on the knob where the old Pine Top warming shed used to be!  Today was a beautiful day for sledding and the snow was dry and fast.  I made a few trips up and down the slope before I started pining away for the ancient rope tow that used to be installed at Vernon’s former ski area.  Or even the old horse tow that preceded that.

Ken Enjoying the View at Pine Top | A Lost Ski Area in Vernon, VT
Ken’s version of sledding.

Then I saw that Ken had finished plowing and had found an alternative way to enjoy the view, so I wrapped up my sledding and joined him for a drink.  After all the winter weather watches and warnings, it turns out Nemo wasn’t so bad after all.

If you’re in the area, stop by Pine Top, take a sleigh ride and enjoy the view before the snow melts!  We’ll supply the drinks.

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.

Pine Top Memorabilia
We came across a treasure trove of  Pine Top memorabilia in a trunk in the attic of the old dormitory at Stonehurst.  These are just a few of the flyers that were distributed throughout the Northeast.   Pine Top had a vertical drop of a whopping 400 feet, with 4 slopes and 3 rope tows.  It pioneered skiing for the entire family including “Tiny Tots”.

Life as a sustainable fine furniture showroom and nature center isn’t the first makeover for Vernon, Vermont’s iconic Stonehurst property.  In the early 1940s the circa 1800 Stonehurst farm was dubbed “Pine Top” and transformed into one of Vermont’s many small local ski areas (back in the day about 2/3 of Vermont’s towns had their own ski areas).  A couple from New Jersey, Elsie and Romey Racine, had moved to Vermont to pursue their dream and Stonehurst was the recipient of their ambition and hard work.

Stonehurst, with both rolling hills and steep mountainous terrain became a skiing mecca for Vernon townspeople and visitors alike.  Three rope tows were installed, powered originally by horse and later by car engines.  “Tobey Slope” was for expert skiers, “Pelley Hill” served intermediates and “Tiny Tot” kept the little ones occupied.  The whole family could enjoy skiing together, with kids as young as 3 becoming experts on the gentle slope closest to the farmhouse.

The Racines promoted Pine Top to visitors from New Jersey, New York, Boston and beyond.  They also attracted the families of students at nearby boarding schools like Deerfield Academy and Northfield Mount Hermon.  Visitors could board at Pine Top in winter, spring, summer or fall.  It had room to accommodate up to 26 guests and was often rented out to large groups for family reunions.

The Vernon Historians created a DVD featuring Pine Top along with other Vernon landmarks.  Copies and further information can be obtained at the Town Hall, Library or from Barbara Moseley, the town historian (and former staffer at Pine Top).  There is also a book by Jeremy K Davis, Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont which provides Pine Top history and a companion website, New England Lost Ski Areas Project NELSAP.

If you ever skied at Pine Top, let us know in the comments section or on our Facebook.  And stay tuned for an open house this summer, once renovations are complete.  We’re hoping to get a Pine Top reunion going.  Are you game?

 

 

This blog is written by your friends at Vermont Woods Studios. Check out our Vermont made furniture and home decor online and visit our showroom and art gallery at Stonehurst, the newly restored 1800s farmhouse nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains.