January 6th, 2013 by Peggy Farabaugh
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?