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SkiNewEngland.net
 
The base area (January 2022)
Ski Sundown
New Hartford, Connecticut
Status: Open
First Season:1963-64
Vertical Drop:625 feet
Standing Lifts:3 triples, surface lift
Past Lifts:2 doubles, surface lifts
Left: The base area (January 2022)
Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
12/28/2016: Continued Drought Affecting Some Connect...
1/19/2016: Multiple Ski Areas Now 100% Open
8/4/2014: Ski Sundown to Add Expert Trail
SkiNewEngland.net Profile
Located northwest of Hartford on Ratlum Mountain, Ski Sundown is a popular regional facility for skiers of all abilities.

Satan's Ridge

The base area
The base area

The inspiration for the development of Ski Sundown reportedly dated back to 1960, when engineer Russell Smith came up with the idea on a hot summer day. An early concept may have been a $20,000 "rope tow and hot dog stand." The land on which the ski area would be developed was owned by Lyman B. Bunnell, minister of music at Immanuel Congregational Church in West Hartford. In the summer of 1962, Smith was able to purchase the tracts of land from the now-retired Bunnell in the New Hartford and Canton region known as Satan's Kingdom.

By 1963, Smith had been joined by fellow Simsbury, Connecticut residents Frank Linnell and Harold Law, Jr.. The group began publicizing plans for a year-round recreational facility that spring as clearing began. Dean Parker and Son out of Lyndonville, Vermont designed and cut the trails. Slated for a 1963-64 opening, the Satan's Ridge ski area was to feature trails of all abilities day and night served by a T-Bar, a rope tow, and snowmaking equipment. Smith's land was transferred to Satan's Kingdom Inc. in August 1963. Former Jiminy Peak ski school director was appointed to the same position at Satan's Ridge in October.

By the time December arrived, a Mueller double chairlift was being installed, as the slope was too steep for the planned T-Bar (footings may have been poured for the aborted lift). By this point, the project cost was up to $250,000. Business manager Harold Law claimed the area would have the longest lighted ski trail in the east and the largest base lodge south of Vermont. The area's skier capacity was estimated at 1,200 to 1,400 per day.

A mid-December snowstorm wreaked havoc on chairlift construction, as the cement mixer could not be hauled up the mountain. As a result, Harold Law and Russell Smith took turns hauling bags of cement and jugs of hot water up via Jeep over a multi-day period and mixing it on site. The final lift tower was raised on December 27, after multiple planned opening days had been missed. The beginners rope tow may have operated in late December and early January while chairlift construction continued.

Satan's Ridge during its debut season
Satan's Ridge during its debut season

Satan's Ridge finally opened on January 11, 1964, with the chairlift (with a mid-station) and rope tow serving three slopes and one trail. The Devil's Den base lodge was described as having "unique radiant heat" and a view of the slopes, though construction was not complete by opening day. Word of the new ski area spread quickly, as 1,000 cars crowded the access road during the second weekend, prompting management to request non-skiers to wait until after the season to look at the area. Frank Linnell served as general manager. The Hartford Courant described the new area as "a little bit of Vermont in your backyard." The season may have petered out at the end of February.

Long-term plans called for two chairlifts, a T-Bar, four rope tows, and additional trails and slopes of all abilities, most of which would be lit.

The chairlift was operated for sightseeing at times during the 1964 off-season.

An 800 foot rope tow was added for the 1964-65 season. Though the season may have started just before Christmas with thin lower mountain skiing, the upper mountain likely didn't open until late January. The season may have ended in late February. That spring, the IRS and the state placed liens on the property for unpaid taxes.

Satan's Ridge circa January 1966
Satan's Ridge circa January 1966

Harold Law may have transitioned into the role of general manager for the 1965-66 season. $100,000 was invested in the mountain, including a lower mountain T-Bar serving an expanded novice area known as Wizard Hill. The Horn trail was also expanded. Skiing started the day after Christmas on manmade snow and continued to rely on it, logging 327 hours of snowmaking by mid-February. The season continued to the end of calendar winter, resulting in more skier visits than the first two seasons combined.

1966-67 improvements included a new steak house and lounge and additional trails, increasing the count to 13. The season likely got underway just before Christmas, but was hit with bad press in late January when a chair fell off the lift, injuring one. Base depths grew as the season progressed, resulting in Harold Law digging a five foot deep hole in the snow and posing with a shovel for the papers in early March. Rare April operations were achieved that season.

