color logo of Great Gorge ski area


Ski Area McAfee, NJ

5 Classic Double Chairlifts Snowmaking
Base Lodge with Lounge Beginners Tow Night Skiing 1,040' Vertical

This website is dedicated to Great Gorge founder Jack Kurlander, who passed away Monday April 24, 2006. Some information corrected/added below, 4/1/11 following a conversation with Peggy Kurlander.

"You Have to Get Off at Mid-Station!"

This was a typical exhortation from the lifties as you boarded the old Great Gorge summit chairlift in the 1970s. A combination of warm weather and an overambitious development plan doomed a classic ski area. Much of the terrain is still skiable today at Mountain Creek. But the Great Gorge name is gone, and the entire section now known as "South" caters exclusively to the park & pipe set.

Photo below left from an original chrome postcard. Photo below right courtesy Liz Holste

The original Great Gorge ski area was largely the vision of Jack Kurlander (developed Black Bear Golf Club in the early 1990s), the Fitzgerald family, and the Baker family. The base lodge was designed by Alexander "Sandy" McIlvaine, who also had a hand in the design of Mammoth (CA), what is now Grand Geneva (WI), and the original lodges at Squaw Valley (CA) and Stratton (VT). The trails were laid out by Kurlander and were classic in style, with fantastic variety. Although ski legend and hall-of-famer Otto Schniebs was credited as original designer, he was more of a consultant who offered suggestions and corrections for a few days during the construction. Schniebs lent credibility, while the actual layout and on-mountain work was orchestrated by Kurlander. Gorge opened in 1965, and was the hottest thing in the ski industry for a few years.

Lift Tickets In 1973, stated prices and hours were as follows:

A Season Pass in 1973 was $200 for adults, which is equivalent to $883 in 2006. A junior season pass was a mere $145, which ratchets up to $640 today when you factor for inflation. Needless to say, far fewer passes were sold back in the day. On the other hand, the $8 day ticket is equivalent to about $35 today, which is less than you might expect to pay at a small to mid-sized ski area. As you might expect, more day tickets were sold in the 1970s, and a lot more passes are sold today.

original ski lodge at great gorge resort ski trail map sign at base lodge
Base lodge expansion, July 1968 The original McIlvaine design is shown in this photo, with the 1968 expansion shown under construction at left. In the foreground is a sign/map that was used for posting open trails and conditions. The sign is shown in the right hand photo. Photos courtesy Barry Anspach

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, 2013 from 5-8 PM. The sale runs Saturday, December 7, from 9 AM - 2 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



The Lifts

The Summit Double was 6022', Kamikazee was 3500', Racing chair was 1980', and the Cloud 9 and Bakersfield chairs were each 1200' long. According to the sign photo above, a Platterpull was used in a small area north of the main base. No other information is known about this lift, or how long this separate slope was maintained. (It was not used after the Vernon Valley merger)

original double chair ski lifts at great gorge resort
Great Gorge lifts, July 1968 Note that the left chair lift in this photo went to the main summit, and replaced the original chair that only went to (what was to become) the mid-station. In 1967 the mid-station was the top. The right chair lift in the photo went to the top of the Kamikazee Run.
Photo courtesy Barry Anspach

The second summit chair ran over a mile, right up the heart of the "gorge." With a rock precipice on the left and a stream underfoot, the name rang true. The ride followed a stream bed in the gorge, then climbed for a bit before reaching midstation at the top of Baker's Field. After midstation the chair followed the terrain down, to the right of the pond, and then ran along the right hand side of the trail called Liftline, now known as Cliff Run. If you were lucky enough to be at Great Gorge during a heavy snowstorm, your skis skimmed along the snow at this point in the ride. Just as you got used to being a few inches off the ground, the chair climbed awkwardly then out over the "gorge" to the right of Jumping Jack. At this point, first time chairlift passengers would be a little frightened, and rightfully so. The cable sagged noticeably, the chair chugged along slowly, and stopped frequently. Being suspended over the crevasse while the chair swayed in a stiff wind never failed to conjur urban legends of skiers who had fallen to the rocks below. "You know 16 people have died on this chairlift?" (The actual total was zero) The chair would follow the terrain again, over what is now known as Red Tail. Finally, after a bone-chilling 20+ minutes, you arrived at the summit. Immediately off the lift was a snackbar, then 20-30 yards of poling across the summit to the actual trail. Through most of the 1970s Jumping Jack was seldom open; Autobahn (now known as Upper Canyon) was the only way down.

