Ski school staff circa 1977. Photo courtesy Greg Short.
The first person in charge of the ski school at Vernon Valley was Russell Legare, a former Canadian National Champion. Although Legare didn't last long, Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance certification lingered until the late 1970s.
As the ski area developed, the school was under the watch of Walt Westerveld, a larger-than-life figure with a magnetic personality. Together with his wife Diane, Walt built the Vernon Valley Ski School into a smooth and popular operation. They hired instructors from around the world and developed a racing program as well. After Walt's untimely death, Diane Westerveld took over and ran the highly successful ski school into the early 1990s.
At one time under Diane's direction, Vernon Valley had the busiest ski school in North America, meaning that more people learned to ski on a New Jersey mountain than anywhere else in the country.
Recollections, by Greg Short
My name is Greg Short. Vernon Valley was my first ski instructing job starting in 1975-76 season. I worked there full time winters from the 75-76 season to the 79-80 season. I had a 5 year break due to a non ski injury and came back to Vernon part time nights and weekends starting with the 85-86 season through to the 89-90 season. I then moved to Utah in 1990 and have been working part time at Snowbird the last 21 years.
When I started and finished at Vernon, the ski school was run by Diane Westerveld. In the beginning it was under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance then changed over to the Professional Ski Instructors of America banner I believe in the 78-79 season. I recall going up to Canada to get my Level ll certification in the CSIA and then the following season the area moved to the American system for teaching. I had to start over again for the teaching credentials under the PSIA.
Recently, while teaching at Snowbird I had a part time instructor from Mountain Creek in my morning class. We talked about the old area and each of us dropped some names that the other did not know. Once I got home I started looking on the internet for info on some of the New Jersey ski areas and found the skiernet.com website. I knew I had a couple of ski school photos somewhere and found them stashed on a closet shelf in an old photo album. I also have somewhere in the house Super 8 movie my father took of me on Sugar. We never called it Sugar Slope, just Sugar. The movie was during the 1974-1975 season and I was doing "ballet" moves. Pretty hilarious!
Thanks and keep up the memories...
Thank you, Greg...and if you ever do an analog-to-digital transfer of that old 8mm film, we have a few thousand VV skiers who would positively love to see it! -- RB
Recollections, by Ben Goodin
My first season of teaching skiing was at Great Gorge/Vernon Valley during the 1974/1975 season. I knew Diane Westerveld from hanging around with friends at the ski school, but my director in 1974 was Günter Mitterlehner. After my first season of teaching, I moved on to teach at A-Basin, Colorado and Taos Ski Valley, New Mexico. I always enjoyed teaching and skiing more at Vernon Valley than Great Gorge.
Editors Note: Mitterlehner was a director at Great Gorge, recruited from Sugarbush by Luis Schlaffinger
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.
Diane Westerveld's staff circa 1978. Diane Westerveld is standing left of center, wearing a green and white jacket. Photo courtesy Instructor Greg Short.
Just a decade later, another gathering of instructors with a much different "look". Vernon Valley was one of the first ski schools to embrace the boarding culture, as this photo from 1988 attests.
Most photos are from the collection of Diane Westerveld, who together with her husband Walt Westerveld ran the ski school at Vernon Valley for many years. Additional photos courtesy Instructor Greg Short, and Jay Westerveld. Thanks to the Westerveld family and their corps of enthusiastic instructors, these photos and memories will live online for generations to come.
If you have photos of skiing, lifts, lodges, etc. at Vernon Valley pre-Intrawest, please consider contributing a scan of those photos. Hey...what good are they doing in your old photo albums? Likewise, if you have any memories or anecdotes you'd like to share with the skiing community from Vernon Valley days, please E-mail them to info(at)gondyline(dot)com, and we will post them on this page.
Walt Westerveld died doing what he loved, practicing slalom at Vernon Valley. Photo courtesy Jay Westerveld.
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.