Closure

Paul Chichester was hired as general manager for the 1967-68 season. Formerly a ski instructor at Sugarbush, Chichester focused on improving the muddy parking lot, overhauling the lifts, and improving snowmaking. Owner Russell Smith later reflected that Satan's Ridge had "turned into a holding operation...hoping we could sell the place." A warm December likely delayed opening day until just before New Year's. The season likely continued into early March.

Following the season, United Bank & Trust Company foreclosed on Satan's Ridge. Owner Russell Smith told the Hartford Courant that the business failed because "it needed both money and management. We never got enough capital." A former employee told the paper that the area's snowmaking system was inadequate. Unable to find a buyer, the ski area sat idle during the winter of 1968-69.

Butternut to the Rescue

The base area circa the early 1970s
The base area circa the early 1970s

After sitting idle for a season, the 61-acre Satan's Ridge ski area was sold by Harold Law, Russell Smith, and Frank Linnell to Channing Murdock of nearby Butternut Basin and his brother Robert Murdock in mid-1969. In September of 1969, the business was incorporated as Ski Sundown, Inc., shedding its satanic name. When Murdock's first choice for general manager was not a good fit, he recruited a 30-year old former school teacher to run the ski area. According to Richard Carter, when he started after Labor Day, the area has no electricity, drinking water, or working lifts.

The Murdocks invested over $100,000 in Ski Sundown for the debut season, including $45,000 in snowmaking improvements (the original Satan's Ridge snowmaking equipment ended up at the YMCA Camp Jewell Outdoor Center ski area in North Colebrook). Thousands of feet of six-inch snowmaking pipe was buried, while three-phase power was extended to the area. Lifts were overhauled, lighting upgraded, and the parking lots rebuilt with gravel. Operations were expanded to 7 days and 6 nights per week and Jack Harrington was named ski school director. The season likely started just before Christmas and ran through the end of calendar winter.

Ski Sundown's sophomore season saw the cutting of the novice-intermediate Tom's Trail, opening of the lift line to skiing, regrading of the beginner area, renovation of the main lodge with an expanded sun deck, and remodeling of the Rustler's Den lounge. A new ski patrol building was also constructed. Skiing likely started in mid-December.

Ski Sundown
Ski Sundown

To further enhance beginner offerings, a Pomalift was installed for the 1971-72 season. In addition, the top of Gunbarrel was reworked to alleviate a bottleneck. Hans Baumberger was named ski school director. Though the season had a rare November start, mild weather produced bare spots and hampered holiday business, with Baumberger telling the Hartford Courant that, "it just has not been cold enough for long periods of time to allow us to put down a good cover." Adding to the struggles, early on the morning of January 29, a fire destroyed all four of Ski Sundown's snowmaking compressors.

Circa the 1973-74 season, Murdock made general manager Richard Carter part owner of the ski area. Gail Appell was named ski school director.

Following the rough 1972-73 and 1973-74 seasons, Channing Murdock acquired Paucatuck ski area in West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Installing a new $60,000 fan gun snowmaking system, Ski Sundown enjoyed an early December opening in 1975-76. Richard Carter told the Manchester Journal Inquirer, "the airless snowmakers save money and fuel" and "operate at about one-third the cost."

Triple Chairlifts

The Exhibition Triple circa the late 1970s
The Exhibition Triple circa the late 1970s

Following a successful 1976-77 season in which revenues increased by 40%, Ski Sundown announced it would be installing the state's first triple chairlift. The Borvig lift was installed next to the original double chairlift. Soon thereafter, Murdock transferred ownership of the area to Carter.

Noting that night skiing represented about 40% of business, Ski Sundown invested $10,000 in lighting for the 1977-78 season. In addition to improving the three existing night trails, lights were installed on a fourth trail.

A second triple chairlift was installed in 1980, serving the new Sunnyside novice area. Parking was improved in conjunction with the expansion. Despite the growth, the early 1980s were a struggle with minimal snow during the 1979-80 season and curtailed snowmaking due to a drought in 1980-81.

Sundown during the 1980s
Sundown during the 1980s

Night skiing was expanded for the 1982-83 season. The Big Bend trail was added to the Sunnyside area for the 1983-84 season, while the Papoose and Exhibition trails were regraded.

The 1986-87 season saw further improvements, including the reworking of the Temptor trail and a retrofit of the summit double chairlift. The area was blessed with natural snow that winter, with owner Richard Carter remarking, "I've never known it to be so busy."

Following the successful season, Ski Sundown kept the momentum going by replacing the double chairlift with a new CTEC triple to the summit. in addition, lighting and snowmaking were upgraded. The upgrades were greeted with a 20% increase in attendance.

The Sunnyside complex was overhauled in 1994, when the Pomalift was replaced by the refurbished double chairlift. For advanced skiers, tower snow guns were installed on Gunbarrel.

