gondola at Mount Snow

MOUNT SNOW RESORT: 60+ Years of Fun

In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, Mount Snow was a futuristic wonderland with outdoor pools, indoor skating rinks and frozen fountains with slalom courses.   The resort has a long and storied history that includes numerous crazy events, innovations and fantastic tales that have taken place over their 60-plus years of skiing and riding in southern Vermont. One of the very first ski resorts on the East Coast, Mount Snow continues to define the ski industry even today.

As the story goes, in the fall of 1946, Walt Schoenknecht visited a snow covered Mount Pisgah in West Dover, Vermont, and decided he would one day build a world class ski area there.

Mount Snow founder Walt Schoenknecht on skis

Mount Snow founder Walt Schoenknecht
Photo courtesy Mount Snow Resort

Several years later in May 1953, Schoenknecht purchased 500 acres of land on Mount Pisgah from the family of Reuben Snow for $15,000. Snow’s name would, very appropriately, be used as the name of the new ski area as well as the government recognized name for the mountain.

Initially a $4 million project, the ski area opened December 12, 1954, with two unique, chain-driven double chairlifts and a rope tow, serving five trails and two slopes.  These chain-driven chairlifts were notorious for dripping oil on everyone’s clothing as they endured the ride up the mountain.

In its second year, Mount Snow added its then longest chairlift, a 3,800 foot chain double chairlift. The new chairlift pushed Mount Snow over the 1,700 foot mark in advertised vertical drop, making it one of the largest ski areas in the northeast.

Over the next 5 years additional trails were cut and chairlifts added.   With the debut of the new Sundance Base Lodge in 1960-61, Mount Snow now billed itself as the World’s Largest, Most Exciting Ski Resort.

Air Car at Mount Snow Resort in the 1970's

Legendary Air Car
Photo courtesy Mount Snow Resort

Skiers enjoying the heated outdoor pool in the 1970's

Mount Snow’s infamous outdoor heated pool
Photo courtesy Mount Snow Resort

Some of the most Legendary features and lifts were added over the next decade including an outdoor heated pool, an indoor ice rink, a two person “bubble” chairlift and the Air Car, a small tramway connecting Snow Lake Lodge to the ski area.

By the mid-1970s, Schoenknecht planned to have 21 double chairlifts, 6 gondolas, 4 tramways, and 6 trail complexes, with the capacity to handle 40,000 skiers per day. The overall estimated price tag for the development was $75-$85 million.

Change of Ownership & Expansion

Starting in 1970, Mount Snow started to run into financial problems as a result of the capital expenditures and increased energy costs.  Through a series of financial woes, Mount Snow was eventually purchased by the Sherburne Corp. in 1977 for $4.5 million. The ski area was later rolled into S-K-I Ltd. (1984), American Ski Company (1996), and Peak Resorts (2007).
In 1986, the Carinthia ski area was purchased and connected to the Mount Snow trails.

Five years later, nearby Haystack Mountain Ski Area was purchased and subsequently marketed as being part of Mount Snow. Haystack was sold and closed in 2005.

In 1992, the first snowboard park in the East was established at Mount Snow, named Un Blanco Gulch.

The last of Walt’s original chain chairlifts was removed in 1997.

In 2000, Mount Snow hosted the 4th Annual Winter X-Games. The Games shattered previous attendance records and drew in athletes from around the world. The Games returned to Mount Snow the following year.

Mount Snow’s own Kelly Clark won the first American gold medal of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City in women’s half-pipe. She is a graduate of  Mount Snow Academy and the first athlete from Mount Snow to win an Olympic gold medal.

In January 2009, Mount Snow hosted the Winter Dew Tour. It was the first action sports tour for winter sports and many of the top athletes in action sports from around the world participated.

While the overall footprint of the ski area has remained steady in recent years, critical upgrades have been rolled out for both the snowmaking and lift systems. Once again remaining cutting edge, Mount Snow installed New England’s first high-speed six pack bubble chairlift in 2011.

Current and Future Plans

Mount Snow’s plans are to attract over $50 million in capital to fund snowmaking improvements and a new Carinthia base lodge. Ground was broken on the new West Lake snowmaking reservoir in 2015, a 120 million gallon water storage pond.  The pond is now complete.  This improved  snowmaking capability will allow Mount Snow to make more snow, faster, and better recover from swings in temperatures – all of which will be functional in October 2017.

The new Carinthia Base Lodge construction was begun in the summer of 2017.  The 38,000 sq ft lodge is expected to be open to the public the fall of 2018.  The new lodge will deliver all of the needed services like equipment rentals, tuning shop, bag check and ski school as well as a convenience and retail store, a restaurant, a youth room, cafeteria, coffee bar, lots of outdoor patio space and plenty of bathrooms and changing rooms.

Enjoy some of these photos from the early carefree days of the resort.

The above information is taken from a variety of on-line sources and blogs.

See you in Vermont!