THE CRAIGMEUR SKIAREA

By: Elizabeth Holste

By the 1930s alpine skiing was already becoming a popular sport in the United States. The first rope tow in the United States was built at Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock, VT in 1934. Rope tows sprouted up at ski hills throughout the country and the sport of alpine skiing was on its way. In 1935 the first winter sports show was held inside Madison Square Garden in New York City. Major department stores in New York like Bamberger’s, Gimbel’s, Macy’s, Sak’s and Wanamaker’s were selling ski equipment and ski clothing. Some even gave ski lessons inside their stores on ski slides that were made out of wood and carpet and had borax soap crystals poured on top to make it look and feel like real snow.

Several Swiss immigrants searched for the perfect place in New Jersey to build the first ski area in the state. They finally opened their ski area on property that Hugo Meury purchased in 1937.

New Jersey’s first ski area began originally with just one small slope and a rope tow for theirfamilies and friends. The ski area was named after Hugo Meury and his wife Helen Craig - the owners – hence the name Craigmeur. New Jersey’s first ski area was born. After Hugo Meury’s wife passed away, the ski hill was opened to the public and it grew quickly.

Craigmeur was the first ski area in New Jersey to have a rope tow. Some reports said that the rope tow here was the second one in the United States.

In 1942 some white Christmas lights were hung down the side of one of the slopes. These were probably the first lights used for night skiing in New Jersey.

Before the snowmaking and grooming equipment were installed, the owner was known to personally groom the slopes every day by side stepping the trails with his own long wood skis. There are stories that if he saw you fall and if you did not fill in the hole that you made or if you skied the same line all the time he would ask you to leave. He didn’t want the skiing experience ruined for the other customers. In 1955 some of the first snow making equipment was used here.

Until 1967 the ski area also had two different ski jumps. The first one was short lived and unfortunately was destroyed by strong winds shortly after it was built.

The second ski jump was burned down when a fire started next to it and also burned down part of the ski lodge.

The people who built the ski jumps at Craigmeur also helped build and run events at some of the other local jumps. In the 1940s through the 1960s there were small ski jumps at Lake Telemark, just up the road from the Craigmeur Ski Area. Competitions were held there by the Odin Ski Club. Another ski jump nearby was the one at the Great Gorge ski area. Art Tokle, Sr and his family were some of the well known jumpers that participated in events at the Craigmeur ski jump.

Many local schoolgroups came to the Craigmeur ski area over the years. It was a great place to learn how to ski. There are great stories from almost everyone that learned how to ski there. I’m sure you can remember the first time you stepped into ski boots, buckled them up and strapped on your first pair of skis...

...You pushed off and headed straight down the slopes hoping that you would make it to the bottom without killing yourself. When you finally reached the bottom in one piece, you then attempted to ride up one of the rope tows or T-bars. As soon as you reached the top of the slopes you couldn’t wait to try it again.

Craigmeur had one of the premiere ski patrols around also. They were constantly patrolling the slopes looking out for skiers who might need their help. They made the slopes a safe place to ski.

Craigmeur eventually became the premiere “learn to ski” area in New Jersey. At one time they had 65 ski instructors. There was a unique learning program that they ran at the mountain. A person could purchase a ticket book for 5 lessons. They could then either use one ticket each time they came to the mountain, or they could use them all in one day.

The slopes at the mountain only had about a 270 foot vertical, but for a first time skier, the slopes looked like they could have been at least a 1,000 foot vertical or more.

Once you got your courage up - you told yourself you that if you could ski the “steep” slopes here – you could ski anything!

Over the years the owners of this ski area changed several times. Dorothy Murray and her first husband took over the operations at Craigmeur in 1965. During the many expansions at the mountain new offices, a larger rental shop and a new cafeteria building were added to the property. New slopes and trails were also opened. After the two rope tows, a T-bar and a chair lift were also added to the mountain.

In the late 1970s the Craigmeur ski area became a four-season resort when they added picnic and party facilities to the mountain. Several children’s rides, a swimming pool, tennis courts, ball fields and a mountain slide were some of the new attractions at the resort.

New Jersey’s bestknown winter Olympic athlete – Donna Weinbrecht was born in Hoboken. She is said to have gotten her start skiing at Craigmeur and Hidden Valley skiareas. She was the first woman to win an Olympic Gold medal for the new sport of mogul skiing at the winter Olympics that were held in Albertville, France in1992.

The energy crisis during the 1970s, several warm winters and increasing insurance costs took a toll on the resort. Craigmeur also couldn’t compete any longer with the larger mountains that began opening in the local area.

In 1998 they unfortunately closed their ski slopes for good. The picnic and party facilities, however, were still used for many years after that.

