It seems that our recent post on the Northumberland Forest Ski Club has generated a lot of reader interest. I guess it makes sense because we may have awakened a lot of fond memories of the many generations of skiers that once enjoyed their experiences here. The wealth of new information and pictures in this post are thanks to an anonymous reader who read the original post. This post is about a small piece of local history that was almost lost forever and needs to be recorded for future generations to enjoy.
On behalf of our readers, the 2oldguyswalking team would like thank “Phil” for the following contribution :
Before the establishment of the NFSC, locals went skiing on the hills around town (Cobourg). They would hike up, ski down, and do it all over again. Two popular locations were on Elgin Street East, (east of where the depot was built, on the north side) and on the back side of Creighton Heights hill.
Mr. Cooey, from Cooey Arms was instrumental in getting the ski club operating in the 40’s. He made sure every school child had a free pass there, which helped popularize the club. Many children took advantage, and developed a love for the sport.
Tom Krakenberg’s father moved here from Mt. Tremblant to help build the ski runs and lifts. He had worked for Joe Ryan at Tremblant previously. Mr. Krackenberg later ran a motel near where the Cobourg Motor Inn is now located. Tom ran a successful auto body shop on Dale Road, west of Ontario Street.
In the 50’s, professional ski instructors were brought in. A ski patrol was formed there as well during that time. Dr. Doug Firth founder of the Canadian Ski Patrol provided guidance to the local boys. In turn, several went on to help form ski patrols at many of the eastern Ontario and New York ski areas
The original chalet was about a hundred feet north of the present chalet. Many local families were involved over the years. I can’t remember many names, but the Cane’s, Krakenberg’s, Margles, Mann’s, Russ Lake, Jim & Bonnie Sheridan, the Zinkie’s, the Curtis family from up the road, and many, many more contributed a lot of volunteer hours over the years.
Like most ski hills, there were ebbs and flows in business. At one point in the 50’s, the bank that held the note on the ski club called them. Quickly the club directors all put in a few thousand each of their own money and backed up the note. They then told the bank manager they were prepared to take all their personal and company business down the street to the next bank, if he was inclined to call the note again. Since most of them owned local businesses, the bank manager never bothered them again.
In the 60’s, it was an incredibly busy place on the weekend. There was limited parking, so almost everyone parked on the side of Hwy 45. Some days, the line of cars would go down around the bend towards Beagle Club Road.
The rope tows were powered by truck engines, turning a very large diameter flywheel at the bottom. The bullwheel at the top returned the rope loop. The ropes were massive affairs. Each was hand spliced. The splices could be 5 or 6 feet long in total. A seasoned skier would see the splice coming downhill, and let it slip through his hand before gripping hard. In the 70’s, I watched two men do a splice one winter day. On Saturday, the rope parted and the lift was shut down. On Sunday morning, two men who had finished volunteering with the club 15 years earlier, heard about the break and came out and quietly spent the day splicing. We were up and running by mid- afternoon.
We all wore leather glove protectors. You would buy them at Somerville’s or Don Ball’s. They were a leather overglove that protected your own mitts. The rope could burn through an expensive pair of gloves in under a day without them. There was a safety wire stretched across the top of each of the lifts at the crest of the hill. If you didn’t let go at the proper time, you would trip the safety and the lift’s ignition would shut down. The operator would then make the climb up to the top, scale the pole, and plug the safety back in. Then he would hike back down the hill and start the lift again. The operators sat in old car seats, mounted to the side of the truck frame. The lifts had a foot clutch and a hand throttle. It could get loud in the shacks. At the end of the day, your hearing was affected, your head was about 8” away from the open engine.
Access to the middle hill – the ‘Slalom’ was unique. You either went to the very top of the ‘Senior Tow’, climbed up the hill another 50’, and skied down a very steep section, or would get off the tow at the mid- section (while it was continuously running), do a quick 180 degree turn and double back to the Slalom crossover. It could be an intimidating move for a small child or visitor who had not seen it done before. Initially, there was no electricity at the club. A gas generator was brought in to power the lights and coffeemaker in the chalet. There was a large fireplace and tuck shop inside.
Each year, there were many special events – winter festivals, race days, and school days. The center hill ‘the Slalom’ would be used for tobogganing on the High School ski days. You could get going very, very fast down that hill on a toboggan. The new chalet was built in the late 60’s/early 70’s. It had all the modern amenities. A Ski Patrol cabin was erected up near the Junior Tow. A Poma lift was installed in the late 70’s – perhaps the last year the club ran.
It was difficult to stay competitive without snowmaking and grooming. A bad season could put you in the hole for a long time. Insurance costs were rising as well.