Trivia 2018 Week 3

When was the first snowmaking installed on Mt Mansfield? (Note: the first snowmaking at Stowe was on the Spruce side, but when did it expand to Mansfield?)

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Lift Lines Succumb to High Speed Lifts!

I’ll start with a follow-up from last week’s column about the Mt. Mansfield Lift-Exchange Ticket Books. I received a note from Steve Berry after last week’s column was submitted to the Reporter. Steve had the correct answer that it took two coupons to ride the T-Bar, but he also made a very interesting observation.

Steve says of the Stowe regulars he skis with:  “many of us use the number of six runs as the minimum we have to take.  That was the breakeven number of runs whereby it was better to have purchased a day ticket. If you did only five runs, a book was cheaper.” So even on those cold, windy days they still try to get their six runs!

As I mentioned last week, lift lines were what made the ticket books part of the decision process for a day of skiing at Stowe and etched them in our memories and habits. On weekends and holidays Stowe lift lines on the major lifts used to reach 40-60 minutes. Add in the fact that the lifts took 12-15 minutes to get you to the top and you can see the problem.

So what was the solution? Well, faster lifts would help. The first detachable chairlift was the Quicksilver Superchair quad at Breckenridge, Colorado. Doppelmayr built the lift in 1981. By separating the loading/unloading process, the main haul rope could run over twice as fast as conventional chairlifts!

Throughout the 1980s, detachable high-speed lifts proliferated.  Poma and CTEC joined Doppelmayr in providing detachables throughout the skiing world. There were quads and then six-packs – all much faster than their predecessors.

So when did Stowe get its first detachable high-speed lift? Surprisingly I received no answers to last week’s trivia question! Maybe it was too easy or not historical enough. Anyway, the first FourRunner Quad replaced the old single and double chairs in 1986 for the 1986-87 season!

The FourRunner was the first detachable in New England and changed the whole dynamic of Stowe skiing. It definitely shortened the lift lines. The old lift blankets were gone. Skiers went from worrying about getting enough runs to worrying about when the Matterhorn opened. Some such as Boston “Robert” tested just how many runs you could get in a day.

Other resorts felt the effects produced by the high speed lifts also. I remember reading an article that in Vail, the village restaurants saw a measurable increase in lunch business with the addition of high speed lifts. People didn’t mind taking more time at lunch since they knew they’d still get in plenty of skiing.  You could eat with the crowd at Mid-Vail or a beer and burger at Bart & Yeti’s – easy choice!

Personally, I feel that high speed lifts were the biggest change I’ve experienced in my skiing experience. Many of the other changes were more gradual. Ski equipment has changed a lot since I started, but it was incremental so any one improvement didn’t seem that significant. However one ride on a high speed lift and I knew things would never be the same. You only need to take a ride on an old fixed-grip chair like Lookout to get a reverse example of what I’m talking about.

High speed lifts have been around for more than thirty years, but areas are still upgrading old, slow fixed-grips with high-speed detachables. This season Alta will debut a new Supreme lift. The old triple becomes a detachable quad and they’ve lengthened it so the load point is at Alf’s. While this makes great sense from a layout point of view, it makes a long runout even longer. But who cares if the new lift whips you back to the top for another run down Sidewinder.

Who knows, one of these days Smugglers may even get a high-speed lift. (Just had to slip that in!)

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Trivia 2018 Week 2

What year did the first high speed quad replace the old Mansfield single and double chairs at Stowe?

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Mount Mansfield Lift-Exchange Ticket Books

Last week my wife and I were skiing the Quad on Mount Mansfield at what I’d term a moderate rate. That is, we were skiing at moderate speed and stopping briefly at the usual stopping spots. We were getting about four runs an hour. There were times back in the RetroSki days at Stowe when you only got 4 or 5 runs a day on Mansfield! It was a day like that back in 1969 that introduced me to the Mt. Mansfield Lift-Exchange Ticket Book!

Mount Mansfield Lift-Exchange Ticket BookThe Mt. Mansfield Lift-Exchange Ticket Book contained 12 coupons, three pages of four coupons each. Different lifts required a different number of coupons to ride. As you came through the lift line you handed the book to the person in the booth and they would take out the requisite number of tickets. The Mansfield single and double chairs took 4 coupons as did the gondola, but how many did the Mansfield T-Bar require?

Norma Stancliffe was quick with the correct answer of two coupons for each ride. Norma’s experience with Mt. Mansfield lifts began in 1948 in her parents back pack! She was six months old at that time. Norma still has some of her old ticket books!

