|Northfield, New Hampshire|
|Vertical Drop:||700 feet|
|Standing Lifts:||1 triple|
|Past Lifts:||Surface lifts|
|Left: The Highlands circa the late 1960s or early 1970s|
|Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
|8/10/2016: Borvig Chairlift at Highland to Close fo...|
Last updated: May 23, 2018
Located southeast of Tilton, the Highlands ski area operated for nearly three decades on the north face of Bean Hill.|
Early Skiing Attempts at Bean Hill
Prior to the construction of the Highlands, Bean Hill was home to an alpine ski trail named the Bean Hill Trail. Though the constructed in the CCC trail building decade of the 1930s, it is unknown if the organization was involved with the Bean Hill Trail.
Plans for a lift served ski area on Bean Hill were developed in 1965, however interested parties were unable to obtain adequate funds. Around this time, the Elliott family began surveying the area. In August of 1967, the non-profit Northfield Development Corporation was founded by locals. With the company established, $160,000 in Small Business Administration loans were able to be obtained for the development of a ski area on Bean Hill. In October of 1967, Highland Ski Area, Inc. was created.
The Highlands circa the late 1960s or early 1970s
The Highlands ski area opened in late December 1968, initially on the lower mountain, as the summit T-Bar was not yet operational. At full operation, the ski area debuted with two T-Bars, two rope tows, two slopes, and 6 miles of trails, apparently designed to resemble a mini-Stowe. Night skiing was also available. The formal dedication of the ski area was held on February 2, 1969.
The area was advertised as a family operation (run by Robert Elliott, his wife, and three teenage children) geared toward families. Elliott, who also headed up the ski school, was advertised as famous for being "one of the somersaulting skiers at Killington."
By the early 1970s the area had added a Poma slope and advertised 7 trails. The base lodge featured a snack bar, ski shop, nursery, and fieldstone fireplace. On the other side of the parking lot, the Rob Roy Lounge was advertised for apres ski activities.
While the ownership had planned to install a chairlift and cut trails on the eastern face, development stagnated for some time.
Mid 1980s Development
Big changes were announced in the mid 1980s, as the Highlands looked to move into the modern age with new ownership. Highlands Mountain, Inc. was registered New Hampshire in December of 1985, with Dennis DiPrete (son of Rhode Island Governor Edward DiPrete), Paul Sullivan, Mark Manual, and Paul Marchionda as incorporators. A three year plan commenced, including the installation of snowmaking, more lighting, additional terrain, and condominiums. The expansion was capped with the installation of a new Borvig triple chairlift in 1987. In conjunction with the new lift, snowmaking and night skiing was expanded to the summit.
While a new novice trail was cut from the summit for the 1989-90 season, severe financial problems were mounting. The Highlands found itself on the auction block in December of 1990 and almost did not open for the 1990-91 season.
Richard Shea purchased the ski area at auction circa 1991 and began operating it with his wife and grown sons.
The Highlands made headlines in early 1992 when the Sheas and Rep. Tom Salatiello went to the press with complaints about Belknap County-owned Gunstock being given an unfair advantage. Their complaints included the removal of the Highlands sign from Interstate 93 and $100,000 in government funds given to Gunstock for night skiing improvements.
The Highlands' woes continued in 1993 when its electricity was cut off due to mounting debt. A diesel generator was installed to keep the area operational while the bills were paid down.
The Highlands once again ended up on the auction block in October of 1995. Dan Enwright purchased the area for a fraction of the assessed value and was optimistic about its prospects. However, Enwright soon discovered the snowmaking system was non-functional, the lodge in disrepair, and the electrical system a mess. In addition, Enwright ran into issues in obtaining a clean title, so repair work was delayed.
The idle base area prior to the construction of the bike park (2002)
While the area was advertised for the 1995-96 season, it likely never opened. Instead, the ski area fell victim to vandals in the subsequent years.
Highland Mountain Bike Park
While nearby ski areas attempted to purchase the triple chairlift, the lift and the ski area sat idle into the early 2000s. The Highlands began to see new life in 2003 when construction of Highland Mountain Bike Park commenced. Ski trails were filled with various ramps and jumps for talented bikers, who would be transported to the top via the triple chairlift.
