If you haven’t already, climb atop Horn Pond Mountain in Woburn. It looms over Horn Pond on one side and the former Toys R Us location on the other. You’ll enjoy some memorable views . . .
. . . and you’ll find some interesting artifacts, such as the old town reservoir basin.
And some mysterious concrete forms.
Turns out, they’re remnants of a chair lift. Yes, you could ski at Horn Pond Mountain! Why can’t you ski anymore? The story comes from this book.
The ski operation was a public/private partnership that began very humbly with a flattish toboggan run at the nearby Woburn Country Club (black/white photos via Facebook).
Then, in 1965, the Country Club became a bit more ambitious and created a ski area on club property, but there was no chair lift. Instead, skiers were yanked uphill via a rope-tow system powered by an old pickup truck . It’s visible in the photo below.
Finally, in 1966, the mayor et al became more ambitious. No more mole hills. How about this Horn Pond Mountain down the street? The city installed the concrete footings for the chair lift and placed a $35,000 order for chair lift equipment — from Italy!
However, Mayor Edward F. Gill had neglected to get City Council approval for that chair lift money. That was just the start of the folly. Portions of the chair lift came too close to power lines. Other parts were too close to private land. Moreover, there was nonstop wrangling about how the operation should be run. A third-party lessee? An appointed council? An independent authority?
Who cares? It was 1969 and it was snowing! The slope was packed with snow — and paying customers. “Mount Towanda” offered two main trails from the top, serviced by the new chair lift, plus a smaller slope that used the old rope tow, plus a beginner’s slope, cross-country trails and night skiing. It was open every day of the week. Life was good.
But things headed down a slippery slope. The chair lift documentation was written in Italian, making service a challenge. Then while everyone was frolicking in 1969, the lease ran out on Woburn’s snowmaking equipment, so it was repossessed just as temperatures went up and snowmaking became essential. Citizens turned up the heat on the new Woburn Golf & Ski Authority for inattentiveness. The following winter, with new snowmaking equipment in place, a fire knocked it out of commission. Discord escalated among Woburn voters, authority members, City Council and the mayor. After 1970, skiing in Woburn slipped away forever. What happened to the chair lift? Many knowledgeable Woburnites say it went to auction and was snapped up by Nashoba Valley for cheap.
Maybe the real heyday of Horn Pond skiing was the ski jumping of the early 1940s, along the Winchester side of the mountain. At least it lasted more than two winters, unlike ordinary downhill skiing.
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