Nearly every skier’s heart aches for some little day area of his or her youth, now closed and overgrown-or worse, paved over.
Perhaps it was where they learned to ski, or where they met their spouse, or where they watched their children discover the joys of gravity. Now only the dilapidated lodge and rusting T-bar towers remain; sumac and cat spruce encroach on the trails.
Maybe you can’t go home again, but thanks to one young ski-history buff and his New England Lost Ski Areas Project (www.nelsap.org), you can go online for a sentimental trip back to the slopes of your youth.
What started as a hobby for 22-year-old Jeremy Davis has blossomed into a comprehensive accounting of almost every New England ski area that ever existed-and then ceased to exist. The site features some 300 lost areas in six states, and Davis says he has information on another 50 to 75 areas that he has yet to put up.Areas are grouped by state. Davis pulls together newspaper and magazine clippings, correspondence from NELSAP visitors, photographs (both haunting contemporary images and cheery historic ones), trail maps, ticket stubs, brochures and other memorabilia to piece together profiles of each area.
It is unusual that one so young would have such an abiding interest in the ski areas of yesterday, but he has touched a chord with other skiers. The message board is crammed with positive responses, along with some interesting tidbits.
“Our dad was one of the first people to ride the T-bar (at Mt. Tom, Mass.) after the local Catholic Bishop blessed it in 1960,” recalls Susan Bathelt.
“I live on the ridge of what used to be Pheasant Run ski area,” writes Brian McBride. “About where the three trails on the left side of your trail map start. My wife used to race there as a kid.”
“It started as a hobby and just snowballed more than I could have guessed,” says Davis, who skied at now-defunct King Ridge, N.H., as a child. “People contribute stuff, and it just grows and grows.”
Davis was recently invited to serve on the board of the New England Ski Museum, and he has already mined its inventory for material for the NELSAP site.
He says he gets as many as 500 hits a week; and in internet parlance, the site is “sticky”: “Some people say they’ve spent days there.”
So what’s in it for him? “There’s no commercial aspect whatsoever,” says Davis, a marine weather forecaster by day. “It’d be nice to have a site sponsor some day, but for now it isn’t too expensive to put up and maintain.”
Davis plans to tackle New York next. But as good as it is to have such a resource, one can only hope he’ll run out of material soon and forever.