Westledge School
(Now Site of Master's School

History ~ Memories


The Westledge School was built in the late 1960's, and opened a rope tow around 1969. Several trails and slopes were in use to about 1974. The area today is part of a land trust.

Abbott de Rham wrote us a very good article about this ski area:

The ski area was originally built for Westledge School. The first year of the school was 1968-69 and the main focus was on finishing the primary buildings on campus. I was a member of the 7th grade in that opening year. I believe trail cutting started the next year in the summer of 1969 and the rope tow installed late in the fall of 1969. It may have been 1970. The school was 100% electric so the tow motor was a brand new electric rope tow motor and integrated reduction gear. For most of us who grew up with gasoline powered rope tows it was a novelty. The benefit was it was quiet. The problem -- it was slow and the robe twisted a lot as it ran through the sheaves.

I was a member of the student ski patrol. It was modeled after a mini professional patrol with full classes on first aid and toboggan handling. There was active ski instruction and racing programs for students as well. I do not remember the details on acres or vertical drop. There were a total of five trails as we called them.

(Right - a topo map of the area)

(Above - an aerial shot, 1992. I have marked the likely location of the ski area)
1) Practice slope from a little above the top of the tow to the parking lot. You sidestepped up this one and learned to turn and stop. There was a trail off the bottom that was the novice glade run back to the lift. We often walked up the slope at the start of the day to take a first run down the main slope (#4)

2) Glade Run (novice, intermediate) ran from the bottom of the practice slope and circled out and joined a work road that connected to the intermediate racing slope about 1/4 of the way up the slope. The trail/road crossed the intermediate trail and the rope tow and then turned left into the field serving as the base area. The glade area ran along the stone wall and was at least 75' wide.

3) From the tow there was a short narrow intermediate chute down to the glade run.

4) The main slope was a wide intermediate trail from the tow down to the base area. It was the primary trail used by the ski team to practice slalom racing. It was also used for general teaching.

5) The lift line was the steepest "slope". Since there was not a large number of skiers we could often ski the rope tow lift line.

6) If memory serves there was also an expert glade to the left of the tow when looking up the mountain. Little more than thinning of trees on a rocky slope. It was only suitable when we had a lot of snow. For the years I was there it was rarely open.

The base area could be accessed from the town road on the back side of Westledge mountain. That access was used only if an injury needed to be brought to a vehicle. The slopes were grassed but only the main slope was open enough to have good sod. We packed the slope the old fashioned way -- sidestepping down the mountain. The season was always short and cover was unpredictable. Snow in Connecticut became less reliable in the early 1970's and I am not sure if the slope was in active use much past 1974.

When the slopes were originally cut all the larger wood was made into firewood for the big fireplace in the school and the brush was stacked in a huge pile. As part of a student work program my friend and I, spent months hand feeding that pile through a chipper (before insurance fears!) to use as mulch around newly constructed buildings and paths.

From that one little ski area I learned:
Advanced First Aid
Ski Patrol
Teaching skiing
Driving a dump truck
Operating a chipper responsibly
Trail Grooming
What hard work really means

I went on to graduate from the Killington Ski Patroller's school, live in Vermont, run a ski lift at Sugarbush, be a snowmaker at Sugarbush, be a member of the full-time ski patrol at Stratton, teach skiing at Bromley, and build my own house.

When I cleared the land -- I burned the brush. The memories of endless hours of chipping were still very fresh!


Thanks to Chris Warren who found this area.

"I came across the remnants of a rope tow area in Simsbury, Ct. that I didn't see listed on the NELSAP site. It's on what is now protected by the Simsbury Land Conservation Trust. It's adjacent to the Master's School parking lot on Westledge Rd.  (Rt. 309)  You'll find a short trail at the northeast corner of the parking lot that goes to the motor shed of this abandoned, upside down  ski area. You can see down the steep, straight part of the slope pretty well.  I think there may have been a couple trails or more open slope on the left, but that's pretty much grown in.  I don't know any history of the school up there- maybe they had something to do with this tow.  The motor and reduction and a pulley are still mounted in the shed, and the shed is intact enough to protect it."

Alisa Griggs: The Westledge School operated from 1968 through 1978.  We skied here in the early years, but as training for ski races requires snow (and more vertical drop), we abandoned our slope and traveled to nearby Ski Sundown instead.  I grew up skiing at Canton Ski Hill which suffered the same demise during the snow deficient years.  The Master's School bought some of the former Westledge land, some went to development, and the land trust acquired the land that includes our former ski area.  Short, but sweet.

Bob Sargent: I was a student at the school from 1968-1972 and helped build this small area.  It consisted of one rope tow and two trails.  At some point another trail may have been added.  During my student days I skied this area many times, and a number of school races were held there.  The area closed when Westledge School closed in the 70's.

Elizabeth Humann: I attended The Master's School in the mid 80's, and we found this ski area when hiking in the woods.  There was a lift, and the path was visible but covered with huge boulders which had fallen from the hill next to it.  TMS never ran the ski area, perhaps it was run by Westledge School prior to 1980, which was when the campus was purchased.  At any rate, when there is a layer of snow, you can see where the trail ends next to someone's backyard on Hedgehog Road.  There is an abandoned house not far from the ski area as well, though I do not know if it is related in any way.

Russell Dunn: I Have some information about the ski tow noted on your website.  This belonged to Westledge School.  This school was in operation on the site that currently holds Masters School.  I went to Westledge from 1972 to 1976.  When I first attended they were shutting down the rope tow due to insurance issues.  I was lucky enough to live in a house that bordered the 360 acre property and managed to ski home from school.  A memory that I still think of nearly 30 years later.

"LWSchaedel" I grew up in Simsbury and actually skied at the masters school ski hill.  It closed around 1974.....one rope tow, no snowmaking.  It faces east on Hegehog Mt. and ends on Hedgehog Road in West Simsbury. Very steep slope that followed the fall line of the hill east/northeast.

Sam Wolcott: I remember skiing at the Westledge School back in the early 1970's on a hill with a steep rope tow.  I went to the Kingswood School in West Hartford and we would go to Westledge for ski races.  This may be the hill that is decscribed here.  I do not know how long it operated or if it was still in use after Westledge School stopped operating.

Steve Chase: it occurs to me that the old slopes adjacent to the Master's school are probably from the days of Westledge School.  They operated prior to Masters and had a significant outdoor program with rock climbing, skiing, etc.

Bruce Williams: I grew up in West Hartford in the 60s and early 70s.  I went to a small private school in Hartford and played soccer in the fall.  We played the Westledge School which I believe was in the same location as the current Masters School.  If memory serves, Westledge was started in about '67 or '68 to provide an alternate educational experience.  The school, I think, folded in the late 70s or early 80s.  I remember it as a bit of a "hippie" school.  In talking with Westledge Students back then, I don't ever remember anyone mentioning a school ski tow.  Could this have been from prior to '67? (Jeremy note - it is possible the area added a tow in the early 70's)

Does anybody else have any more information?  If so, please let us know!

Last updated March 5, 2007

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