Today's "South Chair" is slightly to the left of the original and climbs immediately over the rock, which also makes for an interesting ride. The current chair follows the ridge above the gorge, crosses over the pond, and then left of Liftline/Cliff Run. With some modifications to the summit terrain, and a more centralized egress, skiers no longer have to walk before descending.

Retracing the original Descent from the Great Gorge Summit

summit of Great Gorge 1981At right, the summit of Great Gorge in 1981. The original chairlift cut is shown here, and the 20-30 yards of walking trail connects the chair with the trails. This was one of the seasons that Jumping Jack had been open. The original snackbar is visible in this photo.

You can still ski much of the original Autobahn route from what is now called "South Peak" at Mountain Creek. Head down what is now called Canyon. Back in the day, the first segment of this trail was known as Autobahn, the lower part was called Canyon.Other than the aforementioned hike across the summit, it feels very much like the original -- until the one semi-steep drop with the hard right at the bottom, just above the split with Lark. I believe this section was rerouted a bit, or the trail was maintained/groomed differently 30 years ago. In any event, turn left on Lark. (The more frequently travelled Giant Steps was seldom open back in the day). The brief section called Lark is unchanged, except for the fact that it was just considered part of Canyon during the 1970s. Lark empties out onto Cliff Run -- this is the original route of Liftline, where the chairlift ran right at trail level on the left hand side as you descend. The original Liftline trail was narrower and relatively flat, similar in feel to the Gorge Run. The Cliff Run you'll ski these days has a number of snowcat-built whoop-de-doos and is wider than a city boulevard. It's unfortunate, because the narrow trail contrasted nicely with the Highlands/Bakersfield/Exhibition areas still ahead. Continued below...


original slalom flag from Great Gorge

Original screened slalom flag, scanned by Bill Flather.


Where Cliff Run now turns right and traffic enters at left from Flying Fox, imagine a chairlift at eye level. At this point, however, you were usually looking right, because you were turning right, and there were some trees on the right hand side and a couple different lines to follow. The trail flattened out much as it does now; perhaps even more so back when. Today the Sojourn Double lift covers some of the old route.

Canyon at Great Gorge, 1981In this photo, the original liftline is indicated in red. Canyon snaked in from the upper left corner (today's "Lark" begins at the hairpin curve) and the old Liftline trail (now Cliff Run) ran along the liftline. The shadows visible where the route turns away from the chair are the trees that were part of the trail.

Then as now, the flat area between Liftline and Bakersfield was a bit of a respite between the upper mountain and the lower. Prior to dumping out into what is now Hawk Highlands, you'll likely have to pole a little; it seems to me that it was slightly uphill at one time. Here was the egress from mid-station, as well as the upper terminus of the short Bakersfield double chair.

The Highlands

You'll now have to choose between Exhibition (a terrain park) and Hawk Highlands. Although a fence now separates the two, there was a time when this was mostly just a big, beautiful open bowl. Hawk Highlands was known as Baker's Field, so named because the Baker family would graze horses there during the spring and summer. Imagine a chairlift passing overhead approximately where the fence is now. Instead of snowboarders sitting around waiting to jump and grind, young skiers would congregate and stamp out a jump. The jump might last an hour or two, then get knocked down by the ski patrol.

