Mayhew Turnpike Ski Tow
Bristol, NH

History ~ Memories


The Mayhew Turnpike Ski Tow was a small rope tow ski area that operated from the mid 1950's until 1981. The area was open to the public on the weekends, with the ski team using the area during weekdays. Sledding was also popular here. The area was run first by the Lions Club, then the Bristol Recreation Advisory Council. It closed in 1981 due to high insurance rates, and the high school ski team moving to Ragged Mountain.
Scott Piehler shares more info: The Mayhew Turnpike Ski Hill was a single rope tow hill in Bristol, NH. The area is an open field to this day, with some of the tow poles still standing.

It is located approximately one mile from the Bristol Town Square and two miles from Newfound Lake. The ski hill was accessed from the top via Mayhew Turnpike. That section of the road is now known as North Main Street, with the name change coming in the late 1990s, when Bristol installed its enhanced 911 system.  I am well familiar with it, having grown up on Mayhew Turnpike (now known as North Main St.). My home was just above the top of the tow hill.

The tow hill operated from the mid 1950s (most likely ’55) until the very early ‘ 80s (no later than ’82). Two factors led to the closure:
1.    The local high school ski program moved to Ragged Mountain ( in Danbury.
2.    The liability insurance became prohibitive.

While this was a “town” ski hill, the land was (and is still) privately owned. The Lions Club provided most of the volunteer labor, with even the gas for the tow engine donated. In the 1970s, grooming was typically via snowmobile, often by the sons of the land owner.

Above is a photo of the hill taken in July of 2000. You can still see two of the tow poles. The structure visible is a home next to the hill. The clump of bushes obscures where the shed was (is?).

For reference, that is a 5-year-old standing in the field (my daughter Amanda). If you were to walk up the hill, you'd be on what was called Mayhew Turnpike. Turn right, it's under a mile into the town square. Turn left, and you're a mile or so away from Newfound Lake.

(Scott continues): As I recall, during the week it was strictly for the school team, with public access on the weekends. The hill had no lighting, so it was daytime-only operation.

Even when the tow was running, Mayhew remained a popular sledding hill with the skiers closer to the tow line, and the sledders on the edges of the hill.

The tow operated well past the '60s. I know this, because I broke my leg there skiing in February of 1975. I was 10. The tow was in operation that day. In fact, I broke my leg going uphill on the tow.

Thanks to Matt Perloff, the Editor of the Record Enterprise, I was able to find a definitive closing date for Mayhew TPK. the final operating season would have been 1980-1981. Here's a blurb from the December 20, 1981 "Bristol Enterprise"

BCC Suspends Turnpike Tow
BRISTOL — The Bristol Recreation Advisory Council has suspended operation of the Turnpike Ski Tow for the 1981-82 ski season.  If
anyone would like to volunteer his services to put the rope tow back into operating condition, please contact the Center, 744-2713.

I know it never opened after that.

My good friends the Bianchis live at the bottom of that hill to this day. They would frequently pack the hill using their snowmobiles.

Memories and More Information:

Lee McClain contacted NELSAP about the possibility of another ski tow in Bristol. He was unsure if the area he remembered was Mailbox Hill. After some further research, Lee discovered, that yes, there was another ski tow in Bristol! Thanks Lee!

"After checking with the historical society in Bristol, I find I was right it is not Mail Box Hill. It was called Mayhew Turnpike Ski Tow. All it had was a rope tow (poles are still in place) powered with a gas engine and operation was from 1955 to about the late 60ies. I was told it stopped operation because of insurance. It had one rope tow powered by a gas engine, and is located on the left side of the road 3/4 to a mile up going north on South Main St. from Bristol town square. Some of the poles with wheels are still there and what I believe to be the summit tow shed is still there (white in color) but in pretty bad condition.."

Dave Hand:

I remember skiing at the Bristol Mayhew Turnpike ski hill  in 1972-73.  The local Elementary school had a slalom race there.  I had a hand-me-down pair of old wooden skis and the soft, wet snow totally stuck to the bottoms of.  The other kids with their fiberglass skis blew me away.  I remember one of my classmates consoling me by saying that if I had been on the more modern fiberglass skis, I would have competed for a much higher place finish.
   I believe the area was run by the local Community Center, and that the director of the Community Center, Mr. Coles, operated the rope tow back then.   I also concur with the fact that high insurance rates led to the closing of the lift.
   The Wood family lived very close to the ski area, and were all outstanding skiers.  They would probably have more plentiful stories about the ski hill than I do ! 

Colin Robinson: I and my brothers ran that hill a few times.  In the late 50's and early 60's during February school vacation, my folks would load us four boys into the Ford Country Squire wagon with the dog and all our paraphernalia and we'd head up from Connecticut for a week at the place on Newfound Lake, which really wasn't set up for winter use (but did have fireplace).  Long deceased local farmer, Forest Adams, would come over from the farm in Alexandria with his payloader and move mountains of snow so that we could get in.  We'd spend time skating and skiing on the lake, at the rope tow skiing and sledding, at long-defunct Snowbug Village in Danbury snowmobiling, and later, after the rope tow closed, skiing at Ragged Mountain in Danbury.  I remember the little warming hut at the tow, but don't have a recollection of the folks who ran the place.  I drive by the site from time to time these days.

Greg Patten: I learned to ski at the Mayhew Turnpike Rope Tow in Bristol! I believe it actually continued operation on weekends and School Vacations until the early 1970's. I was born in 1960 and didn't start skiing until I was 10 or 11 at the "Rope Tow" as we called it. Everett Hackett was the caretaker of the engine that operated the tow.

Does anyone else remember Mayhew Turnpike Ski Tow? If so, please let us know!

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