After over half a dozen years of planning, an 8,000 square foot base lodge addition was constructed for the 1996-97.

New Ownership

The Exhibition trail (2004)
The Exhibition trail (2004)

After owning Ski Sundown for nearly quarter of century, Richard Carter sold the area to general manager and long time employee Robert Switzgable in 2002. According to a press release, Carter chose to sell the area to Switzgable because "it's a small business and because of its unique characteristics, it is best operated by an individual who is the owner. Because I care so much about Ski Sundown, I wasn't willing to just put it on the market."

Half a decade later, Ski Sundown nearly took over the operations of Powder Ridge.

Ski Sundown's snowmaking was significantly improved in 2009 when the pump house was rebuilt. The project gave Ski Sundown the ability to make snow on all trails simultaneously.

The base area (February 2014)
The base area (February 2014)

The Sunnyside complex was once again overhauled in 2013, when the Little Joe Double was replaced with a conveyor lift.

Satan's Ridge co-founder Harold Law Jr. passed away on May 12, 2013 at the age of 82.

A new expert trail was added for the 2014-15 season. Named Satan's Stairway, the steep, narrow trail was equipped with snowmaking and lighting.


NewEnglandSkiConditions.com Reports
Recent Conditions Reports
Jan. 22, 2022 by rocket21
Packed Powder, Loose Granular
Ski Sundown on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com

NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News
Recent Articles
Continued Drought Affecting Some Connecticut Ski Areas - Dec. 28, 2016
Multiple Ski Areas Now 100% Open - Jan. 19, 2016
Ski Sundown to Add Expert Trail - Aug. 4, 2014
Ski Sundown NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News Page

Expansion History
Project
Season
Sunnyside
Open
1980-81

Image Gallery
1968 Eastern Ski MapNovember 18, 1980 Norwalk HourFebruary 13, 1986 Norwalk HourJanuary 7, 1990 Meriden Record JournalSki Sundown Aerial Imagery, 1992 vs. 2012
View All Images in Ski Sundown Image Gallery
Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Standing Lifts
Installed
The Exhibition Triple circa the late 1970s
Exhibition Triple
Borvig
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1977-78
The Sunnyside Triple in 2004
Sunnyside Triple
Borvig
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1980-81
The Triple Barrel in 2003
Triple Barrel
CTEC
Chairlift - Triple - Fixed
1987-88

Past Lifts
Seasons
The Little Joe Double in 2003
Little Joe Double
Mueller
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1994-95
-
2012-13
The lift line (background)
Pomalift
Heron-Poma
Platter
1971-72
-
1993-94
The Summit Double circa the early 1970s
Summit Double
Mueller
Chairlift - Double - Fixed
1963-64
-
1986-87
A possible T-Bar footing (foreground) with a former chairlift footing (background) (January 2022)
T-Bar
Hall
T-Bar
1963-64
-
1963-64
The lift line (January 1966)
T-Bar
Doppelmayr
T-Bar
1965-66
-
1976-77

Maps
2021-22 Ski Sundown Trail Map
1973-74 Ski Sundown Trail Map1980-81 Ski Sundown Trail Map2001-02 Ski Sundown trail map2005-06 Ski Sundown trail map2006-07 Ski Sundown trail map2010-11 Ski Sundown Trail Map
View All Ski Sundown Trail Maps

Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
2020s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2022-23$68.002022-23 Ticket Price Graph2022-23 Season Pass Price Graph2022-23 Skier Visit Graph
2021-22$64.002021-22 Ticket Price Graph$675.002021-22 Season Pass Price Graph10.5 daysDecember 28March 272021-22 Skier Visit Graph
2020-21$62.002020-21 Ticket Price Graph$715.002020-21 Season Pass Price Graph11.5 daysDecember 19March 212020-21 Skier Visit Graph
2019-20$62.002019-20 Ticket Price Graph$715.002019-20 Season Pass Price Graph11.5 daysDecember 20March 82019-20 Skier Visit Graph
2010s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2018-19$62.002018-19 Ticket Price Graph$715.002018-19 Season Pass Price Graph11.5 daysDecember 8March 242018-19 Skier Visit Graph
2017-18$62.002017-18 Ticket Price Graph$650.002017-18 Season Pass Price Graph10.5 daysDecember 21March 252017-18 Skier Visit Graph
2016-17$60.002016-17 Ticket Price Graph$625.002016-17 Season Pass Price Graph10.4 daysDecember 23March 262016-17 Skier Visit Graph
2015-16$60.002015-16 Ticket Price Graph$625.002015-16 Season Pass Price Graph10.4 daysJanuary 8March 92015-16 Skier Visit Graph
2014-15$58.002014-15 Ticket Price Graph$599.002014-15 Season Pass Price Graph10.3 daysDecember 13April 22014-15 Skier Visit Graph
2013-14$56.002013-14 Ticket Price Graph$589.002013-14 Season Pass Price Graph10.5 daysDecember 13March 292013-14 Skier Visit Graph
2012-13$55.002012-13 Ticket Price Graph$589.002012-13 Season Pass Price Graph10.7 daysDecember 26April 62012-13 Skier Visit Graph
2011-12$55.002011-12 Ticket Price Graph$589.002011-12 Season Pass Price Graph10.7 daysDecember 17March 172011-12 Skier Visit Graph
2010-112010-11 Ticket Price Graph$589.002010-11 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 10March 272010-11 Skier Visit Graph
2009-10$52.002009-10 Ticket Price Graph$579.002009-10 Season Pass Price Graph11.1 daysMarch 212009-10 Skier Visit Graph
2000s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
2008-09$50.002008-09 Ticket Price Graph$579.002008-09 Season Pass Price Graph11.6 daysNovember 28March 282008-09 Skier Visit Graph
2007-08$48.002007-08 Ticket Price Graph$579.002007-08 Season Pass Price Graph12.1 daysMarch 302007-08 Skier Visit Graph
2006-07$46.002006-07 Ticket Price Graph$579.002006-07 Season Pass Price Graph12.6 daysDecember 9April 12006-07 Skier Visit Graph
2005-06$43.002005-06 Ticket Price Graph$549.002005-06 Season Pass Price Graph12.8 daysDecember 32005-06 Skier Visit Graph
2004-05$40.002004-05 Ticket Price Graph$549.002004-05 Season Pass Price Graph13.7 days2004-05 Skier Visit Graph
2003-04$37.002003-04 Ticket Price Graph$549.002003-04 Season Pass Price Graph14.8 daysDecember 62003-04 Skier Visit Graph
2002-03$35.002002-03 Ticket Price Graph$549.002002-03 Season Pass Price Graph15.7 daysNovember 302002-03 Skier Visit Graph
2001-02$34.002001-02 Ticket Price Graph$499.002001-02 Season Pass Price Graph14.7 daysMarch 92001-02 Skier Visit Graph
2000-01$33.002000-01 Ticket Price Graph$499.002000-01 Season Pass Price Graph15.1 days2000-01 Skier Visit Graph
1999-00$32.001999-00 Ticket Price Graph1999-00 Season Pass Price Graph1999-00 Skier Visit Graph
1990s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1997-981997-98 Ticket Price Graph1997-98 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 131997-98 Skier Visit Graph
1996-971996-97 Ticket Price Graph1996-97 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 221996-97 Skier Visit Graph
1995-961995-96 Ticket Price Graph1995-96 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 91995-96 Skier Visit Graph
1994-951994-95 Ticket Price Graph1994-95 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 171994-95 Skier Visit Graph
1992-93$28.001992-93 Ticket Price Graph1992-93 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 111992-93 Skier Visit Graph
1991-92$27.001991-92 Ticket Price Graph1991-92 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 7110,0001991-92 Skier Visit Graph
1990-911990-91 Ticket Price Graph1990-91 Season Pass Price Graph99,0001990-91 Skier Visit Graph
1989-90$26.001989-90 Ticket Price Graph$440.001989-90 Season Pass Price Graph16.9 days1989-90 Skier Visit Graph
1980s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1988-89$24.001988-89 Ticket Price Graph1988-89 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 111988-89 Skier Visit Graph
1986-87$20.001986-87 Ticket Price Graph1986-87 Season Pass Price Graph1986-87 Skier Visit Graph
1985-86$19.001985-86 Ticket Price Graph1985-86 Season Pass Price Graph1985-86 Skier Visit Graph
1980-81$13.501980-81 Ticket Price Graph1980-81 Season Pass Price Graph1980-81 Skier Visit Graph
1979-80$11.001979-80 Ticket Price Graph1979-80 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 211979-80 Skier Visit Graph
1970s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1978-79$10.001978-79 Ticket Price Graph1978-79 Season Pass Price Graph1978-79 Skier Visit Graph
1977-78$9.001977-78 Ticket Price Graph1977-78 Season Pass Price Graph1977-78 Skier Visit Graph
1976-77$9.001976-77 Ticket Price Graph$150.001976-77 Season Pass Price Graph16.7 days1976-77 Skier Visit Graph
1975-76$8.751975-76 Ticket Price Graph1975-76 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 51975-76 Skier Visit Graph
1974-75$8.501974-75 Ticket Price Graph1974-75 Season Pass Price Graph1974-75 Skier Visit Graph
1973-74$8.001973-74 Ticket Price Graph1973-74 Season Pass Price Graph1973-74 Skier Visit Graph
1972-73$7.001972-73 Ticket Price Graph1972-73 Season Pass Price Graph1972-73 Skier Visit Graph
1971-72$7.001971-72 Ticket Price Graph$130.001971-72 Season Pass Price Graph18.6 daysMarch 191971-72 Skier Visit Graph
1970-71$7.001970-71 Ticket Price Graph1970-71 Season Pass Price GraphMarch 281970-71 Skier Visit Graph
1969-701969-70 Ticket Price Graph1969-70 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 19March 221969-70 Skier Visit Graph
1960s Ticket Price Season Pass Price
Pass Payback
Opening Day
Closing Day
Skier Visits
1967-68$6.001967-68 Ticket Price Graph1967-68 Season Pass Price Graph1967-68 Skier Visit Graph
1966-67$5.001966-67 Ticket Price Graph1966-67 Season Pass Price GraphApril 21966-67 Skier Visit Graph
1965-661965-66 Ticket Price Graph1965-66 Season Pass Price GraphDecember 26March 2024,0001965-66 Skier Visit Graph
1964-65$3.501964-65 Ticket Price Graph1964-65 Season Pass Price Graph10,0001964-65 Skier Visit Graph
1963-641963-64 Ticket Price Graph1963-64 Season Pass Price Graph9,0001963-64 Skier Visit Graph

