Every now and then, somebody asks me where I learned to ski.
I tell them mostly at Wolf Hollow.
Wolf Hollow was a 1940s-era rope-tow ski area operated by the Schenectady Wintersports Club, which this season is marking its 75th anniversary.
The tow was situated on a farm overlooking the Mohawk Valley high in the Glenville hills — as high as you can get in the Glenville hills, anyway. As I remember, the farm was owned by a family named Van Epps.
There were two ways to get to the slope. The easy way was to park in a field (off Touareuna Road) near the farm at the top of the hill, and walk a couple of hundred yards.
The hard way was to park below the ski hill on Wolf Hollow Road and climb a narrow logging road up the side of a steep, wooded ravine. As kids, we thought this way was a lot more fun, especially coming back down. The logging road has long since disappeared.
The ski slope itself had a 125-foot vertical drop, which is not much by today’s standards.
What made the area unique was its 700-foot rope tow. It was the only one I ever saw with a mid-station.
The tow pulled skiers up a ridge with a dogleg to the left, and the Wintersports Club engineers had somehow rigged its pulleys to accommodate the change in direction, all with a single strand of rope.
You had to let go of the lower section of the rope at the halfway point and grab the other section to make it to the top. Timing was everything. If you missed the grab, you caused a pile-up, and skiers waiting at the bottom would not be happy.
The slopes were short, but there was enough variety for interesting skiing. The one to the left of the lift (as you faced downhill) was intermediate if you skied close to the lift and around some apple trees at the bottom. If you skied away from the lift, it was easier. The slope to the right of the lift was fairly steep and we considered it to be “expert.”
In those days, skis came off rather frequently. If the snow was hard and fast, a loose ski could take off down the hill at a high rate of speed and everybody would yell “ski” and watch. If it didn’t hit an apple tree, it had a chance to make it to the edge of the ravine, where it would sail off into the trees to the cheers of the crowd.
The area had a cozy warming hut with a pot belly stove and lights to allow for night skiing. We skied there on many cold, snowy nights.
According to SWC records, Wolf Hollow operated until 1955. At that time, the club opened another rope-tow area on the other side of the Mohawk River in Pattersonville. That tow operated until 1967.
The Schenectady Wintersports Club was founded in 1932, with
Dr. Vincent Schaefer (of cloud-seeding fame) its first president.
In the 1930s, its members cleared several climb-up, ski-down trails in the Rotterdam hills. The best known of these, the Quarry Trail, was used for racing. Dick Durrance, the best American ski racer of his day, raced on the trail. The legendary ski teacher and coach, Otto Schniebs, gave instruction to SWC members there, and was later made an honorary member.
Among the club members who taught in Rotterdam was Dot Hoyt, a native of Schenectady who became a member of the U.S. ski team. Hoyt was also the first coach of Olympic gold medal winner Andrea Mead. Another early instructor was Trygve Dahl, a native of Norway who lived in Scotia.
The early club members were also responsible for organizing the historic snow train trips from Schenectady to North Creek. The first snow train ran on March 4, 1934, with 378 skiers on board.
The club has a long history of ski racing. In 1936, Dr. Irving Langmuir donated a trophy for the best high school ski team in three events _ cross country, downhill and slalom. Nott Terrace, Mont Pleasant, Scotia-
Glenville and Saratoga Springs were among the teams competing.
In 1961, SWC sponsored a scholastic race at Hickory Hill in Warrensburg which rekindled interest in high school racing in the Capital Region.
And many club members themselves enjoyed running gates. In the 1970s, longtime member Dick
Weber was one of the best racers on the Eastern veteran racing circuit and in the New York Capital District Ski Council. A number of club members served as volunteers at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
For years, the Schenectady club has sponsored the annual Warren Miller movie. In the early years, Miller would appear in person to narrate the film.
The Wintersports Club owns a renovated farm house near Stowe, Vt., which provides members with lodging and a base for activities both winter and summer.
The Schenectady Wintersports Club meets every other Thursday at the Hibernian Hall in Schenectady. The club currently has about 700 members, and many stay together in the summer months to bike and paddle. The Northern New York Paddlers became a subdivision of the club about 40 years ago.
According to current president Bill Schaefer (nephew of Vincent Schaefer), the club is planning a train trip to North Creek in October as a way of celebrating its 75th anniversary and its history with the snow trains of the 1930s.
Royal Mountain in Caroga Lake is in terrific shape for the Martin Luther King weekend, according to owner Jim Blaise.
“We have a 11⁄2-foot to two-foot base all over the mountain, and we received six inches of new snow early in the week,” Blaise said.
The area will be open Saturday through Monday.
In cooperation with the American Heart Association, Maple Ski Ridge in Rotterdam will host the fourth annual “The Ridge Goes Red 24-Hour Ski-A-Thon” on Feb. 1-2. The event is a fundraiser for the Heart Association’s “Go Red For Women” campaign that educates women about heart disease and stroke.
Needed are 50 four-member teams with a minimum of $200 in pledges per team. For more information, contact Lorraine Moyer at 381-4700.
Lapland Lake in Benson received six inches of snow on Monday, plus another two inches on Tuesday. The Nordic center has 48 kilometers of trails open with 33 kilometers groomed with both trackset and skating lanes.
Another three kilometers on Woods Lake are groomed but not trackset, with 12 kilometers open for snowshoeing.
DEMOS AT GORE
Cunningham’s Ski Barn will host a demo day at Gore Mountain on Saturday featuring K2 and Volkl skis.
On Tuesday, Gore will begin “Take Your Daughter to Gore Week.” Daughters 19 and under can ski, ride or tube free with a full-paid parent Tuesday through Jan. 27.
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