The first rope tow in the United States

Some people have found remnants of skiing dating as far back as 5,000 years ago. It was used as a method of transportation at first.

Skiing in the United States goes back to the 1800s. At first if people wanted to take another run they had to hike back up the slope to do it. The first rope tow in the United States appeared in 1934 at Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock, Vermont. The rope tow was the first motorized method of uphill travel for skiers. Most of the early ones were operated by a Ford Model A engine or some other type of engine. Shacks were built at the top of the hill or at the bottom of the hill to protect these engines from the snow. They could be run as long as the supply of gasoline didn’t run out.


The Gilbert’s Hill rope tow was a crude set up. It consisted of one continuous piece of rope that went up the hill and returned back on small pulley wheels installed along the side of the slope.


With the birth of this rope tow it made it easier for skiers to get back up the mountain to take more runs. Although riding up the rope tow required some finess. Even the toughest skiers had problems on their first few times up the tows.


Rope tows began to appear at the New Jersey ski areas in 1936. The first one in our state was located at the Craigmeur Ski Area in Newfoundland.


After the arrival of the rope tow at the Craigmeur Ski Area – other tows began to appear at the ski areas throughout New Jersey. After the rope tows the ski area owners worked on creating other methods of getting skiers back up the hill to take some more runs. Soon t-bars, j-bars, poma lifts, single, double, triple, quads and six seater chairs were installed at many ski areas. After that various types of gondolas were built to get even more skiers and boarders back up the mountain quicker.

So next time you are out skiing or boarding – see if your favorite ski area still has a rope tow and take a ride up it to experience it. I will give you a new appreciation for the lift inventions that came after it.

(c) 2013 – Elizabeth Holste – author – Skiing In New Jersey?