Anyway, to continue your blast from the past, swoop through Hawk Highlands...and imagine it being a lot more crowded than it is today. The short Bakersfield chair assured a steady stream of novices in the Highlands. That chair began in the woods where the trail flattens out prior to Cloud 9, below the chalet on the right hand side as you descend. It emptied out up near the mid-station lift shack. Exhibition was the steeper of the two, and had a few more trees. Today's Highlands is still pleasant, but has fewer trees and thus a little less character than the old Bakersfield.

Continue your descent on Cloud 9. When white stuff was scarce and snowmaking was still an imperfect science, Cloud 9 was often the only way down. It is virtually the same as the original, and if you can imagine a chairlift passing overhead about a third of the way down, you'll recreate the experience nicely. The final plunge seems a little wider, probably because the Cloud 9 chair is no more.

Patch photo courtesy Barry Anspach

At the Base

These fond memories of the terrain at Great Gorge are from a "snow day" in January 1976, when a classmate invited me to join him (and his car-owning older brother) for a day in the powder. Weather kept the rear-wheel drive crowds away, and the skiing was fabulous. Most other days, however, it was a different story. Conditions were icy, liftlines sometimes 45 minutes long. "The top" was frequently snowless, and the exhortation to "get off at mid-station" was the order of the day.

Back to our story. Now that we've skied down to the base, we're faced with the incredibly long line at the summit double, or the shorter line at the Cloud 9 double. We jump on the Cloud 9, forgetting that we have to wait on a similar line at the Bakersfield chair to reach the vertical of mid-station. Today's rapid lines, superior trail grooming and high speed quads of Mountain Creek were beyond imagination.

Hey! Kamikazee is Open!

The only alternative to the main trails was the Kamikazee chair. Now known as "Bear Peak," the Kamikazee trail is still a lot of fun, but really just a shadow of its former self.

Timing shack photo from the collection of Liz Holste

Few remember that two chairlifts climbed the Kamikazee hill: The venerable Kamikazee double, and the much shorter chair that strictly served the racing trail. Kurlander was an enthusiast of anything winter sports related, and a strong supporter of racing programs. A little known quirk of Great Gorge was that it was one of the few places in the world that one chairlift passed over another; here the Kamikazee double once crossed high above the racing chair.

Leaving the chair, the approach to Kamikazee was not the pleasurable glide of today; it was usually a path of rock and ice, with some poling required. This led to what is still a steep pitch, but the icy grey Volkswagen-sized moguls of the 1970s added just a bit of excitement to the descent. Another route or two were shown on the trail map, but these were seldom open. One was called Aren'ts Delight [sic] which I believe is called Bird's Eye today. Aren'ts was open occasionally in the early 1970s; I never personally saw it open after 1975, although it certainly was listed on the trail map. By the early 1980s, Aren'ts Delight had disappeared from the trail map.

The Kamikazee of the 1970s seemed steeper and wider, but that is probably the impressions of a clumsy teenage skier. The runout was called Snow Chute, but is now just part of Kamikazee. Snow Chute has changed a bit; it had quite a few trees that added variety and interest to the trail in the area just below the little service shed. It seems that much of Kamikazee below the headwall has been changed; I recall it being flatter but much more interesting. As for the grey-ice moguls, however, I say good riddance. Still, it is a shame to see this once-fearsome run converted to a "family ski zone."

