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.
Winter has come to Vermont! The air at Stonehurst is… well let’s say “crisp”. OK, it was -3F this morning. Ken and I were huddling in the workshop next to the wood stove and we spied these old Pine Top Ski Area signs in the rafters. All day skiing for $1.25? Count me in!
We decided to clean up these great artifacts and display them once renovations are complete and our new fine furniture showroom is open. By any chance, did you ever ski at Pine Top during it’s heyday (the 1940s-1960s)? If so I hope you’ll stop by our shop or connect with us on Facebook to share your memories of back in the day.
For example, how is it that the skier in this old Pine Top Ski Area sign isn’t bundled up in a Michelin Man suit? We didn’t have high tech outdoor clothing back then so did people just suck it up and freeze out there on the slopes? I was looking at old photos of Pine Top skiers yesterday and the people do indeed look just like the guy in the sign’s silhouette. No down parkas, no Gore Tex. Just your basic wool sweaters and coats.
I started skiing in the late 60s and I remember being pretty well bundled myself. Maybe in the decades preceding that people only skied on nice days? Or maybe they were tougher and more determined than we are? Got any answers or theories? Share them below or on Facebook. And if you’re wanting to stop by and do a little skiing yourself, let me know. There’s presently nowhere to park because construction vehicles are everywhere but hopefully renovations will be complete before the end of the season. I’ll keep you updated here on the blog.
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?
Happy 2013! We hope this year brings you all the best of good health, happiness and success. And we hope you’ll come share some of that with us in our new home at Stonehurst in Vernon, Vermont. 2013 will be a year of renovations at this 200 year old Vermont farmhouse as we work with J Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction to transform the property into a fine furniture showroom and nature center.
Our goal this year is to provide the destination shopping experience our customers (from Boston, New York and beyond) have been longing for. Stonehurst will become a place where eco-conscious homeowners can experience all aspects of Vermont handcrafted furniture, including the natural forests where it originates.
Check our blog and Facebook now and then as 2013 unfolds a new life for this iconic Vermont property. We’re planning to complete construction by June, just in time for a mid-summer Grand Opening. In the meantime, if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by with your toboggan this winter. We’ve got about a foot of snow now with more in the forecast. Either way, don’t let 2013 go by without a trip to Vermont!
Happy New Year
I made a visit to our local Vernon History Museum last weekend to learn more about Stonehurst, the 200 year old farmhouse property we recently purchased as the future home for our Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. I was lucky enough to run into Peggy Frost, Nancy and Dale Gassett and a few other volunteers who were working in the museum’s gardens. Peggy knew just where the old photos of Stonehurst were stored so we went inside the museum and spent a few hours pouring through them.
The Original Stonehurst
The original Stonehurst farmhouse was built circa 1800 but I can only find photos going back to 1870 or so. Near as I can figure, the shot above would have been taken around the time that Stonehurst was sold by Noyes and Theresa Streeter to Lucretia Kendall for a sum of $2000.00. That was recorded on March 9, 1868.
Pine Top Ski Resort
Stonehurst had a very different life from the 1940s to the 1960s when it operated as a ski resort named Pine Top. You can see from the photo below that the house looked essentially the same through the ages. At some point it was painted red over the original white. And the horse barn-woodshed to the left of the house was converted to a dormitory for overnight skiers.
After talking with Barbara Moseley, our Vernon Town Historian, I learned that Pine Top was owned by Romey and Elsie Racine, a couple that moved to Vermont from New Jersey. “The Racines hosted vacationers and skiers in their welcoming lodge and operated a 3 run ski area with warming hut, equipment rentals and ski patrol. It was all staffed by local families.” Pine Top was set up to lodge up to 26 guests, often accommodating families of students from nearby boarding schools, Northfield Mount Hermon and Deerfield Academy.
Stonehurst Tomorrow: A Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom
Happily, Stonehurst looks pretty much the same today as it did 70 years ago when Pine Top was operating. The property was sold to Bill and Elaine Ellis after Pine Top closed and the Ellis’ transferred it to Vermont Woods Studios in August of this year. We’re now working with J Coleman + Company Architects and Bob Furlone of American Construction to transform the property into a Vermont Fine Furniture Showroom. The goal is to create a relaxing destination shopping experience for our customers who journey here from all around the Northeast and beyond.
Stonehurst, with it’s beautiful vistas and 100 acres of forested land provides a venue for us to convey our environmental mission and show people where sustainable, handmade furniture comes from. Stay tuned for progress reports and a grand opening for Stonehurst next Summer.
When we closed on our purchase of the Stonehurst property (future home for Vermont Woods Studios) last week we were lucky enough to be able to spend some time with former owners Bill and Elaine Ellis who lived there with their family for over 30 years.
Elaine was showing me old photos of Stonehurst when it was the ski area, Pine Top. She even gave me a VHS tape that the Vernon Historians made to document the Pine Top era.
I'm slowly going through the details and looking forward to meeting with Town Historian Barbara Mosely to learn more. In the meantime, does anyone know who these handsome ski instructors are? The photo has no date but Pine Top was in existence from the mid-40s to the mid 60s.
If you have the answer, how about posting it on our Facebook or in the comment section below.
Thanks and stay tuned for Stonehurst – Pine Top updates
as we renovate the property. We are looking to make it the Northeast's
premiere destination shopping experience for beautiful, high end,
Vermont made furniture. But before we open the doors, we want you to stop by for an open house, ESPECIALLY if you ever skied at Pine Top!