Roy Clark also had the correct answer. And Bob Burley shared the fact that state employees got a discount on the ticket books. Bob says that was due in part to Perry Merrill’s and Abner Coleman’s contributions in developing Mt. Mansfield skiing. Bob had the privilege of skiing with both of them and Perry Merrill gave Bob his first real job.

The ticket books were the same price as a day ticket so why would you buy the book of tickets? The ticket books didn’t expire at the end of the day! If you had coupons left, you could use them on another day. On those crowded days when you weren’t sure how many runs you’d be able to get on the single chair, you could buy a ticket book. My first experience with a ticket book was a New Year’s Day. My New Year’s Eve celebration meant I was a little late for first chair. It was probably closer to 11am when I arrived and the single/double lift line stretched outside the corral – 40 minutes at least, maybe an hour! I’d be lucky to get three runs, so ticket book it was.

What if you miscalculated and were running out of coupons before you were done skiing? You could buy another book or you could get creative. The Mansfield T-Bar and Little Spruce chair were only two coupons, so you could take two runs on those instead of one on the Mansfield single or double. And when my friends and I really got desperate, we’d fake our way onto the Big Spruce chair. Let’s just say the booth attendant at Big Spruce wasn’t as diligent in checking tickets. So with a little bravado, you didn’t use any coupons! (I hope I’m not belatedly getting someone in trouble!)

Not only did the ticket books carry over within a season, but they also carried over season to season. Part of getting ready for the ski season was going through all your parka pockets to see how many coupons you found! That was free skiing! My understanding is that Stowe honored old ticket books years after they stopped selling them.

Which brings me to the question that I’ve had difficulty answering: when did Stowe stop selling the ticket books? Brian Lindner believed it was in the early 1970s, Norma Stancliffe says hers were from 1979. So I welcome any input on this unofficial trivia question.

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Trivia 2018 Week 1

In the RetroSki days, Stowe sold a ticket book containing coupons that could be used for single rides up the lifts.  Different lifts required a different number of coupons. How many coupons were required for a ride up the Mt. Mansfield T-Bar?

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Change. We humans are kind of ambivalent about change. We’re all for change until it affects us and then somehow it’s different. Actually this column is all about our reaction to change, well at least as it pertains to skiing. We call it “nostalgia” – that longing for the way things used to be before somebody changed them.

Stowe Hosts in UniformWith Vail taking over the operation of the Stowe ski area, we’re seeing some changes. Some of those changes affect the volunteer-based programs at the mountain such as the Stowe Hosts. With my winter travel plans, I didn’t feel I could make the day commitment under the new program. So after 21 years I opted out of being a Host this winter.

The Stowe Host program has been a wonderfully diverse group, particularly in recent years. Doctors, bartenders, lawyers, carpenters, teachers, men, women, old, and young all worked well together. Yes, despite the common perception, we weren’t all retired! In today’s society there aren’t many opportunities for such diversity in ages and backgrounds.

I do want to highlight three long-serving hosts who are also retiring this year. Their retirement is more due to health issues, either theirs or their significant others, rather than changes to the program.

Bob EdmondsBob Edmonds was the longest tenured host with 30 years. He joined during the first year of the Host program.

Bob was the ultimate tour-giver! One of a host’s responsibilities is giving tours. There are the scheduled tours that meet at 10:30 in the morning and there are spontaneous tours when you encounter guests that need help finding their way around the resort. Bob was the master of both! If there were only three guests on the whole mountain, he could somehow talk them into a tour. And the guests loved it. He received more notes of appreciation from guests than all the rest of us combined.

Bob was an amateur historian of skiing and particularly, skiing in Stowe. Part of his tour banter was to share the history of the area. Because of his success with tours, Bob was asked to document this “history” and it was distributed as a reference for other hosts. The document began: “It was a dark and stormy millennium around 380 million years ago when the glaciers carved out Mt Mansfield and Smuggler’s Notch.” Skiing didn’t come into the narrative until about page 6! Those must have been long tours!

Bud KasselBud Kassel was a host for 23 years. He stops one year short of being the first 90 year old host! I think most people who meet Bud are surprised when they find out his age. He is still a smooth technical skier and still plays tennis regularly. As a host, guests loved his personable demeanor and often would spend several hours with Bud on the slope and in the lodge.

Bud is a true RetroSkier. When he was a youth and learning to ski. His family visited Pico, home of the first T-bar in the United States. When asked if he was familiar with the T-bar, Bud said “no.” So the lift operator asked “Andy” to show him how to ride the lift. “Andy” was actually a young Andrea Mead Lawrence who would go on to win multiple Olympic golds!