Mid-mountain at Great Gorge, 1981

Mid-mountain, March 1981. From left to right: The large white area lower left is Bakersfield & Exhibition. The blue line indicates the route of the Bakersfield chair. Dashed white line is the route of the present day South Peak Quad. Yellow circle shows the mid-station area of the old Summit double. White arrow points to the original liftline. Second dashed white line is the route of the present day Bear Peak Quad. Purple circle indicates the lower timing shack on the old Racing trail. Green arrow points to the cut for the Kamikazee double. In this photo, Gorge Run has no snow on it. The snow covered trail on the extreme right is the runout of the old Kamikazee, a trail called Snow Chute back in the day. Note the shadows indicating the trees along the trail.


trails and original lifts at Great Gorge ski areatrails and original lifts at Great Gorge ski area shown in relation to current lifts at Mountain Creek

The map above left is an approximate recreation of the original trails and lifts at Great Gorge, prior to expansion. The map above right shows the present day high-speed quads in bright yellow. On these maps, A indicates the main summit of Great Gorge. B is the base area. K is the summit of the Kamikazee and Racing chairs. M is mid-station, indicated by the white box on the liftline. The small circle at the main summit is the old summit lodge.

Chairlifts are indicated by red lines. The two short lines at lower left center are the Cloud 9 chair (from the base) and the Bakersfield chair (from top of Cloud 9 to mid-station). The Summit chair is the obvious long line. The Kamikazee chair crosses over the shorter racing chair.

Trails are as follows: The dark blue line traces the main route from the summit, Autobahn to Highlands to Cloud 9. Note that during the length of today's Cliff Run, the route ran right next to the Summit chair. The light blue line traces the more exciting Jumping Jack route, but this was seldom open during the 1970s. Note that today's "South Peak" chair goes to the left of Jumping Jack, and terminates where Jumping Jack used to split off from the traverse across the summit. The gold line traces the route through Baker's Field (now called "Exhibition") to Tail Spin. From the Kamikazee summit, the purple line traces Kamikazee, while the short grey line indicates the racing trail.

Note that the upper portion of Twilight Zone, the trail currently known as "Red Tail" (not shown) follows the original summit liftline. The other white "trails" on this topo map, most noticeably today's "Giant Steps" and "Bear Paw" are not commented on here since they were seldom open during the heyday of Great Gorge. But here's a rundown on them...

Great Gorge Trails that were seldom open: Oldest is Aren'ts Delight, part of the original construction of Great Gorge now known as Bear Peak. As mentioned above, Aren'ts was next to Kamikazee on the route now occupied by Bear Paw. It was open frequently in the early days, fell into disuse by the mid 1970s, and was dropped from the map by the early 1980s. Screwdriver was a black diamond trail that started off of Jumping Jack, bisected Canyon, and then ran along the route known today as Giant Steps. The lower part of this trail was open intermittently through the years. Wedeland was a wonderful cruise through the woods parallel to liftline, it is known today as Flying Fox and has some terrain park features on it. It's a shame. Anyway, Wedeland emptied into Gorge Run at the bottom of the racing hill. Gorge Run follows much the same route it always has. Through most of the 1970s, Gorge Run was just a run-out trail for skiers using the racing slope. One final trail to mention is Twilight Zone, which ran under the Summit chair on the route known today as Red Tail. By the mid 1970s this trail was overgrown and really unused.

Various sources attribute a Poma lift and a j-bar as part of GG's infrastructure sometime between 1967 and 1972. I believe the j-bar was located and remained at the same location as the current Lion's Den rope tow well into the late 1970s, but was seldom in use.

The Poma lift was actually the first lift to open at Great Gorge, but according to Peggy Kurlander, was sort of cobbled together. It operated in a meadow to skier's right of the chalets overlooking Bakersfield. It fell into disuse soon after due to its remoteness from the main base.