Craigmeur was the longest continually running ski area in New Jersey. Dorothy Murray should also be noted as the longest owner of a ski area in the state. The ski slopes may have grown over long ago, but many people still have fond memories of learning how to ski there.

In the summer of 2005 Dorothy Murray decided to sell the ski area property to the Morris County Parks Commission. The former ski area property will be preserved as open space.The Morris County Parks Commission plans to continue the tradition of running the picnic facilities at the Craigmeur Recreation Area. There are rumors that the old ski slopes might be opened some time in the future as snow tubing runs. Only time will tell.

For the people who skied at New Jersey’s first ski area when they were growing up the Craigmeur Ski Area will always live on in their memories thanks to Hugo Meury for what he started so many years ago.

Above, Dorothy Murray consumates the sale of the property to the Morris County Parks Commission.



Event News:

Sparta Ski Swap • December 6-7, 2013 -- The Sparta Ski Team Boosters will be hosting a ski swap at the Mohawk Avenue School in Sparta, NJ for used & new skis, snowboards, ice skates, ski & snowboard boots, poles, apparel and accessories. Selling and buying are both open to the public; admission is free.

Consignments must be dropped off at the school on Friday, December 6 from 5-8 PM. The sale runs Saturday, December 7, from 9 AM - 1 PM. There is no charge to consign; a 20% commission is taken on all items sold. All proceeds benefit Sparta High School Ski Team. The Mohawk Avenue School is located off Route 181 in downtown Sparta. Please click here for more information. Bonus! Author Elizabeth Holste will be on hand with a display of NJ ski history, and signed copies of her book will be available for purchase.


Free Ski History Stickers!

Show your passion for skiing history with a free "Old School" sticker for your helmet, or your board, or whatever. Just e-mail your mailing address to sticker -at- gondyline -dot- com and say "send me a snowboard sticker" or "send me a ski sticker" or "send me a ski sticker and a board sticker for my sister" or whatever. If you say "please" we'll send two. They look like this:

Ski Into History...

A couple friends of mine have written books about historic ski areas...

First up, Gondyline's own Liz Holste has written a book about the history of skiing in New Jersey. That's right, Jersey. Liz contributed a lot of the photos and plenty of information for this webpage, so if you've read this far, you'll no doubt want to read her wonderful book. It has plenty more information about the Vernon area hills, as well as a surprising number of "lost" ski areas throughout the state. All over the state, in fact. Plenty of interesting stories and lots of photos, one of the most all-around fascinating ski books anywhere.

Here's an excerpt from the foreward, written by Donna Weinbrecht, 1992 Olympic Gold medalist: Liz takes you back in time to the birth of skiing in one of the most unlikely winter sports states in the country -- New Jersey. Her book honors the spirit of the Europeans who brought their inbred passion for snow and the great outdoors to these shores. The spirit of these pioneers of skiing, described in this book is still alive in those of us who have been lucky enough to reap the rewards of their incredible journey.

To order the book, please click here. The link takes you to Amazon.com, so you know it's a safe place to order and whatnot.

Next, good friend and founder of The New England Lost Ski Area Project (NELSAP) Jeremy Davis has penned a couple different books that are extremely well written, nicely illustrated with current and vintage photos, and are professionally published by The History Press. The first is Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont, which he followed up a couple years later with my personal favorite, Lost Ski Areas of the White Mountains. Both of these books make excellent gifts for northeast ski history enthusiasts.

Last but not least, California historian and founder of the California Ski Library Ingrid P. Wicken has written a critically important offering from The History Press called Lost Ski Areas of Southern California. These areas included colorful bootstrap operations along with full-blown resorts for the Hollywood elite, and the stories are positively fascinating.

The Gondyline Ski History Links

Save Money on Lift Tickets

There is a "clearinghouse" of sorts that many ski areas use to raise cash by selling discount tickets in advance, called Liftopia . If you haven't used this service, it is important to know for certain that you are going on a specific date. The deeply discounted tickets must be purchased in advance; generally up to two days out. The sticking point is that some ski resorts only make a limited number of tickets available to Liftopia for any given day, so they might be sold out if you wait too long...so, as soon as you are absolutely, positively sure that you will be skiing on a certain day, click this link to get deeply discounted tickets . I've used this service many times, but again, ONLY when I am absolutely certain I will be skiing on a specific date. You need to have access to a printer to print out your receipt, and you have to take identification with you to the mountain. I've knocked a third off the price of some tickets. Not every area participates, but it's well worth checking if you've got a date nailed down.

A tiny portion of your Liftopia purchase helps fund this website, at no added cost.



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