|Vertical Drop:||600 feet|
|Past Lifts:||Surface lift|
|Left: The Mt. Aeolus J-bar|
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Last updated: September 20, 2022
Located north of Manchester in Dorset, 3,230 foot Mt. Aeolus was briefly home to an alpine ski area.|
As skiing began to take off in the mid-1930s, Manchester looked to become a winter sports destination. The Manchester Winter Sports Club was formed in the fall of 1935, with Christopher Swezey serving as its first president and John Perry as vice president. During the winter of 1935-36, Manchester reportedly featured a ski trail on Mt. Equinox, a bobseld run, and a skating rink. Meanwhile, rope tows were starting to pop up in New England.
The Mt. Aeolus slope (1936)
In 1936, the Bromley Run was cut on the Dorset side of Bromley Mountain. Meanwhile, plans were being developed for lift served skiing nearby.
In August of 1936, the Manchester Sports Association (or possibly the Manchester Winter Sports Club) entered into a lease with James H. Beebe for the land behind his house on the slope of Mt. Aeolus in East Dorset. In September, word began to emerge that a ski tow would be installed at the site, with a lift-served vertical drop in excess of 500 feet. The terrain was heralded as "one of the finest ski slopes in the East."
By October, Fred Pabst Jr. of Ski Tows, Inc. (and Pabst Blue Ribbon fame) was disclosed as the installer of the new ski lift on Mt. Aeolus, which was billed as the longest in New England. Some of the construction crew split their time between this development and one in Intervale, New Hampshire, with Seth Pollard providing engineering. Ski tow tower footings were in place that month. Ralph Howes, head of the Manchester Winter Sports Club ski tow committee, was also principal of the Burr & Burton seminary. Several students attending the seminary assisted in developing the ski area and were awarded a winter sports emblem for their service.
Mt. Aeolus Opens
In November, the Manchester Winter Sports Club announced plans for Pullman snow trains from New York City. Though there were a few inches of snow on the ground in early December, the tow was not yet ready to go. Eventually completed, the red, white, and blue J-Bar sat idle for months, as the region struggled with natural snowfall during the winter of 1936-37. Once there was finally adequate snow, Mt. Aeolus opened on March 20, 1937, hosting 300 skiers and spectators for the Amateur Ski Club of New York City's slalom race. The tow operated for a second weekend before closing for the season.
The base area
For the 1937-38 season, the slope to the south of the lift was smoothed to allow for skiing with less snow, while a 100-foot wide slope was opened to the north of the lift. In addition, the J-Bar was overhauled, speeding it up from about 300 feet per minute to about 450 feet per minute.
Meanwhile, a the Battenkill Ski Tow was constructed on the fifth fairway of the Equinox Links Club golf course in Manchester. Though there was optimism for the winter, snow was once again an issue. Limited skiing happened over New Year's, followed by the likely cancellation of the first scheduled snow trains. Trains finally arrived in late January, with lower than expected numbers due to "warmer weather and a light rain at times."
With natural snow lacking in the Manchester and Dorset areas, Ski Tows, Inc. opened an 850 foot rope tow on a high elevation meadow on Bromley Mountain in February 1938.
Though Aeolus had experienced back-to-back poor winters and Bromley was poised to grow with the installation of another lift, Pabst continued to operate the Dorset area. Meanwhile, future Mad River Glen founder Roland Palmedo constructed a ski house adjacent to the Mt. Aeolus lift.
The 1938-39 season enjoyed a strong New Year's weekend. Though there was skiing in early February, the slope had inadequate snow by the middle of the month, resulting races being relocated. At that point, the Bennington Banner referred to Mt. Aeolus as "an experiment which has not proved successful inasmuch as there has not been enough snow."
During the summer of 1939, plans were announced to build a ski trail from the summit of Mt. Aeolus, dropping an estimated 2,300 vertical feet. With a higher elevation and slightly different exposure, it was hoped the prospective trail would offer skiing when there was no snow in the valley. Portions of the proposed trail were flagged while the group attempted to obtain property owner permission. Since the land was privately owned, the CCC and WPA labor could not be used. Roland Palmedo spearheaded the proposal.
It is not known when the 1939-40 season started, but Mt. Aeolus had a decent March. Snow was still a problem, so 3,500 trees were planted and 4,000 feet of snow fence were installed in advance of the 1940-41 season.
It is not known if Mt. Aeolus operated during the 1940-41 season. It likely did not operate after the start of the American involvement in World War II. Prior to the start of the 1942-43 season, Pabst relocated the Mt. Aeolus J-Bar to Bromley.
The slope in 1937
Mt. Aeolus property owner James H. Beebe passed away on November 28, 1971 at the age of 73. Fred Pabst Jr. passed away in 1977 at the age of 78.
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Year by Year History
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|1936-37||March 20||March 28|
Mt. Aeolus - New England Lost Ski Areas Project