The Summit Chair and Kamikazee Chair were dismantled and sold when Intrawest took over the property in the late 1990s. A number of the chairs were sold to local enthusiasts for a few dollars each; the rest were scrapped. The two shorter lifts fell into disuse sometime during the early 1980s, although may have been used from time to time prior to the Intrawest sale.


photo pointing out past layout at Great Gorge ski area

Base area of the current Mountain Creek South, showing runout of Gorge Run at left with Bear Peak chair crossing overhead. At right center is runout of current Bear Peak "Family Ski Zone" trails (Kamikazee, Bird's Eye, Bear Claw) and at right is the Lion's Den beginner area. In this 2004 view, arrows are used to re-acquaint you with the old Great Gorge. From left: Light Blue shows the approximate base of the old Kamikazee Double. Dark Blue shows the path of that original chair, slightly right of the current route. The red arrows indicate the top and bottom of the Great Gorge Nordic Ski Jump. The route of the jump is still faintly visible in this photo. When you visit Mountain Creek, bits and pieces of the original jump structure can still be seen if you look carefully at this area. Jumpers trained on snow as well as plastic in the late 1960s. It is unknown whether this jump was ever used for formal competition. In the original "masterplan," a massive, Olympic-quality jumping facility was designed Great Gorge North. It would've been in the area just below the trail now known as Red Rock.


Wicket photo courtesy Barry Anspach

Great Gorge North

Sometime in the late 1960s Hugh Hefner built a casino right across the valley. Targeting the area partly because of the exploding popularity of Great Gorge, with the tie-in of skiing to the "playboy" lifestyle in his view, and a vague promise from legislators that legalized gambling was on its way to New Jersey, the Playboy Club at Great Gorge was built. For the Great Gorge ski resort, this was the beginning of the end.

Hefner's New Jersey Playboy Club was a frightening edifice overlooking a terrific golf course, across the valley from a terrific ski area. You read correctly...it was designed to be a casino: Sleek, virtually all-black exterior, very few windows in high traffic areas and banquet facilities, permanent twilight inside. Conducive to gambling, but the gambling never came, so it was (and remains) just a dark, foreboding place.

great gorge matchbookIn the early 1970s, however, the sparkling new Playboy Club and its regular parade of stars -- Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Cash, The Monkees, Frankie Valli, Don Rickles -- was an exciting, happening place. The future seemed limitless, and Great Gorge jumped on the onward and upward bandwagon.

Ground was broken on Great Gorge North, with lifts running over desolate granite cliffs and trails carving through remote sections of the mountain. An aerial tramway was designed to connect the Playboy Club to the slopeside sports complex at Great Gorge North. These were wild and heady days for Great Gorge, but it quickly became a case of too much of a good thing, and the timing couldn't have been worse.

A double chair was installed at the base of Great Gorge North, with three routes from the summit. The showpiece trail was Pipeline, but that was difficult to keep open. So the popular route became Grand Prix, known as Devil's Bit during the Intrawest years. The nastiest trail was Upper and Lower Pipeline, which has mercifully been tamed a bit from the days when it was too steep to safely use a snowcat. Today it is simply Pipeline, as the lower section is now part of a condominium complex. Even so, it is still a fearsome trail, however short. The second chair was called the North Passage chair. followed the same cut as today's Sojourn Double. It began up the North Passage trail about 150 yards from where it starts today, roughly at the spot where most people have to walk at the end of today's Southern Sojourn. On the rare occasion that it was open, skiers walked to and from this lift. Interesting that the trail once known as North Passage has completely reversed the compass and is now called Southern Sojourn!

Other trails & chairs at North were Fitz' Folly and Rim Run, renamed Granite View during the Intrawest years, since closed. Bunny Buster is now called Doe Run. Fox Trot connected the summit to Grand Prix, and is now known as Osprey. In addition to the North Summit chair, there was a short double lift called the Rim Run chair. It ran from the base area to a point on Rim Run (Granite View) below Pipeline. It was mainly to provide lift service for the pseudo-novice Bunny Buster slope.


Above, this rare 1972 photo shows the full, pre-condo route of Pipeline

Great Gorge North was the buzz of area school age skiers, although few of us knew anyone who had ever actually been on it. Construction of the north ski area coincided with a run of some of the mildest, briefest, most snowless winters to hit the northeast. December 1970 saw temperatures regularly in the 50s and 60s. The 1972 season ended in mush the first week of March as temperatures soared into the 70s. January 1973 hit the 60s as well. Overextended, underfunded, Great Gorge "merged" with its neighbor to the north, Vernon Valley, a ski area with a less creative trail map but a more profitable income statement. We use the term "merged" to honor the press releases of the day; it was more or less absorbed by Gene Mulvihill's winter circus.

