Test your knowledge of the history of New England’s ski culture.
Q: Where was the first chairlift in the region?
A: That depends on your definition of chairlift. The first lift service began in 1934 in Woodstock, Vt., where a rigged Model T Ford powered a rope tow at Gilbert’s Hill. The chairlift as we have come to know it was introduced in 1938 at New Hampshire’s Belknap Mountain Recreation Area, now Gunstock, when a single chair lift debuted. Three years later in Vermont, Stowe debuted its single chair lift at Mount Mansfield, and in 1958, Wildcat Mountain, in Pinkham Notch, N.H., debuted the first gondola in the United States. Of course, these lifts are no longer in service.
Q: Which New England ski area is said to be haunted?
A: Lucy Keyes was a young girl who disappeared in Princeton in 1755. Years later, after her parents had passed away, a letter was discovered in which a neighbor admitted to killing the girl in the woods at Wachusett Mountain. Legend has it that Lucy’s mother, Martha, haunts the hillsides at the ski area, calling her daughter’s name in a vain effort to find her since she never learned her true fate. Listen for a mother calling for her child while skiing down 10th Mountain trail. It could be a ghost.
Q: This year Killington Mountain Resort can lay claim to being the first Northeast resort to open when it ran the lifts for season passholders in October. What is the Vermont resort’s other first?
A: They are rarer and rarer these days with the introduction of plastic loops and radio-frequency identification technology, but in 1963, Killington was the first ski area to use the ticket wicket, that metal contraption onto which skiers and riders folded their lift sticker. The wicket was meant to prevent skiers from sharing lift tickets.
Q: What is the significance of the name of the Shovel Handle Pub at the base of Black Mountain in Jackson, N.H.?
A: Bill Whitney purchased the ski area in 1936 and subsequently bought 72 shovel handles from Sears Roebuck & Co. and attached them to the rope tow at the mountain so that skiers could get a better grip. In 1938, nearby Cranmore Mountain also instituted a unique new lift with the advent of the skimobile, which had 131 cars and cost 25 cents to ride. The shovel handles can be seen at the pub, located at Whitney’s Inn, while cars from the skimobile, which was dismantled in 1989, can be found at various locations in the North Conway area.
Q: Are any New England mountains listed in the National Register of Historic Places?
A: In July, Vermont’s Mad River Glen was recognized for its contributions to skiing history, the first ski area to be listed as a historic district.
Q: Where was the first downhill race in the country held?
A: It was at Mount Moosilauke, in Dartmouth, N.H., which hosted the race on the Carriage Trail in 1933. According to Ski New Hampshire, 80 male contestants were entered, and 69 finished the race. Henry Woods skied the nearly 3-mile course, without falling, to win in just over eight minutes.
Q: Who were the Bigelow Boys?
A: They were a group of Kingfield, Maine, locals who began skiing on nearby Bigelow Mountain in the 1940s. But after Central Maine Power built a dam that flooded Flagstaff Lake, it cut off access to the mountain for skiing. The group moved on to Sugarloaf Mountain, where they helped cut the area’s first trail, Winter’s Way, with the help of Sel Hannah, a ski trail designer from Franconia, N.H. Sugarloaf opened for skiing in 1951.
Q: Where is the Thunderbolt Ski Trail?
A: The historic trail is on the eastern slope of Mount Greylock, the highest peak in Massachusetts. The trail was cut in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and hosted the first Massachusetts State Downhill Championship the following year. In recent years, the trail has been restored, thanks to volunteers, and today it remains a backcountry mecca, hosting an exclusive, annual race since celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2010.
Eric Wilbur can be reached at