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Snow Bowl was the creation of Frank Johnson, a Princeton, NJ area psychiatrist. It opened in 1962 as a sizable ski area with state-of-the-art lifts, snowmaking, and base lodge with a heated outdoor pool. Skiing mixed open meadows, a wandering route from the main summit, short t-bar lifts, and a couple of narrow steep trails that challenged even the most experienced skiers. Mild winters of the early 1970s and bigger terrain a few miles north combined to put Snow Bowl out of business by the mid 1970s.
Original patch at right and vintage photo above courtesy Liz Holste
The structures and lifts are mostly gone, but the ski area remains. Although the Morris County Parks Commission does not permit skiing, a couple of overgrown trails could conceivably be skiable in years when snows accumulate. When that happens, it requires little imagination to step back in time. You can almost hear the lift towers whirring and see kids snowplowing on their Northlands and Harts.
The Snow Bowl trails are located in the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation. The Snow Bowl parking lot is accessed from Weldon Road, just up the hill from the Jefferson Township High School in Milton, NJ. Access is easiest from NJ Route 15, the Weldon Road exit, then 5 or 10 minutes to the parking lot just past the park's picnic area, with the school visible below. The original a-frame poles that supported the entry sign are still in place, but all references to Snow Bowl are long gone. Drive in to the parking lot (now used for fireworks and by Radio-Controlled car enthusiasts) and head more or less straight across. About 1/4 mile from the road you can find the foundation for the old base lodge and shops, and a few remnants from the lifts. The 15 minute hike to the summit reveals trail routes, some fencing, and some concrete footings. A well-worn t-bar track is overgrown but can be identified to the right of the summit chair route.
Base area, main face showing the t-bar and ski school meeting area, circa 1968. Photo courtesy Diane Westerveld.
To the right at the base area was the novice/beginner area. Although some of the lift mechanism remains, the trails are difficult to discern in this section, and a recently constructed service road has substantially altered the lay of the land. A few of the summit trails continue to be used by ATVs, mountain bikers, hikers, and snowboarders.
Above right is a view of the base lodge, looking from the bottom of the ski slopes toward the parking lot. Photo above left is looking at the pool from the lodge. The Rusty Hinge Tavern, with a 17th century theme, was located in the basement of the lodge. Parts of the floor and massive stone fireplace remain, and with a little imagination, it is easy to evoke an image of this pub in its heyday.
Two photos above from the collection of Liz Holste.
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 - 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. Lineup generally begins 8:30 AM.
Above, hiking up the main trail. View is looking almost due north; the buildings in the valley below are part of the Jefferson Township High School complex. This photo was taken somewhere near the "C" indicated on the key -- probably a little further up the trail.
Above: Here's a view looking up the main trail toward the summit. It's been this way since 1973...if you want to ski Snow Bowl, you have to hoof it. We can say almost with certainty that the photographer was standing somewhere near position "C" when he took these shots. (Careful scrutiny reveals that these two shots were taken from points within four feet of each other.)
Above, upper footings for the summit chairlift. This scene looks the same today as it did when this photo was taken in 1996. If you visit Snow Bowl, try to imagine a busy winter weekend in 1970 and some young skier making his or her first trip to the summit...the excitement and anticipation...approaching this same point on a double chair. How different this scene must've looked; how quiet and distant it all seems today. It's indicated by the letter "D" on the key above.
Back at the base lodge. Above left, nearing the bottom of the main trail in 1996. Remnants of a lift are visible on the left side of the photo, and one remaining wall of the equipment building is visible straight ahead. Above right, close up of the equipment building wall as it appeared in 1996. This wall has subsequently fallen; perhaps it was razed by the Morris County Parks Commission. The photo above left was probably taken near the letter "B" indicated on the key.
Above left, standing on one end of the base lodge foundation; the chimney marks the other end. The outdoor pool was in the right hand side of this photo. The "lower" or side trails are in the background. This photo was taken approximately at point "A" in the key, looking toward "F". Photo above right, a close up of the chimney as it stood in 1996.
Remnants of the old sign stood sentry along Weldon Road for about 25 years. By the time of Wolfe's 1996 backcountry ski trip, bits of the "n" and "w" were all that remained. The a-frame poles stand to this day, but there is no evidence of the sign but for tiny bits and pieces of plywood you might find off in the woods.
The Morris County Parks Commission has stated that "there is no skiing at Snow Bowl....There has been no authorized skiing there since the Park Commission took on the land. Please update your website with the correct information. Thank you in advance for your help."
"X-Country skiing" is permitted in the Mahlon Dickerson Reservation; we have requested information on the acceptable uses/limitations from the Parks Commission.
The newspaper ad at right was probably clipped from the Newark Star Ledger, as it references mileage from Newark and has a literature request code of "NS." Not also that they advertise Head skis, which during the 1960s were nicknamed "cheaters" because they made turning much easier than other designs.
-- Rick Bolger
Newspaper ad from the collection of Liz Holste.
It is good to see some photos and information on this resort. My father was assistant ski school director and my uncle was the Director and Mountain Manager, also both my mom and aunt worked there as well. I never skied the place when it was open but my family moved to running / working at Great Gorge and then Hidden Valley once that opened which is where I grew up skiing.
I still snowboard Snow Bowl when the snow is ripe but I have to say it's a pretty well hidden spot since I only see sleigh riders and even that is seldom. I get some weird looks from the x-country cats when I'm hiking towards the gate in snow shoes and my board on my back (if they only knew the only NJ backcountry terrain is back there.). You can still ski every trail at the old resort (a lot of summer clearing) including the access road and the far right (when facing the hill) trail which is real steep and narrow. I even go as far as hiking it during the fall to clear out a couple tree areas on a lost trail for a sweet tree run (VERY short).
Hope to see you on top of Snow Bowl the next big winter storm!
-- Josh Polhemus
My earliest memory of Snow Bowl: Riding the T-bar...my dad had his 217cm black Head Standards, and I was standing on his skis going up the hill. You don't forget something like that even after 40+ years. A few years later I remember riding the beginner double (by the snowmaking pond) wearing my wooden Hart skis with metal edges and Cubco bindings, and I fell off the chair just before the unloading area! Fortunately it wasn't much of a drop. But my most vivid memory is hearing Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" over the P.A. system sometime in the early 1970s. It's funny but I didn't remember the pool and the colored fence until I saw Liz's pictures. I've lived in Michigan for 15 years but have great memories of Snow Bowl. Even though the area was only 400 vertical it seemed huge as a kid!
-- Bob Sisco
I took my first lessons there in 1967/8 and they would call the class with that bell in the picture. We had a ski club out of the middle school 1972-75 and used to keep our skis in our lockers and walk thru the woods at the end of the day and ski all night. Full day lift ticket was $9 and we used to swim in the pool all winter. I remember a straight run down the big slope with no turning took about 20 seconds and we used to go as fast as possible. Those tennis courts were flooded for skating. Towards the end dozens of buses would come from the city and the place was mobbed. Then winters stopped happening and the lodge was torched. Lots of good memories, it's a shame that it's gone.
Glenn J. Peter, Jefferson NJ
Have any photos or fond memories of Snow Bowl? -- please forward to info(at)gondyline(dot)com, thanks.
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:
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.
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.