Ski the Snowmakers

color logo of Vernon Valley ski areaThe mid 1970s marked the beginning of the "Vernon Valley/Great Gorge" era. Winters continued to be dismal, so to convince the public that it was skiable, the resort was promoted with the "ski the snowmakers" tag, and newspaper ads with a pictorial chart showing that VV/GG had more snow guns than any other resort on the planet. This was an era of stiff competition: Hunter was not yet a zoo of snowboarders, Killington had recently completed its expansion and summit gondola, Stratton and Mount Snow were expanding, and rumor had it that the Poconos would actually get legalized gambling. VV/GG touted something like "16 lifts and 38 trails."

In reality, few trails were open, and Great Gorge North (now known as Granite Peak) was left to rot for many years. The "crossover" would be open from time to time, allowing you to make a lengthy and arduous journey from Vernon to Gorge. Moving north to south, you would walk across the run now called Red Fox, and grab a rope tow that ran the length of Osprey. You'd have to walk further across the summit of North, then ski the sparse cover on the trail known today as Southern Sojourn. Very few attempted this nightmare, and it was seldom open anyway. I recall my first visit to the revamped, upgraded, spiffy Mountain Creek. Buying my ticket at the Vernon base, I asked if "the crossover" was open. The woman looked at me kind of strangely, having no clue what I was referring to. I said, "the crossover...to go over the mountain from here to Great Gorge - uh, I mean, South." When it finally dawned on her what I was asking, she said, "of course it's open," and seemed positively puzzled that I would even ask.

-- Rick Bolger


Thanks to all who have e-mailed such nice messages about this webpage. I've replied to each with some version of the following, so I guess I'll type it here once to save time. This is "the rest of the story..."

The first time I skied at Great Gorge, first time up the hill, I met a really pretty girl from Vernon on the cloud 9 chair. As a dorky high school freshman in 1975 I did not usually chat with pretty girls. She had a tight white ski outfit with purple trim, purple hat and mittens, white boots with purple trim, and white skis. She was a vision, a 15 year old ski goddess. We were still talking as we hit the off ramp, then I fell on my face on some ice and never saw her again. Whoever and wherever she is, that girl from 1975 is the inspiration for this web page.

I still ski the current version of Great Gorge a dozen times a year. Almost all the pretty girls today wear baggy clothes, ride snowboards, and curse like troopers. So you see, even though the lifts were clunkers and the conditions were worse, I miss the old Great Gorge.

-- Rick Bolger



This artists' rendering never came to be. A few things to note: Ski jumping complex on left portion of Great Gorge North (now Granite Peak) Aerial Tramway across valley from Playboy Club, lifts and trails running hither and yon between North and South. Two of the trails indicated on North appear similar to today's Pipeline and Devil's Bit. The imagined trail from the summit of Great Gorge South, which would end about halfway up today's Southern Sojourn, look like a terrific idea. Unfortunately very little of this came to pass. Note that the drawing of Great Gorge South was accurate, and part of this artwork was used on trail maps for a few years.


We Get Letters

Memories from someone close to VV/GG...

...my father evolved the two ski areas together in the 1970's as the General Manager. His dedication to growing the areas in snowmaking capabilities really set it apart from other resorts. I was always found on the slopes or racing with the team. Thank you so very much for appreciating the way skiing used to be and the wonderful people (especially the pretty ski bunnies in their tight ski suits). As I child I also frequently visited the Playboy club in the evening with my Dad as many of the employees would meet there after ski time was over. I have since moved out west but that chapter of my life will always be among my most cherished memories. Thanks!

