lost ski areas
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.
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.
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?