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Pico, Vermont: 75th Anniversary Edition

Pico, Vermont: 75th Anniversary Edition

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Pico, Vermont: 75th Anniversary Edition

181 pagine
2 ore
Oct 3, 2012


Third edition of this popular, engaging history of one of America’s oldest ski resorts. Told within the broader context of the development of alpine skiing in the U.S.

Oct 3, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Linda Goodspeed is the author of three books. Her most recent, In and Out of Darkness: Losing Vision, Gaining Insight, is a memoir of going blind. Reviewer Sherry Hardy says In and Out of Darkness “should be on everyone's short list of vivid and yet inwardly honest 'life so far' stories.” Goodspeed’s other books include Pico, Vermont: 75th Anniversary Edition (2012), a history of one of America’s oldest ski resorts, and Redfield Proctor and the Division of Rutland (History Press, 2011), an historical novel about one of America’s leading business and political figures of the late 1800s. Linda Goodspeed graduated from the University of Vermont, and was one of the first femaile sports editors at a daily newspaper before losing her eyesight. She earned a master’s degree from Boston University and worked in health care journalism at Massachusetts General Hospital and at a health care nonprofit. In 1999, she adopted a two-year-old baby girl from Russia, one of the first, maybe only, single blind people to negotiate the international adoption process. Goodspeed, her daughter Masha, and their dog Ziggy live in Vermont. She is a widely published freelance writer, and also does public speaking. For more information about Linda Goodspeed, visit her website:

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Pico, Vermont - Linda Goodspeed

Pico, Vermont

75th Anniversary Edition

By Linda Goodspeed

Published by Linda Goodspeed at

Copyright 2012 by Linda Goodspeed.

All rights reserved.

This book is also available in print at: Book King, Rutland, VT, Pico Ski Resort and Killington Ski Resort, VT

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever without prior written permission from the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

This third edition of Pico, Vermont is dedicated to my daughter Masha, who started skiing when she was two years old. We have spent many happy days skiing at Pico. Here’s to many more!


When I was learning to ski at Pico back in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the hardest part was not turning and stopping. It was riding that old Constam T-bar.

The first time I tried, I sat down on my side of the upside down T stick, all the way down to the ground. Don’t sit! the lift attendant told me, too late. Just lean against the T.

I tried again. There was a moment’s hesitation, and then a jerk as the T stick started pushing us up the hill. It was great fun until my best friend and I got to the final steep section. The hill after fourth tower rose so steeply, we both fell off, sliding and tumbling back down the liftline.

We eventually made it to the top and were rewarded with a glorious view, and what remains to this day my favorite trail at Pico, B slope.

That old T-bar lift that bedeviled so many beginning skiers was the first Constam alpine T-barlift in North America. Since its founding 75 years ago in 1937, Pico pioneered many other firsts: the oldest volunteer ski patrol in the country, the first U.S. Olympic double gold medal winner in alpine skiing, one of the most successful and prolific junior ski racing programs in the country.

But simply surviving all these years might be Pico’s greatest accomplishment. My friend and fellow ski historian Karen D. Lorentz says Pico is one of the 30 oldest continuously operating ski resorts in North America. In 75 years, Pico never missed a season, not even during World War II when many ski areas closed.

It has not been easy reaching this milestone. For a time, Pico was ahead of skiing. But then, as bigger and bigger well-funded ski resorts opened, Pico fell woefully behind. It spurted ahead again, only to slide into bankruptcy. But it survived, in part by rediscovering its roots, a family-friendly area.

In surviving and getting to this milestone, Pico also owes a debt of gratitude to three very strong women. During its first 50 years of operation, Pico was owned and managed by three families: the Meads, Ackers, and Beldens. Brad Mead and Karl Acker both died young, leaving the mountain in the hands of their widows to operate at a time when women running businesses were rare, and ski resorts even rarer. Even today, there are very few women at the helm of ski resorts, and Pico had two! Pico’s third family owners, the Beldens, were another husband and wife partnership.

Strong women, family owners, tragedy, Olympic glory, innovation, decline, community involvement and a return to its roots all mark the last 75 years of skiing at Pico, which by the way, is just about how long people have been going downhill on skis in this country. The history of Pico is also the history of alpine skiing.

For the completion of this third, updated edition of Pico, Vermont, I am indebted to Karen Lorentz of Shrewsbury for her excellent research and writing regarding the last 25 years of Pico’s history. I could not have finished this book without all the contributions and work she did in chapters 14-17. I am also grateful to Kitty Werner of Waitsfield for her excellent design and patience. Thank you also to Patti Chartrand for her assistance and to Tommy Aicher at the Pico Ski Education Foundation, and of course, my daughter Masha to whom this third edition of Pico, Vermont is dedicated.

Linda Goodspeed

September 2012



1 Beginnings

2 Laying the Foundation

3 Mortimer Proctor

4 The First Season

5 Sunset Schuss

6 Karl Acker

7 The Constam T-bar

8 Death and War

9 Olympic Disappointment

10 Two Gold Medals

11 Mid-Vermont Racing

12 The Ackers

13 The Beldens

14 Transition and Change

15 Merger Efforts

16 Two New Owners

17 Returning to Pico’s Roots

Pico Ski Club Presidents

About the Author

Chapter 1


BEFORE 1930, American skiing consisted primarily of ski jumping and cross country skiing. What little downhill skiing there was, was mostly practiced by a handful of hardy individualists using primitive equipment and an equally primitive technique. For many Americans at that time, downhill skiing was regarded as a curious and rather eccentric form of European gymnastics. An editorial writer of the period, whose name has been lost, summed up the general attitude toward downhill skiing when he wrote:

Skiing is a good sport if you have the time, the snow, the skis, and no higher ambition in life than to achieve a good gelandersprung. Skiing began in Scandinavia where it was a sensible, necessary method of traveling far over snowy surfaces. It was taken up for pleasure in this country by those with nothing in particular to do, and who like to see their pictures in the paper and themselves in interesting costumes.