Peter LawlorThen there’s Peter Lawlor. Peter had not been a host for that long, but he could make a claim that few could match. He first skied Stowe as a kid in 1943! Talk about seeing some changes over his skiing life. Peter was a frequent responder to my trivia questions and definitely qualified as a RetroSkier.

I certainly hope that I’ll see Bob, Bud, and Peter on the slopes sometime this winter.

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Welcome to the 2017-2018 RetroSki Season!

The ski season is underway and so is RetroSki! Columns (Posts) will begin on November 30th!

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Junior Bounous

When Snowbird opened in 1971, Junior Bounous was named as head of the ski school. It was a natural choice. Bounous was a native Utahn and he had learned to be a ski instructor under Alf Engen at Alta, eventually becoming Alf’s assistant. Bounous would serve as the head of the Snowbird ski school and then Director of Skiing until 2015 when he retired at age 89. He still skis today at age 91 and in fact, was seen skiing some spring crud at Snowbird this past week!

So what is Junior Bounous’ real first name? Bob DiMario was quick with the correct answer. Junior has no real first name! He was born the youngest of six children in a farm family in Provo, Utah. They were too busy to come up with a first name when he was born so the birth certificate simply said “Boy Bounous.” Being the youngest in the family, he quickly picked up the unofficial name “Junior” and it stuck.

Bob DiMario also shared a Junior story. The late Stu Campbell credited Junior with teaching Stu to ski powder. Junior told Stu “point them straight down the hill until you reach terminal velocity and then start to turn!”

I also heard from Lyndall Heyer who used to race with Junior’s son Steve. Steve is the Executive Director of the Snowbird Ski Education Foundation which coordinates the Snowbird racing program.

One final thing regarding Junior Bounous. He and Jim McConkey were the first to ski Snowbird’s Pipeline. Pipeline is a hike-to, “no fall”, extreme shot that is on Snowbird’s trail map. It’s only open a few days in a season. Back in 2005 when he was almost 80, Junior skied the Pipeline!

This wraps up another RetroSki season. Thanks to all who read and support the column! So see you next ski season!

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Trivia 2017 Week 20

Junior BounousJunior Bounous was inducted into the United States Ski Hall of Fame in 1996. What is his real first name?

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Sugar Slalom

Sugar on SnowAccording to Charlie Lord, the first Sugar Slalom was held on April 30, 1939. It had been a good season and the general feeling was that there should be a special event to mark the season’s end. If it was going to be a race, then somehow it had to be different than the other races held during the season. The Sugar Slalom was born!

The race would be held on the Nose Dive and the Stowe-Mansfield Association (early version of the Stowe Area Association) would provide the sugar-on-snow. Since this was before the single chair, everything for the race would have to be hauled up the Nose Dive including the sap and sugaring-off pan.

The race was a big success and drew nearly 100 entrants.

So who came up with the Sugar Slalom name? Charlie Lord wrote that it was Roland Palmedo.

Mike Leach historian for the Mount Mansfield Ski Club took time out from his Sugar Slalom duties this year to identify Roland Palmedo.

Roland PalmedoI’ve written about Roland Palmedo before, but let’s just review a partial list of Palmedo’s contributions to Stowe, the state of Vermont, and skiing.

Palmedo founded the Amateur Ski Club of New York and came to Stowe in 1932 to check out the skiing potential of the area. This would begin a relationship with Stowe that would culminate in his building the original single chair on Mansfield.

Palmedo’s concern for skiing safety helped start the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol and also the National Ski Patrol. In fact, Palmedo was awarded National Appointment #2 in recognition of his influence on starting the National Ski Patrol system.

For the 1934-35 season, Palmedo was instrumental in seeing that the United States fielded both a men’s and women’s ski team to compete on the international circuit.

Palmedo published three books on skiing. His 1937 “The International Sport of Skiing” helped inform the American public about a sport that had primarily been European. Later in the 1950s his English translation of “The New Official Austrian Ski System” helped bring American ski schools up to date on the wedeln.

And of course, Palmedo would build Mad River Glen when Stowe became too glitzy for his tastes. Mad River Glen remains a tribute to Palmedo’s vision of skiing. It wasn’t supposed to be easy and comfy, there should be some effort involved.

The Sugar Slalom is one of many traditions that take us back to the early days of skiing here in Stowe. It should also be a reminder of the contributions of Roland Palmedo.

I know that the current embodiment of the Sugar Slalom is much more “fan-friendly”, but I do miss it being on the Nose Dive. There was something about how difficult it was just to watch the race or get to the sugar-on-snow that made it seem “old school.” And there were many years where I didn’t get any sugar-on-snow before the kids finished it all!

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