Pine Top, the lost ski area that’s now home to our Vermont furniture showroom, holds many memories for families that skied and stayed here during the 1940s, 50s and 60s. We’ve been corresponding with the Stoddard family for a couple years now. Don and his brothers Jim and Sandy have shared many of their happy memories with us and we’ve been hoping one day they would drop by for a visit.
This week they did! I was able to catch up with Barbara Moseley, Vernon’s Town Historian and invite her to join us. Barbara worked at Pine Top when she was going to college. She remembered the Stoddards fondly and was excited to get together and reminisce with them.
We had a wonderful time chatting over apple cider and donuts & strolling along between Toby slope and Pelley Run. Barbara brought over copies of the Pine Top map she recently created (from memory) and the Stoddards each took one home to enjoy.
If you have your own memories of Pine Top, stop by Vermont Woods Studios anytime and take a trip down memory lane. It’s good for the soul.
Every now and then at Stonehurst (now our Vermont furniture showroom) we’re treated to a blast from the past. Our property dates back to the 1860s when it was a farmhouse and since then it’s had many and varied identities. From the 1940s to the 1960s Stonehurst was a local ski area with 3 rope tows. It was called Pine Top and every now and then we get special visitors who stop by to see how it’s changed and share their memories of family vacations here. Recently we had the pleasure of meeting Sigrid Oscarson who stopped by with her husband Bill Wares. I wanted to share Sigrid’s memories with those of you who remember Pine Top. Did you know Sigrid and her family?
A Visit from Sigrid Oscarson Wares
My husband and I visited with Peggy and Ken last Friday. They were gracious to show us Vermont Woods Studios, formerly known as Pine Top. I grew up in Vermont and spent many days skiing as well as celebrating holidays there. My Godparents, Elsie and Romey Racine were the owners. My father helped to maintain the rope tows very often using a combination of his well-honed automotive skills, true grit with sheer determination, and lots of prayer! It was always a work in progress.
“I came across this picture of me skiing at Pine Top. From these humble beginnings I have maintained a life-long love affair with this sport and even became a ski instructor for a period of time. Growing up in Vermont was a wonderful experience of which Pine Top was a very integral part. Looking at the ski garb makes me wonder how any of us survived the cold! Any one who skied there will tell you that they went through several pairs of mittens in one season due to the friction of the rope tow. We would all cram into the “Warming Hut” as it was affectionately called, to toast our frozen fingers and toes near the pot belly stove while munching on hamburgers or hot dogs with hot chocolate and brownies (made by my mother). It was truly a family effort.
Thank you for showing us the beautiful renovations you have performed on this most wonderful “home” that holds so many memories for me. Your organization is truly an excellent steward of the property and that warms my heart.”
Pine Top fans: Throwback Thursday TBT brings another treat to revive your memories of the good ol’ days in South Vernon, Vermont. Last Thursday we posted Part 1 of Sandy Stoddard’s memories and today we bring Part 2. Enjoy!
At Pine Top, Pelley Hill was a beginner/novice slope and the first to be opened with a rop tow
The second rope tow provided access later to Tobey Slope (intermediate) and then also to Stoddards’ Run, when it was added a few years later
Romey also designed and built a very unique portable “tiny tot” rope tow, possibly first of its kind. It was operated on the gentle grade below the “old” warming hut in the direction of the base of Pelley Hill. Romey also very generously took it into Brattleboro periodically, setting it up at Memorial Park on the west side of town for use by the children of Brattleboro
One summer, when I was working for the Racines at Stonehurst, I was responsible for tearing down the historic old barn on the property, slate by slate, board by board
Romey built the “new” warming hut above Pelley Hill to better accommodate the ski crowds. The “old” hut was still used occasionally to serve house guests bowls of fresh snow with heated Vermont maple syrup
Elsie had a large collection of bells, which were traditionally rung by house guests on the front and side porches to bid other guests farewell, as they drove down the hill
There was an old swimming hole, behind a small dam, which was reached by walking along a narrow dirt road that started next to the foot of Stoddard Run and the tow house for Tobey Slope
That same rough road lead to a small dump site. I learned to drive a 1947 pickup truck as a 14 year old and periodically made dump runs
Summer guests used to gather on the front lawn to play croquet and there was a cement shuffle board court close to the driveway entrance
Mr. Marsden, who was a farmer living up the road, used Stonehurst property in summertime for grazing his cows. I was responsible for their care and feeding
Romey supplemented their revenue from Pine Top/Stonehurst by being the Town Road Commissioner for Vernon
Elsie often helped out at the town library
Along with these notes was a reference to Rich Racine, Elsie and Romey’s nephew. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to connect with Rich. Anybody know home I might reach him? Give us a call or join us on Facebook if you do. Thanks!
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!
For all you Pine Top alumni out there, here is a fun email I received from Sally Byrnes Magin who shares her memories of skiing here in the 1950s:
By chance, when googling “Pine Top” for sentimental reasons, I came across the Vermont Woods Studios and Stonehurst website. After spending many winter vacations as a child at Pine Top, I was so excited to see that you are keeping the memories alive! My family and our friends, from northern NJ, spent almost every President’s Week in February (from about 1950 until 1958) at Pine Top, learning to ski and having a wonderful time together. In fact, one of the trails that led from the top of the “Tobey” rope tow was named “Stoddard Run” after our friends the Stoddard family.
Eventually, as our skiing skills improved, we branched out to other Vermont ski areas. It was a magical time spent with Elsie and Romey (Racine), Laddie their dog, the kitchen staff, and the local ski instructors at Pine Top. Our group took over the entire house for a week, and expanded into the “new annex” when it was built.
Some memories that I have of Pine Top are: skiing down the Pelley and Tobey slopes, struggling with those rope tows, the Tiny Tot hill, eating “sugar on snow” in the old warming hut, being excited when the “new” warning hut was built, visiting the farm and cows up the road, the bell that signaled breakfast and dinner, playing board games in front of the fireplace at night, going into Brattleboro to see ski jumping competitions, and how cold the rooms upstairs were in the mornings before the heat came up through the grates. Also, walking back from the warming hut on a cold Vermont night with every star in the sky visible.
I hope to visit Stonehurst some time in the future and perhaps walk around the property to revisit old memories. …..Sally Byrnes Magin Township of Washington, NJ
Well, thank you so much Sally for generously sharing your wonderful memories of skiing at Pine Top. We hope you’ll come up to visit us soon. I think you’ll enjoy the property and all the improvements we’ve made while transforming it into Stonehurst (a showcase for Vermont’s fine furniture and home decor).
Does anyone else out there have Pine Top memories to share? Send them along! We’ve got an online compilation of Pine Top stories and yours should be part of it.