Bill Jenkins Jr. is one of the few, maybe even the only person to have literally built a ski area from the ground up. Most people start with a mountain or a hill, but Jenkins turned a flat piece of land into a ski hill!

Although born in Keene, New Hampshire, Bill Jenkins spent his youth in Bellows Falls, Vermont, where he learned to ski. He graduated from Bellows Falls High School in 1941, just in time to serve in the U.S. Army during WWII. He saw combat in Europe, but also taught skiing to soldiers on leave. After the war, he returned to Vermont and would graduate from Rutland Junior College in 1948.

“Being of entrepreneurial bent, a friend, Bob Daniels, and myself decided to start a ski school at Green Mountain College, twenty miles from Rutland. When we proposed ski lessons, 50% of the students enrolled.”  Those were Jenkins’ own words to describe how his involvement with the Green Mountain College ski area began. The fact that Green Mountain College was an all-girls school at that time may have influenced the young entrepreneurs!

Daniels and Jenkins first set up operations on a nearby hill just across the border at the Marcy Farm in Hampton, New York. There was a nice open slope where they installed a 300 foot rope tow. The biggest challenge turned out to be the logistics of getting the students to-and-from the area. It was only a little over a mile from campus, but it still involved a regular hourly bus service to transport students and equipment.

After a few years of this, Jenkins decided to move the area on campus by excavating a field to create three north facing slopes, one for beginners, one for intermediates, and one for advanced. Jenkins said, “by building the slopes, we were able to produce just the right grades for each level of student skier, …  The almost complete lack of fear factors really speeded up the learning curve.”

 The 300 foot tow was moved from the Marcy Farm to serve all three slopes. And the total vertical of the newly constructed slopes, 31 feet 6.75 inches! Chris Carey had the answer to last week’s trivia identifying the Green Mountain College ski area!

The on-campus ski area opened in 1951 and would operate until 1979 mostly under Jenkins’ leadership. It became the largest college ski school instruction program in the United States. They taught 350 students a season for a total of 5000 over the area’s tenure.

Jenkins would add several more lifts including a Stabil Disk Lift which Jenkins invented and would be used at several other ski areas as well. Due to the poor natural snowfall in the Poultney area of Vermont, Jenkins pioneered techniques for snowmaking and snowfarming. He installed an early snowgun in the 1950s and attached it to a jeep so he could move it easily about the slopes. He actually attached the snowgun to a 20 foot boom and was one of the first to realize the added efficiency that elevating the guns provided. With good snowmaking temperatures, he could put down 6 inches on his 1.5 acre slopes overnight.

Jenkins also arranged with the town that when there was a storm, the town would dump snow from the removal process at the base of his slope. He then would use a bulldozer to spread it over the slopes. It provided a very firm, but lasting base!

Jenkins also implemented novel teaching methods to help his students learn to ski. He was an early adopter of shorter skis in the learning process. He also utilized turf skis and ski mats so that teaching and training could start in the fall before any snow fell or could be made.

Jenkins influence extended beyond the Green Mountain College area. He co-founded another lost Vermont ski area called Birdseye and in his career, managed five ski areas. When he wasn’t managing a ski area, he was teaching skiing at other areas such as Okemo and Pico where he was still teaching adaptive skiing in his 80s.

Bill Jenkins died in 2015 at the age of 90. He left behind an amazing number of skiers who owe their love of the sport to Jenkins!

The primary source for this column is Jeremy Davis’ Lost Ski Areas of New England website When Davis was doing his research for the Vermont lost areas, Jenkins was still alive and provided first person accounts for the areas he was familiar with. He also provided many pictures, particularly of the Green Mountain College and Marcy Farm slopes. You should definitely check it out!