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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/Up the Mountain

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the first rope tow in the United States. Back in 1934, American skiers got a boost when the people of Woodstock, Vermont rigged a mechanical way to get to the top of the slopes.


CURWOOD: Welcome back to Living On Earth. I’m Steve Curwood.
[MUSIC: Edison Records “Flirting on the Beach” The Black Wax Sampler, 1996 www.tinfoil.com]
CURWOOD: Sixty-nine years ago, downhill skiing in America could be a sweaty proposition. That’s because back in the good old days there was a significant uphill component to the sport. Skiers had to hike up the mountain carrying their skis before they could shoosh back down the slopes. But in January 1934, everything changed when the people of Woodstock, Vermont rigged up the first American rope tow. At the base of a hill in a farmer’s pasture, they jacked up a Model T Ford truck, attached a long loop of rope around one of the rear wheels. Then they snaked the rope up the slope, supported by tripods and pulleys. When the ready signal was given, somebody would sit in the driver’s seat and step on the gas, causing the wheel to spin and the rope to be pulled up the hill, skiers in tow.

(Photo courtesy of Sherman Howe)

Word of the new rope tow spread fast and, almost overnight, Woodstock became a mecca for New England skiers. The first year, a dollar would buy you all the rides you could fit into a day. And you might even catch some air going uphill, particularly when a mischievous tow operator would push the pedal to the metal and send the rope tow a’flying at speeds of up to 60 miles an hour.
And for this week, that’s the Living on Earth almanac.



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