A Good Read from the September 2012 Newsletter

Finding the Burnham Hollow Ski Area 

By Jon Mathewson

50s-era brochure with map of Vermont and drawings of skiers and tobogganers. $1 per person day rate.
Brochure for the Burnham Hollow Slope and Trails.

Two years ago, I received a copy of Jeremy K. Davis’ book, “Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont.”  That Christmas gift launched me on a year and a half long history adventure.

 The book closely documents the ski areas which sprang up in Vermont’s southern four counties from the 1930s through 1970s. These ranged from the large Snow Valley in Manchester to the small practice hill at Green Mountain College in Poultney.  Their histories are all accompanied with photographs and re-productions of brochures and such.  

 Only a few were left undocumented, just listed at the beginning of each chapter.  And there, on page 27, I read the following description of one of the truly lost of the lost ski areas:  “Burnham Hollow, Middletown Springs: According to John Williams, who was a member of the Burnham Hollow Ski Club, this rope tow was started and operated by Charles and Katie Colvin in the 1950s.  Williams remembers that access came from a suspension bridge over the Poultney River.”  Since reading that, I have learned that some of that statement is true, and some is not.

 Well, a few days later, I was at a New Years’ Eve Party at Matt and Trish Peschl’s place.  They live in the Burnham Hollow area, and knowing they know the woods around their place very well, I asked Matt if he had ever come across signs of a ski area.  A big smile came on his face, and he said, “Yes.  You’re standing on it.”  Turns out his house is on the slope, and he and Trish have come across remnants of the rope tow on the hill above their house.

 Well, a few weeks later, I was having breakfast with Chuck Colvin at the weekly Poultney Rotary Club meeting, and I mentioned that I had been reading about him in a history book. Trust me:  most people do not like being told they are in a history book!  But Chuck thought for a while, and said, “Oh, yeah.  That was a long time ago.  I’d almost forgotten about that.”

To make a long story short, a year later, in May 2012, Matt, Trish, Chuck (Katie could not make it that day), David Wright and I walked the old ski area site, as Chuck told us about where things had been. Later, Mark Raymond, whose Norton family relatives lived across the street from the area, dug up an early brochure for the ski area.

 So, over the last year and a half, we have been able to unearth artifacts, ephemera, and memories of an aspect of Middletown Springs that may otherwise have been lost.  A small exhibit of Burnham Hollow Ski Area is now part of the Timeline exhibit in the Adams House auditorium

Here is some of what we now know:  

 The Burnham Hollow Ski Area operated between 1949 and 1954.

George Greene created the ski area, and after few years turned it over to Chuck and Katie Colvin of Poultney, who ran the area for two years.

 The area was open on weekends, and attracted an average of 100 skiers per day.  Skiers parked their cars in the pasture at the base of Norton Road, walked across Route 133 and crossed the Poultney River on a pedestrian suspension bridge.  A warming hut greeted visitors with offers of hot dogs, soda, coffee, hot chocolate and candy.  That was also where skiers bought their $1 per day tow passes. 

 The thousand-foot-long rope tow ran to the top of the ski trails on the north face of Barker Mountain.