Misconceptions such as these concerning skiers and ’20s, and contributed to the sport’s slow development and acceptance by the American public.

Like a number of the young men of the period who presumed to call themselves skiers despite such widely held public disdain for individuals of that persuasion, Bradford Mead, the only son of a wealthy Greenwich, Connecticut family, had received his first introduction to downhill skiing while studying in Europe. Mead, whose ambition was to be a painter, had attended several colleges in the U.S. and Europe, including Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont, where he studied architecture for a year and a half. If Brad found the drills and classwork tedious at the military school, the rolling hills around Northfield proved an ideal setting for a budding ski enthusiast.

One of the largest and most popular student organizations on the Norwich campus at that time was the school’s outing club. During the 1920s, outing clubs at the Ivy League schools and other eastern colleges were the focus of much of what little downhill skiing activity there was in the U.S.

The first collegiate outing club was organized on December 7, 1909 at Dartmouth College. Fred Harris, a student at the college from Brattleboro, Vermont, suggested the creation of a ski and snowshoe club to relieve the tedium of Hanover’s long winters. Soon, other Northeast schools formed their own outing clubs to help relieve the monotony of winter. Inter-collegiate competitions and social activities among the various college clubs quickly became the focal point of the winter term on campus. Originally, the ski activities of the early outing clubs, including the one at Norwich (established in 1922), had a distinct Nordic character. Downhill skiing, however, soon found its place in the outing clubs due primarily to the custom of the well-to-do sending their sons off to Europe for a year between high school and college for the Grand Tour. It was these young men who brought back to the States the new sport of downhill skiing and a rough approximation of its technique.

Brad, already introduced to the sport during his own trip abroad, found downhill skiing at Norwich a well-established activity of the outing club, and was soon spending much of his spare time after classes and on the weekends with other club members clearing and maintaining trails, practicing fancy Telemark turns on nearby slopes, and competing in ski competitions at the various college winter carnivals.

While he was at Norwich, Brad also met Janet Davis. Janet, the younger of two sisters, was born on July 29, 1903, in Pittsford, Vermont, but spent most of her childhood outside the state. Her mother, the former Jessie Hotchkiss, moved her two daughters to Hartford, Connecticut shortly after the death of Janet’s father when Janet was three. In Hartford, Janet’s mother remarried Howard Davis. Janet and her sister were sent to private boarding schools in New York. Janet also attended Wells College for a short time before she met Brad on a summer holiday in Maine. Learning that Brad was a skier, Janet decided to impress him by telling him she had also done a little skiing. But as she often did, she ended up exaggerating the story more than common sense would dictate. Among other things, Janet told Brad she had skied for several years at the Lake Placid Club, and intimated that her technique and enthusiasm were of a very high calibre. That winter, Brad called her bluff and invited her to go skiing with him.

I had to follow him down what looked to me then like Mount Everest, Janet said. I made it, but without poles. I had no idea what they were for, and I had so much else to think about that I flung them into the bushes.

But from that point on, Janet became a bona fide ski addict (no exaggerating, this time), and the two began spending more and more weekends together on skis.

Norwich, a military school, proved to be a mistake for Brad who is described as being a nonconformist and unable to reconcile himself to the school's rigid discipline. He left Norwich after a year and a half, and enrolled in the Art Students League in New York City. On May 13, 1930, he and Janet were married. They spent that summer camping in Vermont, and the winter traveling in Europe. In late 1931, the Meads returned to New York and packed their possessions, including two brand new pairs of skis they had brought from Europe, into a car and headed for Vermont where they intended to settle.

Because the skis and equipment that had been available to them in the U.S. before they went abroad were of such poor quality, the Meads brought with them from Europe equipment vastly superior to what most American skiers were then using. Prior to the 1930s, the few Americans who considered themselves serious skiers had to go to Europe for the latest in ski equipment and technique. Very little equipment of any quality was imported then. Simply put, there was just not that big a market for it in the U.S.

The decade of the ’30s changed all that. The 1930s proved to be one of the most productive decades in the development of downhill skiing in this country, a period when an aristocratic, exclusive, esoteric pastime mushroomed into a popular movement with mass appeal. The earliest American skier had been of very much the same mold as the mountaineer ― a nice, natural elite sort who relished the tightness of his group, enjoying a sport that few had tried and even fewer had mastered. To this small, hardy band of individualists, as to Otto Schniebs, the great German-born ski instructor and former Dartmouth college ski coach, skiing was not just a sport. It was a way of life. During the rapid growth of skiing in the decade just prior to World War II, this way of life became the way for thousands of Americans.

Chapter 2

Laying the Foundation

THE 1932 III Olympic Winter Games held at Lake Placid, New York, was one of the first important occurrences to affect the development of downhill skiing in America. Although alpine skiing was not yet important enough on an international level to be included in the Olympics, the sport, along with winter sports in general in this country, benefitted greatly from the influence of the Games. For the first time, Americans began to realize how much fun it was possible to have out-of-doors when the temperature dropped below freezing.

Besides the exposure they brought to winter sports, another important effect of the Lake Placid Olympics was to greatly improve the availability of ski equipment in the U.S. There had been many recent advances made in ski equipment from Europe that most Americans were unaware of and/or unable to obtain prior to the 1932 Olympics unless

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