Skiing anyone? Inside the history of New Jersey’s long-lost ski areas
At the foot of a hill in Monmouth County’s Big Brook Park sits a relic from a long-gone era of New Jersey – a shack that held the old tractor motor that powered a rope tow for skiers.
It was called the Arrowhead Ski Area. It opened in 1958 and closed in 1986. It was one of many now-defunct ski areas scattered across the Garden State. Only the names and a few rusty relics keep the memories alive.
There is a New Jersey author who says that there are more dead ski areas in New Jersey than many people may suspect.
“A lot of them were very small. But again, I think I’m up to 62…all at different times,” says author Liz Holste.
No one knows more about these old ski areas than Holste, New Jersey’s de facto ski historian and author of “Skiing in New Jersey?” The book contains photos and colorful accounts of about 30 closed ski areas.
There was Belle Mountain in Hopewell Township, which was open from 1960 until 1998. There even was a chair lift. Camp Midvale in Ringwood is a ski area built in the 1920s by a group called the Nature Friends of America. The tow rope was operated by an engine from an old Ford Model A. There was also Craigmeur in Morris County, a mecca where thousands of people learned to ski over the 60 years it was open.
Most of the ski areas closed because of weather and economics.
“The small ones, most of it was because they were small and couldn’t compete anymore with the bigger ski areas,” Holste says.
A string of snowless winters in the 1970s took a toll. There was also the issue of liability insurance. Lawsuits made them much more expensive to run a ski area.
Holste’s book was published in 2005.
“I found so much more after I wrote that book,” she says.
And since then, Holste says she has found that the history of skiing in New Jersey is far deeper than even she knew. A longtime avid skier, Holste has found so many more defunct ski areas and stories of the people who rode them, that she is now wrapping up a second book.
Holste says that there have also been a few Olympians who have skied at New Jersey’s lost ski areas.