Visitor Memories
"I learned to ski at Sundown and it will always be a place to remember. I went through the JI program and the following year became a ski instructor, completing my PSIA L1 exam and making a lot of friends along the way. I will never forget Ski Sundown."
Shirah Mark, Jan. 17, 2022
"I remember dollar night on Monday evening The place was packed but great fun for a dollar Must have been in 1972 or 1973"
Tim Berge, Aug. 25, 2021
"37 years ago I got my start in the industry making snow with Bob Switzgable.What a blast! Moved to Vermont after two years. Have not made snow in eight years but I am still snow farming for Killington. I told human resources as long as I can climb in a machine I will groom forever. Thank you Ski Sundown for my awesome carrier. "
Jay Hudson, Nov. 14, 2020
"I learned to ski here and feel very sentimental thinking about Ski Sundown. In the late 90's our after school ski program would make the weekly trip from West Hartford to New Hartford and we couldn't wait to return the following week. I am glad to see that this place still operates successfully and has since cut a new trail: Satan's Staircase which runs right alongside the Gunbarrel Trail. It is only moderately steep but extremely narrow, bumped up and shaded by the trees all day making for a challenging descent. It is a great place to bring the family and to teach future generations about the sport we all enjoy. Even though we have all moved on to bigger and less expensive mountains there is something about Ski Sundown that will never let me forget how special it is. "
Rusty Shackleford, Dec. 18, 2017
"I was the ski director of the ski school at Ski Sundown. My wife Maurie was a ski instructor and my two sons Scott and Todd learned to ski there. Both sons became freestyle competitors. We held a freestyle competition at Ski Sundown with Wayne Wong being a competitor."
Jack Harrington, Apr. 4, 2017
"I was Ski Sundown's first female lift attendant in the winter of 1973. My brother Jeff Pratt was already working there, and my parents Rod and Hala were both on the ski patrol. A family affair, you could say. Rick Carter called the house one day to ask Jeff to come in and cover a shift and my mother said, "Jeff's not here, but Sue is." Rick replied, "Put her on." And that was my hiring! Being the first woman to serve as a lift attendant was a responsibility I felt keenly, knowing that to complain about dragging heavy trash cans full of rain-sodden snow up the lift ramps would be the end of future women in the job. I never said a word. I think I saw this as my "gift" of sorts to the women lift attendants who would come along behind. I worked all that winter, and again the next winter during college breaks. It was a huge part of my life and meant (and still does) a great deal. "
Susan Pratt, Mar. 3, 2017
"I was a member of the freestyle team back in the 70's. Learned to ski at sundown. Great memories."
Geoff Shea, Mar. 2, 2017
"I learned to ski at Satan's Ridge in the '60s and skied Sundown many nights when I was in high school. The "hill" was great part of my youth!"
Sue Gentile, Mar. 2, 2017
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External Links
  • Ski Sundown - official site
  • Last updated: October 18, 2022

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