|1 double, surface lifts
|Left: Snow Valley as seen from Bromley (2016)
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Last updated: January 18, 2021
Located in the shadow of Bromley, Snow Valley was once a major ski area. Eventually overshadowed by larger nearby areas, Snow Valley managed to operate for over four decades prior to closing in the mid-1980s. Twenty years later, the roots of a private ski area were developed, with hopes of reopening Snow Valley in the 2010s.
Snow Valley as a Major Ski Area
Though there are multiple references to skiing starting at Snow Valley as early as 1936, there is no evidence that lift served skiing took place at the area prior to the onset of World War II in the United States.
Circa the late 1930s or start of the 1940s, Paul Kollsman reportedly acquired the Snow Valley property from International Paper Company and looked to develop a ski area. A German immigrant, Kollsman became famous for inventing the altimeter. Prior to developing the ski area, he reportedly sold the Kollsman Instrument Company in 1940.
With the slogan of "All New...The Place for You in 42," Snow Valley debuted as a rope tow operation in January 1942 while construction continued on a new Constam T-Bar. Snow Valley gladly spun the construction delay, noting that the chief obstacle was "the deep snow." The diesel-powered T-Bar may have debuted in February, though they were "having their troubles with the new installation" in late March.
Designed by Kollsman's nephews Walter and Dolph Rath, Snow Valley featured a T-Bar and two rope tows and was considered one of the largest ski areas in the East. Nat Niles served as ski school director. Thanks to the area's exposure and elevation, Snow Valley offered skiing that winter when other areas lacked the snow to operate. On the other hand, the exposure also meant that Snow Valley's slopes did not get much sunlight during the winter.
The $12,000 Snow Man's Rest lodge was considered unique for the time, as it provided a modern base facility in the days of dirt floor lodges with outhouses. Designed by Fritz Dillmann, the one-floor fieldstone and red cedar structure included a cafeteria, a ski shop, ski patrol, and restrooms. The North Adams Transcript described the lodge as "the most comfortable and best equipped of any we've visited."
The Snow Valley base lodge
Two new trails and another slope were added for the 1942-43 season, which got underway prior to Christmas. Walter Rath's coin-operated ski timer invention (set up on the new Whippersnapper trail) dazzled the press, as it would light up a red light when the top gate closed and produce a ticket with the time at the bottom. The season extended into late April, leading the Brooklyn Daily Eagle to note, "Snow Valley is fast becoming the Sun Valley of the East." Fittingly, the Snow Valley Nat Niles Ski School merged with Sun Valley legend Otto Lang's ski school that season.
Meanwhile, Fred Pabst was consolidating his Ski Tows, Inc. chain of ski areas by relocating the lifts to nearby Bromley.
Around this time, Snow Valley lost its Grand Slam rope tow to fire. The tow was likely not replaced until after the end of World War II, when Walter Rath returned from serving in Europe. From 1943-44 through at least 1945-46, Fred Iselin was running the Snow Valley ski school.
Meeting postwar demand, a new lift was added for the 1946-47 season, increasing uphill capacity to 1,600 people per hour. Freddie Pieren was ski school director by the time the 1947-48 season was underway.
Transportation to Snow Valley was greatly improved between 1947 and 1949 when Route 11 and Route 30 were likely moved to their present location. Prior to this, a road leading from Manchester to Winhall passed through the base area of the ski area, often requiring chains for winter use. During World War II, a horse-drawn sleigh service was offered due to fuel rationing and the difficulty of the road.
Falling Behind the Pack
Though Snow Valley's sheltered, high elevation location gave it quite an advantage in terms of natural snowfall, it was not immune from poor winters in the late 1940s. Snow Valley often took these periods in good humor, running ice skating exhibitions on the ski trails and reporting colorful conditions such as '[b]rown grass, peeping crocuses, four stumps, three boulders, one lift, three tows, four buildings, new road, and no skiers. O, the life of a ski area operator!'
The Snow Valley base area
With the string of poor winters, the Lowell Sun reported that the Raths had "chucked the whole business and gone to Florida to forget the surplus of warm rain they have been dealt." John Stember likely succeeded the Raths as manager in 1950, followed by Fred Colclough. In June 1955, Fred and his wife Mary purchased the ski area. While other ski areas were growing, Snow Valley was fighting just to remain in a holding pattern. Immediate changes included adding more Ts to the T-Bar, constructing a novice "Ski-Kull" surface lift, and smoothing the slopes.
Circa September 1957, the Colcloughs and Benjamin Barker formed Snow Valley, Inc. as a corporate entity for the ski area. At the time, the company was valued at $200,000. It is possible that the Colcloughs may have acquired the nearby defunct Winhall Ski Bowl around or after this event. Meanwhile, the Snow Cloud slope was added at Snow Valley for the 1957-58 season. Bromley countered this by adding a chairlift for the 1958-59 season, to which Snow Valley responded with plans for a new beginner surface lift.
Snow Valley started the 1960s with the installation of a Pomalift for the 1960-61 season, while plans were also made for a double chairlift. The T-Bar's wooden towers were replaced with steel towers for the 1961-62 season.
On December 9, 1965, Fred and Mary Colclough sold Snow Valley to Marvin Ladd Parker and his fiance Avis Tifft. Initial plans included expanding the base lodge, improving lift capacity, and adding new trails. In addition, ownership attempted to encourage various levels of government to rebuild or relocate the steep access road. However, as was the case in the 1950s, investments in the area were kept to a minimum.
Citing a washed out access road, Snow Valley announced it would not operate for the 1971-72 season. Additional factors for the closure included rising taxes (despite the lack of road maintenance), insurance, and operating expenses.
