Little piece of history in UConn forest
Published: Thursday, October 24, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 24, 2013 00:10
The UConn athletics department operated a ski slope on campus for 11 years in the 1960s and 70s, according to a website called the New England Lost Ski Areas Project.
Traces of the rope tows and warming tower still remain behind the forested area of Horsebarn Hill at the spot that used to be known as “Husky Hill.” The director of Building Services and Landscaping at UConn, Dave Lotreck said the university still owns the property, but he has not heard of any plans to reinstitute it.
According to a Dodd Center archive opening day for the slope was Feb. 7 1967. The university president at the time was Homer Babbidge, director of recreation was Lloyd Duff and president of the student government was Lee Greif.
The NELSAP website cites several sources who were around UConn during the time of the ski area. Mark Vining wrote that he was a student at UConn when the slope was in use, and his father was the ski patrol director.
“You drove down an access road between a polo arena and a sheep barn down a small hill where the road opened up into a large parking area. Skiers skied down hill from the top and took one of two rope tows back up,” wrote Vining, “There were two slopes (one beginner and one main expert) each serviced by its own rope tow. There were also three trails through the woods to the bottom of the main slope.”
The slope was free for UConn students and a season pass for the public was $5, said Vining. It cost $3 to rent poles, boots and skis. Skier Susan Murray remembers there also being ski lessons.
The slope owned a snowcat and snow packer for the no more than 150-foot vertical slope, but there was no snow making, so the number of days it was opened depended on the season. Vining remembers it only being open for eight days one season, while Murray said when there was a lot of snow; her brothers and she went to the slope every day after school. It was also open for night skiing, wrote Vining.
It closed in 1977 due to a lack of natural snow and financial issues, said Vining.
UConn alumnus Matthew DeAngelis, who went to UConn after the slope had closed in the early 1990s, wrote about the slope when he was on campus:
“It was a hot spot for sledding and mountain bike riding for the residents of Towers and the AG dorms… you would never know it was there unless you knew it was there.”
NELSAP is run by Jeremy Davis and chronicles over 670 lost ski areas in New England and elsewhere including stories, pictures and facts. The website is www.nelsap.org.
According to the UConn photo collection, old photos of the ski slope can be found in box 69 at the Dodd Center, said university archivist Betsy Pittman, and more information can be found in the President’s Records and the Office of Public Information files.