-- Scott Basile

Note: Scott's dad, Mr. Joe Basile, was GM during the VV/GG merger and steered its growth during the transition to one ski area. Mr. Basile was at the helm through much of the 1970s, and was a highly respected executive during an occasionally chaotic period.

Racing on ice...

Great Gorge is where I learned to ski. I lived in West Caldwell, and would get out of school around 3:00 (I think), be there in less than an hour and ski til 10:00. I loved it in spite of the horrible lighting and glare ice. The shadows behind many moguls were simply black holes that appeared bottomless making night skiing interesting. I also remember wondering when all of the promised new slopes woudld be open, and listening to the Curtiss-Wright jet engine down at the bottom of the parking lot work at the snowmaking. At least it was billed as a jet, who the heck knows what it really was. Conditions were horrible but I loved every minute of it and never was bored. I'm amazed I didn't kill myself speeding home on Route 23 with those damn circles; I did one of them on only two wheels at least once!

-- Bill Flather

Note: For those of you not familiar with this part of NJ (or too young to remember), State Highway 23 was an obsolete roadway with a series of maddening traffic "circles." These have long since been replaced by additional lanes, ramps and traffic lights.

About that Jet Engine...

Above is the actual installation in the Great Gorge parking lot, taken in the late 1960s by Curtiss-Wright. In the background is Great Gorge North prior to development. Photos courtesy the Zoll family.

Snow making was crucial to GG's early success and they were very innovative there as well -- a Curtiss-Wright "Jet Air Compressor" was installed in the parking lot in the late 60's. It used a modified "J-65" jet aircraft engine to compress air and was the brain child of a couple of innovative Curtiss-Wright engineers, including my dad. It was marketed to GG by a Curtiss-Wright VP, skier and early GG bond holder. The benefit was that it made A LOT of clean air. I remember Matt Baker boasting that on one cold night they could put afoot of snow down on the entire length of Kamikazee. It also made oil free air - unlike the old diesel compressors they used initially. This made the snow more natural.

As this was a prototype machine it required a lot of nursing during the initial winters, and I can remember my dad and his team spending many long evenings keeping it and the snowmaking operations running. The thrill for me was that my Dad's hard work did not go unrecognized, and for many years running, management gave both me and my Dad complementary preferred lift line season passes. This was a real status symbol and in the days of the 45 minute lift line it was a good thing to have.

Unfortunately the jet also burned a lot of jet fuel which really hurt financially in the early 70's. The fuel shortages and price hikes that went along with those warm snowless winters ultimately led to the demise of the Jet and the installation of those ugly electric fan guns - which interestingly were developed and marketed by Matt Baker.

-- Greg Zoll

Images of the Great Gorge snowmaking system from an original Curtiss-Wright publication. Special thanks to the Zoll family.




Some Comments on the Ski School

Jack Kurlander recruited Luis Schlaffinger to run the ski school. Schlaffinger worked for Stein Ericksen at Sugarbush; Stein was also a friend of Jack's and by all indications approved the move. Schlaffinger eventually lost his life in an avalanche.

Rip McManus, a 1964 US Olympian and North American GS champion in 1963, later joined the Great Gorge staff as racing instructor. McManus was a bonafide ski celebrity by 1970, having played the role of "Bruce DeVore" in Robert Redford's Downhill Racer, and wa occasionally quoted in Sports Illustrated. McManus tragically lost his life in a car accident near Warwick, NY.


The slightly stoned liftie circa 1975 says you are the skier to electronically ride the fixed grip double chair past midstation. We thank Digits.com for keeping plenty of snow on the off ramp while they count.


Help! If you have photos of skiing, lifts, lodges, etc. at Great Gorge or Vernon Valley pre-Intrawest, please consider contributing a scan of those photos. Hey...what good are they doing in your old photo albums? E-mail them to rick(at)gondyline(dot)com, and we will post them on this page.


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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