New Jersey attorney John Frohling's Vermont Enterprises, Inc. purchased the 350 acre Snow Valley from Parker and Tifft prior to the 1972-73 season. A new beginner slope, a new mighty mite lift, a new parking lot, and a renovated base lodge were rolled out for the 1972-73 season. Beyond that, changes were initially minimal, as Frohling told the Times Record in 1975, "I knew all along that major changes would have to be made, but I was too new in the ski business to make them all at once." With Pet Muska serving as General Manager, Snow Valley decided to go after the overflow of the larger areas, while preparing to develop real estate.
The Snow Valley aerial after the installation of the chairlift
Great Gorge co-founder John Fitzgerald was hired as General Manager starting with the 1975-76 season. Snow Valley took a big step forward for the 1976-77 season when a new double chairlift was installed. Extending to a point below the main lodge, the new lift increased the area's advertised vertical drop by 200 feet and likely opened to the public in January of 1977. Despite the expansion, the area remained on a Friday-Sunday operating schedule and the expected crowds did not arrive.
Noted ski coach Bruce Colon was named General Manager for the 1977-78 season.
Snow Valley with Bromley in the background
Cross country skiing was reportedly added for the 1978-79 season, though it was also billed as new for the 1972-73 season. Circa 1980, Doug Wilk became area manager.
For the 1981-82 season, Snow Valley expanded its base lodge and installed snowmaking on the lower mountain. More trails were reportedly added for the 1982-83 season. Between those seasons, founder Paul Kollsman passed away at the age of 82.
Snowboarding Championship Venue
Snow Valley found itself on the cutting edge in 1983 and when it hosted the National Snowboarding Championships. The 1984 competition featured downhill on Saturday, March 3, and slalom on Sunday, March 4. East Dorset resident Andy Coghlan won both men's events, while Marianna Fruhmann of Hinterstoder, Austria took the overall women's title.
The 1984 National Snowboarding Championships at Snow Valley
While snowboarding was up and coming, it was not enough to get the masses to return to Snow Valley. The area likely closed following the 1983-84 season. The National Snowboarding Championships moved down the road to Stratton in 1985 under the name of the U.S. Open of Snowboarding.
Rebirth as Private Area?
After being idle for two decades and almost being acquired by the US Forest Service, Snow Valley was sold to Chris Franco in the early 2000s and some trails were re-cleared. In June of 2008, Franco's Snow Valley LLC filed a Vermont Act 250 application for an $8.5 million project that involved refurbishing the chairlift, replacing the lodge with a 28,000 square foot building, constructing 12 rental cabins, establishing an equestrian facility, and developing 46 building lots.
The Snow Valley base lodge in 2004
Tangled in a bureaucratic and permitting nightmare, the project dragged on. Circa 2011, Christopher Franco sold his share in the project to Patrick Robinson. In August, the base lodged burned to the ground.
While the developer continued to modify the proposal, the permitting process costs continued to add up. On August 2, 2016, Snow Valley, LLC withdrew its Vermont Act 250 permit, stating it intended to submit a new application at an undisclosed date in the future.
It is not known if Snow Valley will ever reopen.
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Year by Year History
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|"I took some friends from NYC there in the late '50s. They weren't experienced skiers. They rented equipment & as we were gliding down to the rope tow for the 1st run my friend kind of tipped over & broke his leg.That was the end of that excursion. I never went back there."
|Stuart Kinne, Feb. 14, 2023
|"A lost ski area close to Magic was Timberside on the other side of the mountain. Vaguely remember Snow Valley from years ago but never skied there. Stopped at the site today and saw a sign that the property is up for auction ending on 20 September."
|Chi Taylor , Sep. 18, 2022
|"So many great memories of this wonderful mountain. The ski school director, Carol Spinrod gave my brothers and I our start in ski instructing. We later went on to Berkshire East and then Magic.
My brother, Rolf and I used to parallel duel downhill race each other down the amazing Steplechase to the excitment of those in the lodge and on the deck.
On cold days, the T bar used to freeze up and lift us up off the ground.
The Easter egg hunt and games were fun.
I could go on. Wish it would reopen but glad Magic is near by."
|Warren Wendt, Aug. 29, 2022
|"If this is the same lost ski area that was close to Magic I don't remember it being called Snow Valley,it had a different name!"
|Michael Linkroum, Aug. 22, 2022
|"I would love to see this place reopen. My parents skied there in the 30’s and 40’s. I have great pictures of them there."
|Debra Weiskopf, Jul. 14, 2022
|"Snow Valley was also the winter weekend home of Boy Scout Troop 14 Dover NJ 1963-1966. I dont remember if it was the long weekend for Lincoln's or Washington's birthday. We also slept in the lodge. Great memories. "
|Tom Beirne, Feb. 23, 2022
|"2003, we came across Snow Valley via the snowmobile trail, had a blast ripping up and down the abandoned slopes in untouched powder. Sad to see the bureaucratic mess, I also suffered the loss of a VT property for the same reason, they love red tape and trees more than people, good luck with that! I'm gone and not going back, ever, they can have it! "
|TJ Steele, Oct. 19, 2020
|"Finding this area was like stepping into the land that time forgot! Only hiked around the Poma, T-Bar base, and found the 1976 Borvig Double. Would love to see the top and maybe even skin up it one day."
|G P, May. 28, 2020
|"Stratton lifts were closed due to high winds on a day where it had snowed 6â€ overnight. My buddy and I skin hiked up and skies down twice. The best run is not the main run, but a quick shot through the trees, lookers left of the main trail."
|TJ Markey, Mar. 10, 2019
|"Snow Valley was the home of the winter ski trip for Boy Scout Troop 10 out Medfield MA, in the late 60s. We would sleep on the floor in the lodge, great memories."
|Reed Captain, Jan. 10, 2016
Snow Valley - New England Lost Ski Areas Project