The base area in 2013
Now in operation for over a decade, the Highland Mountain Bike Park has become a nationally known destination for mountain bikers. While there have been rumors that limited ski operations could resume in the future, the park remains biking only at this point.
Bikers passing the former T-Bar terminal (2017)
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Year by Year History
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|"Skied the Highlands with my family as a kid from late 70s until mid or so 80s. Reading these posts brings back many great memories from that time. I remember the names and people. I remember the thrill of ripping down trail # 1 but my favorite was always the # 9. You could also make those T-bars "launch" you when going up a steep hill. During that time the mountain was almost like a private family club, the same folks every weekend to play with! The adults used to bust out the crock pots full of yummies, snacks and of course the Coors light and various 70s brands of Vino were always flowing. At night, they would retire to the Rob Roy for Snow-snakes I think is what they called them :) As a kid after a fun day of skiing, there were the arcade games downstairs in the main lodge next to ski rentals and of course the sledding on trail # 5. Good times "|
|Ed Cocci, Jr, Dec. 13, 2017|
|"The week my youngest nephew was born in 1990 I was picking up his older brothers Ryan and Micheal Dempsey from The Highlands. they had skied all day. I will never forget being stuck in my car, off the side of the road heading up to the lodge. I tried to get out of the car to walk up, and promptly fell on the sheer ice of the road. People were wonderful and tried to push the car out of the snowbank. Somehow the boys knew enough to come down and they had called their step-dad to come to the rescue. He came with a shovel, dug the car out, put shingles under the tires and I was free! Later, while in high school my nephews became Ski Instructors here. They loved it, it was close to home, and a great place for kids. :)"|
|Mary Lou Conton, Feb. 3, 2015|
|"I grew up in Northfield-- just down Bay Street from the Elliotts-- and learned to ski at Highlands the first winter it opened. 1968-69. Ernie Hutchins was my instructor. We had so much snow that winter that what my mom referred to as the 'back way' to the mountain-- Turnpike Road to Keasor Road to the road to the lodge-- was impassable half the time. Ernie and Bob Elliott, Jr. were aerial pioneers; they were about the only guys in the country doing flips on skis in 1969. Their tandem jumps were wicked cool. A few years later, Bob, Jr. had a trampoline set up at his house to practice aerials during the summer. From the time I learned to ski until I left for college, my friends and I spent nearly every weekend there was snow at Highlands. The area had a season pass deal for local school kids, which I remember being $35 in the winter of '78-'79. Loved night skiing at Highlands, particularly as a high schooler. No coolers needed for... uhh... refreshments. Just leave them under the car in the parking lot or at the top of #5 in the trees. I loved that little hill. "|
|Michael Piper, Aug. 6, 2014|
|"My aunt and uncle managed and then owned the Highlands. Both have since passed. Spent all my winters from 1981-1991 there. Many summers helping to clear brush from slopes. I remember Elmer the handyman and when I was first allowed in the Rob Roy Lounge, lol. Nightskiing, family atmosphere and nighttime parties. I Would like to find a poster or sign for some memories."|
|Howie Smith, Jul. 23, 2014|
|"We moved to NH in mid 1968. I went to work for Bob Elliott Sr a week before the area officially opened. It was the great winter of 68/69, one of the heaviest NH snow years ever. In Feb of 69 we had three snowstorms that dropped 78 inches of powder. The snow was so deep that it buried the T-bars and ski racks The area stayed open its first year until mid April.I worked with the Elliott family for over three years. In those days you did a little bit of everything. Bob Jr and I ran the ski school, groomed the slopes, cut brush, tended bar, and just about anything else you could imagine. In 1969 my wife and I build our first home at the bottom of the access road. It was the first house built in the area. Still there I think. Highlands was a family ski area, with most of its customers from the local area, Concord, Manchester, and MA. It was a very successful area in the ten years the Elliotts were owners."|
|Ernie Hutchins, Feb. 7, 2014|
|"We lived in NH from the mid-80's to the mid 90's and remember skiing there a lot of evenings. This is where we learned with our 2 young children, on ICE. It was a learning experience and we grew to enjoy it. Loved seeing the sparks of our edges cutting thru the ice covered slopes. Sad to see it closed, good family and friends there. "|
|Rod & Karen Dietrich, Dec. 30, 2013|
Highland Mountain Bike Park
Highlands Ski Area - New England Lost Ski Areas Project