Back when I was a young child in the 1950s you could downhill ski in Rutland City. The Rutland Country Club on upper Grove Street was the spot for this unique opportunity. Many of the local kids had their first experience on skis at this location. I was one of them.
I remember going to Wilson Sports to get fitted for my first pair of skis. They were Fischer brand. I remember putting my arm up to the top of the ski and bending my wrist to get the proper length. My first ski boots were a definite “fashion statement” with their laces! Tucked into the boots were my stretchy ski pants with a stirrup feature under the arch of my foot to hold the pants in place. I was ready to become a skier!
During the winter of 1951-1952 a 525-ft. rope tow was installed at the Country Club by the City of Rutland Recreation Department. It ran downward from the 14th to the 13th hole of the golf course. The hill was quite steep, so having a tow to pull you up was greatly appreciated. The only negative feature was having your mittens wear out from frequent use. Children could use the tow for free and adults paid 50 cents for the day.
There were occasional races, which was great way for beginners to prepare for future races at Pico and Killington.
Lessons were available from some well know area instructors such as: Joe and Anne Jones, Charlotte Fletcher, George Grant and Stevia Chaffee, mother of Olympic skiers Rick and Suzy Chaffee. When I interviewed Suzy a few years ago, she told me, “Never underestimate Rutland Country Club training!”
According to the annual reports of the City of Rutland over 200 children took lessons and close to 2,000 visits were made to the tow each year. Since it was the era of “homemakers,” lessons were offered to women on Thursday afternoons. They turned out to be popular and the women often requested that the tow run for awhile after lessons so they could practice what they had learned.
For many years one of the duties of Recreation Department employee Bill Reardon was to bring the ski tow motor from the Rotary Field House on North Street to the Country Club. The motor was a Volkswagen motor donated by Louie Salebra. Eventually a building was erected so the motor could remain on site. The tow was often operated by college students who worked part-time for the Recreation Department. The tow operators had to groom the hill because there was no machine to do that task. They took runs in such a manner as to smooth out the snow.
The rope tow was a victim of vandalism in 1963, when it was cut. The head of the Navy recruiting office in Rutland saved the day when he answered a call by the Recreation Superintendent for someone who could splice the rope effectively. He spent a very cold Friday working on it and the tow was up and running for the weekend.
The safety of users was addressed by having the motor shut off if someone held onto the rope for too long.
If you lived in Rutland and wanted to ski for just a couple of hours, the Country Club was a convenient and safe place for young people to do that. We could get fresh air and exercise in “our own back yard” so to speak. I started skiing there when I was around 10 years old and was still meeting friends there when I was a freshman in high school.
In 1974 the rope tow was removed. Those of us who used it can enjoy looking back at the fun we had in those days.