Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Downhill Run



My buddy Rich and his brood joined us for an outing last weekend, and I suggested we combine the exercise with some exploration of the Mt. Tom/ Mountain Park area. I was curious to see what remains of the old Mt. Tom ski slope/water park/alpine slide complex that was there and so popular years ago. We parked by the now renovating Mountain Park entrance, and headed up the old road leading to the fabled ski area.



Back in the early 90's some friends from work had convinced me that skiing was a blast, and I should give it a try. Being a decent skateboarder but a horrendous ice/roller skater, I wasn't sure if I possessed the skill set needed to master the snowy slopes, but was talked into finding out. So I dutifully pored over some classifieds, found some old used ski equipment from the previous decade, and joined them for an evening, mid-week trip to the famous Mt. Tom Ski area. It was indeed a blast. So what if the little kids on the bunny slope were skiing circles around me. It was a beautifully crisp winter night, and the light-flooded slopes were crowded with people laughing and talking and swooshing here and there, or being lifted off to the tops of the trickier mountain slopes. It was great. It was close by, it was tons of fun, it was a mid-week break from reality...

And now it's gone.

Mostly.

Actually, I was surprised there is anything left of the old ski area at all. I was prepared to see a plowed over field with low brush growing out of it. But as me, Rich, our significant others and offspring climbed the old road that loops and rounds the hill called Little Tom, those early ski memories were suddenly re-triggered with the sight of the old ski lodge emerging around the corner. Still standing.



Even more, the old water park structures are also still there.



The crumbling remains of the starting platforms for the slides are still somewhat standing. They lead to the tall cement pylons that used to support the slides, and run paths through the growing brush down to the cracking terminal pools.







Down near the lodge is a big wave pool, which is still in good condition.



We looked but couldn't find the remains of the Alpine slide section. I believe it was set right into the ground, so it's probably hidden by shrubs and thickets already...

It was cool to see the ruins of such a big project, such a big, fun, local attraction. Like nearby Mountain Park, all gone to waste.



Such a shame.

Music aficionado Leonard of the blog Mt. Tom Billy Goat has posted some wonderful brochures he found of Mt. Tom Ski's hey day, back in the late sixties and seventies. I took a couple pictures from some of the brochures for a little comparison of the then and now...















Ah yes. Those were the days...

The slopes are now frequented only by hikers, explorers, kids and other outdoor enthusiasts (or trespassers as the case may be) who regularly 'explore' the site.





The main lodge looks to be pretty well closed up and appears to be going through the beginnings of some kind of renovation, though they have a long way to go. We also noticed that the lodge is armed with an active security alarm system. However, many of the other surrounding structures appear to be regularly compromised.







The whole complex is hopefully better monitored now, since one of the structures had been burned down by vandals last month. (also reported on by the Billy Goat)...



We had one more thing to check out before we headed back: the nearby quarry. The quarry was big news about 10 years ago when the owners were seeking to expand the 7 acre operation significantly. That sparked massive opposition in Holyoke and a public "I Don't Dig It" campaign that eventually prevailed, keeping the quarry to it's present size. Not that it's present size is anything to scoff at...



It's massive, and deep as a canyon.



It was scary to be near the edge. But maybe I'm just getting old...



We'd seen enough to absorb for one day. With plans to check it out again in the near future before it is all wiped out like Mountain Park, it was time for Rich and I to round up the women-folk and chilren', and make our ways back home....

5 comments:

Radar Check said...

looks like a good day. I have fond memories of falling down all over those slopes in the eighties.

Mary E.Carey said...

Another great post, especially the then-and-now. I got a little vertigo just looking at that pic of the quarry.

wombatclov said...

Excellent post, thank you! I also love the before and after comparisons. I wish I had spent more time on the mountain back in the day. It is so sad to see it like this, who knows what is next...

There is a facebook group about Mt Park if you are interested.

LarryK4 said...

There's a paved access road that goes strait up to the top of the mountain (1.1 miles) and is used to get up to all those antennas.

About half way up is the memorial to the B-17 that impaled the mountain at that exact spot a few months after the end of the war, killing all 25 aboard.

My mother always said the could hear the explosion all the way over here in Amherst (although it was a stormy night so maybe it was just the thunder)

The access road is also great for cyclist practicing for the Mt. Washington road race.

VanDog said...

I'm disturbed that the former ski area is slowly being destroyed by arson and vandals. When the last owner turned the property over to the Boys and Girls Club it was expected that they would turn the place into a day camp. Ever since the B&G club has cried poor, and let the place rot.