Some people enjoy rehabilitating old homes.
Greenfield resident Carter Yepsen, on the other hand, wants to rehab an old ski slope fondly remembered by many area skiers.
Yepsen has cleared about 500 trees from his Maddy Grove Road residence, where he is almost finished with a five-year endeavor to revitalize the former Darrow’s Farm Slope, a small ski operation that was open for business from 1939 to 1961.
Having purchased the property about 10 years ago, Yepsen began clearing trees, brush and shrubbery from the land about five years ago with the hope of creating a skiable slope for friends and family. Inspired by a website called New England Lost Ski Area Projects, he learned about the history of his property.
After getting in touch with NELSAP’s creator, Jeremy Davis, the pair walked through the property and assessed the condition of the land, which had been overrun by plant life. It was during this tour that Yepsen discovered a ski tow that had been used a lifetime ago and had been powered by an old Ford engine.
Now the hill is equipped with a handle tow that Yepsen bought in Maine, which took two trips to transport back to his property. He just needs a phase converter to supply power to the lift before it can be up and running.
Since he decided to make the hill operational again, Yepsen was faced with the daunting challenge of removing hundreds of trees to create open space for skiing. For the most part he has tackled this project by himself on weekends and after coming home from his day job in Albany with Cisco Systems, pouring hundreds of hours into his quest. During this process people have offered their help, with the biggest effort culminating in a group of 25 people operating backhoes, chain saws and axes.
In the wake of recent media attention his project has received, Yepsen said he has been inundated with people sharing their fond memories about the slopes. He said the trip down memory lane has also included one visitor from the slope’s past who came by and walked the hill with Yepsen. “It’s great to keep the history alive,” he added.
While not originally from the Greenfield area, Yepsen said, “I had some friends who skied there as kids in the fifties.”
On the NELSAP website, people share some of their own memories, including recollections from one man about popular long hats from that era, which his brother had been wearing when the “liftie” yanked it off and took it down the slope.
Yepsen shares his own knowledge of the hill on the website, characterizing the hill as partially self-service. “If you were the first one there, you’d walk to the top of the hill, start the old car that ran the rope and put it in gear,” wrote Yepsen.
For now, though, the hill is a two-minute walk until the new handle tow becomes operational, but that hasn’t stopped Yepsen’s teenage son, Cole, from trying out the hill with his friends. “He loves it,” said Yepsen.
He had hoped to have the slope fully operational, with one glade and one wide open trail, for this winter, but Yepsen said that won’t be possible. “But it will be next winter for sure,” he promised.
In the meantime, Yepsen said he is looking into the prospects of making his own snow, so his skiing can’t be limited by mother nature. He said it could be an expensive project but he was very excited about the possibility.
You can learn more about the history of Darrow’s Farm Slope and see old pictures at http://www.nelsap.org/ny/darrow.html.