You’re probably thinking this is a confession-type piece, finally coming clean about my foot deformity, but no, that would have been spelled “toes”. This is a reflection-type piece, in keeping with the New Year, as sometimes it is worth a glance back, even while considering the future.
Our local newspaper, The Cabinet, ran a photo a few weeks ago of a local ski hill called “Twin Tows”, named after it’s two…count ‘em…two…rope tows. The picture had been taken in 1964 by the late Bernice Perry, also a New Hampshire treasure. Twin Tows was a treasure, one of many smaller ski hills that used to be a staple across New Hampshire. I was fortunate enough to have grown up just several hundred yards from the top of this venerable hill, and it was an integral part of my childhood.
This particular picture showed a crowd of several hundred, which was not unusual on the weekends. There was night skiing, too, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and tickets were $1.00, daytime or night time. There was a small warm-up hut at the bottom, a small snack bar with hot dogs, hot chocolate and the like, and a small rental shop. Looking back, it was very Norman Rockwellesque. A place where folks from the surrounding communities gathered for good, healthy fun. Even a few prominent skiers got their start here, including Steve Lathrop of Amherst and George Frost.
Grooming the slopes did not include any fancy Sno-Cat, just a row of us kids, side stepping the entire hill. Just that part would kill me now. And my kids? Unless the grooming can be done with a remote…
The rope tow was a monument to Yankee ingenuity in itself. The brainchild of Arthur Hodgen and the late John MacDonald, both of Wilton, NH. Buick motors, if I remember correctly, and wheel rims for pulleys, tacked to the top of a telephone pole.
Safety procedures at the top of the tow included either John or Arthur grabbing your ankle if you became somehow attached to the rope and were heading for the inner workings of the engine house. You know what they say about watching sausage being made.
Learning the nuance of rope tow riding took some time, too. Grab too fast and it would pull your arms right out of their sockets. You had to slowly increase your grip until you started to move, and then hold tight. Take too long increasing your grip, though, and your mittens will be on fire in no time. Then there is the matter of keeping your skis in the tracks, as a single ski shooting off in one direction, while being pulled by a Buick-powered rope, can give your groin muscle a lightning strike, so to speak.
It was some place. More memories than I could shake a ski pole at, and friendships forged there that still endure today, some forty five years later. It’s sad, that as a culture, we have litigated ourselves into a corner where such a place could never exist today. Insurance companies would buckle over in laughter at the very proposal of insuring such a place. That’s too bad. These places were priceless, they served their communities in many ways, and are generally a part of New Hampshire that I miss.