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Which Ski Area Was The First? Depends Upon Your Definition …


Always powder in the early days. (International Ski History Association)

National Ski Areas Association recently published a list of when ski areas opened. Nonetheless, the debate over which hill gets to claim the title continues.

Must It have a lift? Or can it be when lots of people climbed up to ski down? Do private hills count? How about a ski jump? Or a long toboggan slide?

NSAA’s Dave Byrd readily acknowledges that the dating of ski area “openings” is an imperfect science, but says it’s usually associated with some kind of mechanized uphill transportation.

Maybe the first trail map, for Easton Ski Area. (New England Ski History)

If it wasn’t, Howelson Hill opened a ski jump in downtown Steamboat Springs in 1915. If it was, then Easton Ski Area at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield, Mass., is the winner: Rope tow went up in 1922, and the place is still open – but always private.

 Crowd for Howelson Hill ski jumping meet. (Colorado Ski History.com)

First for public use was the rope tow at Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock, Vt., in 1933. But it’s uncertain whether Clint Gilbert formally charged for its use. (Today’s Suicide Six is over the ridge.)

Regardless, the NSAA list is intriguing and entertaining. Here are some of the early-year highlights that SnoCountry.com found:

  • Close to Lake Tahoe shoreline, Granlibakken was first California ski area in 1927; local histories only note a toboggan slide.
  • Pennsylvania’s Seven Springs began in 1932; next Pa. opening, 1947 for Big Boulder.
  • New Mexico’s first was Sandia Peak in 1937, and neighbor Arizona Snowbowl debuted a year later.
  • Oregon’s Mount Hood spawned two ski areas by 1928. Sun Valley claims Idaho’s crown in 1936.
  • Today, the State of New York has more ski areas (50) than any other. The state’s earliest were Gore Mountain, 1934; Mount Peter, 1936; and Catamount in 1939.
  • Brighton and Beaver Mountain were Utah’s first in 1936, followed two years later by Alta.
  • First Midwest ski areas were Wisconsin’s Granite Peak at Rib Mountain State Park and Michigan’s Mt. Zion, both in 1937.
  • It took until 1937 for Colorado to join in, with Loveland; Monarch arrived in 1938.
  • Vermont’s Stowe and Pico opened in 1934, and Bromley in 1936.

To check out the full list, click here.


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