Recently the Ranger received a request from a 2oldguyswalking reader requesting information on the now defunct Northumberland Forest Ski Club on County Road #45 near Baltimore, Ontario. Never having skied there, I knew very little of its history. Loving a historical challenge, I could not just say sorry, I can’t help you! Of course the first place I went to for possible information was my good friend Google… not much help!
The first challenge faced was obtaining a picture of the original Ski Clubhouse (Chalet) known to exist and currently used by the Cobourg Scout Reserve/Scouts Canada. Dumb luck, the first time I drove to the Scout Reserve, a large metal fence with a padlocked gate blocked the entrance to the parking lot and the chalet building which is located a little south of the gate. A large hedge of trees prevented a good view from Hwy. # 45 and might only allow a pic of the rear of the building anyway.
On driving by the Scout Reserve a couple of weeks later, coincidently the gate was wide open! There was several vehicles in the parking lot, probably Scout officials holding a meeting there. Making a quick U turn, I pulled into the parking lot and snapped a few pictures. Surely it wasn’t trespassing if the gate was wide open and in my mind I saw a gigantic ‘Welcome Ranger’ sign posted on the gate? Another coincidence (??)…at the time, I was returning from a trip to Fenella and had always turned west on Cty. Rd. 9 on my way home to Port Hope, not south on Hwy #45!
How much luck can an amateur historian possess? I just recently received an old history book from my neighbor Lee, titled “Cobourg 1798-1948” by Edwin C. Guillet, the first page I opened in this book was an advertisement for (what are the odds?)…the Northumberland Forest Ski Club! On the very next page was this small article on…
The Northumberland Forest Ski-Club
“Organized by residents of Northumberland and Durham Counties, the Ski-Club came into existence in September 1945. The Club is unique in that it has control, for winter sports, of all re-forested areas within the counties – thanks to the foresight of the Counties’ Council.
At present, two tows are developed to take skiers to the top of two hills, with at least three runs down each hill. These runs are graded to suit the most timid beginners, as well as the fanatical experts in search of more and bigger thrills.
There is a chalet, lunch counter, lounging space, ski-shop, and office space available to the skiers. All school children attending school within the United Counties are automatically free members.
Operating on a non-profit basis with a charter granted by the Province of Ontario, the entire development is based on winter sports and recreation”.
Later history: Around 1962, Northumberland County (now separate from Durham County) divested its interest in the ski club and leased the property to private interests. The club was now operated by a committee, all volunteers and possibly sponsored by some merchants of the town of Cobourg. The ‘new’ Northumberland Ski Club leased the property for $1/year. The two rope tows were powered by an old army truck. The tows started near the chalet and ran eastwards up the two highest hills in the county. With six runs and names like ‘the razor back’ and ‘the dog-leg’, some of these runs were according to one skier interviewed, ‘death defying’ steep. No one can recall when this ski club was closed, but it was some time before the Camborne Ski Club (1988). No one seems to know why this ski club was closed but it seems likely that it was due partly to a lack of snowfall (climate change). Without grooming equipment, no snow-making ability and a dwindling base of volunteers its fate was sealed.
After the Ski Club closed, the fifty acre property was later leased to the Cobourg Scout Reserve/Scouts Canada which still uses it today. The last stroke of luck in this saga, hit me on the head like a baseball bat. Recently while researching information on the history of the Ganaraska Forest/ Richardson’s Lookout in Garden Hill and its founding father Arthur Herbert Richardson I came upon some very interesting facts regarding the Boy Scouts of Ontario.
It seems Richardson, employed with the Department of Lands & Forests (now the Ministry of Natural Resources) was actively involved with the Boy Scout Association for many years. From his Forest Conservation program which ran from 1924 until 1991 it is estimated that he oversaw the Boy Scouts, Guides, Cubs and Brownies of Ontario plant some 600 million trees on 45,000 acres of treeless land including the Ganaraska and Northumberland Forests. A great loss for local skiers, but it seems right that the scouts are now making good use of and enjoying their Scout Reserve in the Northumberland Forest.
Thanks to: Pat & Carol, Lee and Barb for some of their memories and knowledge of this ski club.
PS: Sara, because of little or no recorded information available, this post was one of the hardest I have written. Yes, I did enjoy the challenge and hope you will find the limited information here useful.
For even more on this ski club see Update on the Northumberland Forest Ski Club, with information from our contributor “Phil”.