Thursday, February 12, 2009

Back in the day - Updated

I ran across this photo of the Berkshire Snow Basin. I learned to ski here. It was a lovely ski hill in its day. It actually had about a dozen different runs. Two of them were black diamond. The most difficult of the two was Stan's Run. It started with a straight down steep schuss with a hard left at the bottom, right in front of a huge ancient tree. I think it may be that tall one that rises above the rest near the top of the hill to the right of the ski lift. I can't begin to describe my terror, the first time I tried that run.

Ruthie's Run was an intermediate. I think that was the one that had the moguls. Some of them were pretty big and you could catch some air going over the tops. There was a run called Forest that literally ran through a forest of big old trees. It sort of felt like skiing through a fairy tale. And the bunny run that ran along the outside edge of the hill we called Sugar. It was a long trail. At the Lost Ski Hill Museum site, they tell me it was almost a mile long. I recall it took a good fifteen minutes to ski it, even if you didn't stop to look at the scenery. We usually made that the last run of the day. At the very end, the kids had built a little ski jump. You could catch some serious air on that one.

I remember how pleased with myself I was, the first time I dared try it. It was a big step considering only a few weeks before I took my first run on the really beginner slope off to the left of the main lift. I had no idea what to do and my companions, who were good skiers, abandoned me there. My first run consisted of pushing myself horizontally across the slope and then falling down when I got to the tree line. I would then rearrange everything and go in the other direction until I got near the lift, where I would lay down again. It probably took a half hour to traverse a two minute run. The next day I got a book and figured out how to edge my skis and turn. It was more fun after that.

And the lodge was charming. It was a big open building with white gravel on the floor and a huge circular fire place in the middle where everyone would sit and warm up their boots. There were big posters of ski areas from all over the world ringing the periphery above the picture windows. A little snack bar and ski shop nested off to one side. One season, I ran the snack bar. I could walk to the place from my house.

It was built by Stan and Ruth Brown. Stan died before I arrived, but Ruthie and Gladys ran it for a few years while I was there. Ruthie was a hot shot skier. She skied well into her 80s. I hear she finally had to give it up after she broke a hip on a nasty spill. Gladys, Stan's sister, never skied but she was a hot ticket. We used to hang out and drink Campari.

They were both dear friends, well into their 70s when I knew them. Sadly, when I left Cummington, I could never go back and see them again for fear of tipping off my ex to my location. I still think of them often though and wish I could track them down now.

Update: M. heart checks into comments with more photos. She's been hiking there and has shots of the Ski Patrol shack and the kid's Ski school playhouse. It's kind of sad to see them in ruins, but m. heart says the place still feels friendly in its ruin. I'm sure it's because Stan and Ruthie built that place for love of the sport and not for money.

[Photo from here]


At 4:43 PM , Anonymous Craig Skowronek said...

Thank you so much for sharing your memories. I learned to ski there in the mid 70's. I haven't been there in about 30 years & was just talking with my wife about what a great place Snow Basin was. I've also been going insane trying to remember the name of the runs. You've brought a smile to my face. Thank you again.

Craig Skowronek


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