Ski Long Island!!!
Late 20th century Long Island skiers didn't have to drive three or more
the nearest resort but could hit the slopes in their own backyard.
The Island at various times from the end of World War II until 1980 was home to commercial
or municipal ski areas in Mill Neck, Old Bethpage, Huntington Station, Smithtown and Farmingville.
Rope tows and at least one T-bar lift served the small operations made possible by Ice Age glaciers
that deposited hills geologists call a terminal moraine.
Historical records are sketchy, but Long Island's first ski area was either the Oyster Bay Ski Area
that operated in Mill Neck from the late 1940s through the winter of 1957-1958, or Bethpage State Park.
The park offered a single rope tow on the 18th hole of the Green Course from 1948 until the early 1970s,
according to George Gorman Jr., deputy regional state parks director. It was billed as having the first ski tow
on Long Island, serving a 400-foot slope with 100-foot vertical drop.
"We had snow-making machines" at some point, Gorman said. The building that housed them and
the machinery inside are still there.
Ken Summers, 64, of Brightwaters, said the ski area was opened around 1947 by his parents, Oscar Jr.
and Miriam Summers, and two friends, Jerry and Isabel French. Other accounts have it opening in 1949,
"They were all skiers, and in order to make a few bucks they decided to put this venture together up on
the hill in Mill Neck," Summers said. It was on the leased former pasture of the Renville Smith dairy farm,
south of Ski Lane, west of Lake Avenue and north of Glen Cove-Oyster Bay Road.
The area operated, natural snow permitting, weekday evenings and weekend days. The runs were 600 to 800 feet.
The area originally had two rope tows, with a third added in 1951, powered by the rear wheel of a pickup truck.
Tickets cost 75 cents.
"I probably skied there the first time when I was 2 or 3 years old," Summers said. "We started a little junior ski patrol
and we had toboggans and we took down a couple people with broken legs. We set up ski jumps and had a great time."
Oyster Bay Cove resident Caroline DuBois, 68, said the Oyster Bay hill was the first place she skied as a young child.
"It was a great place to learn how to ski because it was so close and not too scary," DuBois said.
"It was a not very steep hill and it was a very short run. It took maybe a minute or two minutes to
get to the top and about the same amount of time to go down."
The demise of the ski area stemmed from a now-familiar story on Long Island,
the property owner sold the land for a housing development.
In 1958, the Hi-Point Ski Club was created on Dix Hills Road in Huntington Station. Newsday's ski columnist at the time,
Bill Voorhees, referred to it as "the island's first real ski area, serviced by machine-made snow."
The club was the inspiration of Republic Aviation design engineer Carl Josephson, who sold $100 memberships
and in seven weeks raised $23,000. The members built the area, which opened in December 1959.
The Merrywood Country Club ski area at Landing Avenue in Smithtown opened in 1962 with snow-making
equipment, two rope tows, a ski school and a shop offering rental equipment.
A latecomer to Long Island
downhill skiing was
which operated the
Bald Hill Ski Bowl in
Farmingville from 1965 to 1980
with rope tows and a T-bar lift.
An amphitheater now fills the
old ski bowl.
From 1965-1980, Bald Hill was the site of a Town-owned skiing area known as the Bald Hill Ski Bowl.
The Bald Hill area is part of the Ronkonkoma Moraine, which runs east to west
along the center of the
Town of Brookhaven, and marks where the glacier which formed Long Island stopped its advance.
When first settled in the late 18th century, the area was called "Bald Hills."
While the elevation and views are impressive for Long Island, George Washington found the hills to be
merely "trifling" when he passed through in April 1790.
The seeds for this project were planted in 1964, when Suffolk County builder Henry Taca approached
the Town with plans to build houses on his 229 acres (0.93 km2) in the area, including the hilly Bald Hill tract.
He turned over 64 acres (260,000 m2) of the Bald Hill property to the Town free of charge in 1965, and in
return, he received Town approval for a "cluster housing" project known as Hawthorne Estates.
Under the approval, he was allowed to build more houses on his remaining acreage than would otherwise be permitted.
The Bald Hill Ski Bowl officially opened on January 21, 1965, with a 710-foot (220 m) tow rope in operation
on a wide main slope, which featured a 800-foot (240 m) run and 123-foot (37 m) vertical drop. At its opening,
it was hoped that with the use of snow machines, the slopes and trails would be usable for an average of 70 days
each winter. Initial prices were $3 for an all-day ticket, $2 for a half-day ticket after 1 P.M., and 25 cents for a
single ski-tow trip. By January 1967, an 800-foot (240 m) T-bar lift had been installed to supplement three tow
ropes ranging from 150 to 800 feet (240 m) in length, and there were now five ski trails on three slopes.
A Swiss-chalet style lodge with a fireplace was also added.
In 1975, The New York Times reported that the ski area was now drawing 5,000 visitors each week.
The facility was described as covering 106 acres (0.43 km2) and featuring a 1,400-foot (430 m) run for advanced s
kiers, a slope for "novices", and a "bunny run" for beginners. The cost for an all-day ticket was $2.25. All was not
rosy, however. New "quiet" snow machines were in the process of being installed to quell complaints about noise f
rom neighboring residents, and some members of the Town Board were complaining that the facility was costing t
oo much and should perhaps be closed. Operating costs were reported to be $500,000 annually, with revenue of
between $100,000 to $200,000, depending on the amount of snowfall.
Fortunes turned briefly for the better in the winter of 1976-1977, when generous snowfall (over 62 inches (1,600 mm)
in Suffolk County gave the Ski Bowl its first profitable year. But the warmer winter of 1979-80 proved to be a death blow.
As of late January 1980, the ski bowl had only been open eight days for the season. Only 6,500 skiers showed up that
winter, only 11 inches (280 mm) of snow fell, and revenues fell to $18,000. As the next winter approached, the Town
searched for a private operator willing to take over the facility, an unlikely prospect in light of Long Island's weather
and the site's historical unprofitability. With the facility's budget slashed by over 70%, and a vague plan to open only
if natural snowfall was sufficient, Bald Hill's days as Long Island's largest public skiing facility were at an end.
|Bald Hill by the Year|
|3 slopes, 5 trails||Night skiing, snowmaking, 140′ drop, rentals, $4.00 weekend rates||NY Ski Guide|
|5 trails||Vertical drop 120′, NE Exposure, operates daily, snowmaking, night skiing, ski shop, area restaurant, snack bar, rentals, 2500 skiers per hour capacity. American technique taught, 5 instructors. $3.00 weekday, $4.00 weekend, town resident discounts||Ski
Guide to the Northeast
The ski bowl site is now home of the Brookhaven Amphitheater. The ski lodge
building remains as an art gallery,
and sits to the right of the audience as they face the stage.
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