Vermont and skiing seem to go together naturally. In fact, in many respects, Vermont’s history is instrumental to the sport of skiing. In the early 1900’s a group of Norwegians living by Stowe, Vermont introduced the concept of strapping pieces of wood to one’s feet to navigate the almost impassable roadways during the winter time. The idea slowly caught on with the locals. Ski jumps were built in Mt. Mansfield and Middlebury, Vermont and competitions began to take form. The first ski race in Vermont happened at Mt. Mansfield in 1934 when a group of skiers climbed the mountain and then raced down it on their skis.

The first tow-rope was also created here in Vermont by a man called Bunny Bertram in Woodstock, Vermont. He rigged a Ford Model T engine with a continuous loop of rope, effectively pulling skiers up the hill. This concept caught on quickly and soon these tow ropes. Another Vermont resident Fred Pabst, took the tow rope idea to another level and created the J-bar which would drag skiers up the slopes without tearing up their hands and mittens. The first T-bar in the United States was put in at Pico Mountain, which was essentially a J-bar with another side, allowing two skiers to simultaneously be pulled up the mountain. This innovation made Pico Mountain “the” ski resort during the 1930s. The chairlift as we now know it, didn’t come to Vermont until the 1940s.

Mad River Glen would have its workers stomp the entire mountain by foot to groom it – from top to bottom (talk about exhausting).

Vermont has long been in the forefront of skiing as winter recreation. It is the third largest skiing state in the country and hosts over 4 million skiers a year, according to Governor Douglas. It is with this history that today Governor Douglas has proclaimed January “Learn a Snow Sport Month” here in Vermont.

From January 4 through January 11, most Vermont ski resorts are offering a free learn to ski or snowboard lesson and rentals. For information go to www.skivermont.com. The community outreach project initiated by Winter Feels Good is intended to introduce as many people as possible to the fun and exercise of winter snow sports.

Winter Trails offers a free opportunity to try snowshoeing or cross country skiing on January 9th. See www.wintertrails.org for information.

Information on the history of skiing in Vermont came from www.vermonter.com

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