The Epic History of Stowe Mountain Resort


by Brian Lindner

Of the more than 100 trails, two famous ski trails at Stowe are named after visionary men who, more than eight decades ago, saw Mount Mansfield as the ideal location to promote an entirely new industry in Vermont. Another trail is named after the man credited with eventually making Stowe "The Ski Capital of the East" and a fourth is named for the man who helped finance major improvements.

Charlie Lord, in black sweater, with his CCC crew in the winter of 1933/34 while cutting The Bruce on Mount Mansfield. The Bruce was Vermont’s first purpose-cut ski trail. The man with a sandwich second from left in the back is Paul Barquin of Springfield who skied down The Bruce the day it was completed making him the first person to ski down a cut ski trail in Vermont.
(Photo: From the collection of Brian Lindner)

Stowe Mountain Resort had its earliest beginnings in a rough old lumber camp in Ranch Valley to the west of today's Vermont 108 — several miles from today's main resort. The only ski trails remaining near the former site of Ranch Camp are those from the resort's Cross Country Center. All downhill skiing long ago migrated further up the road to where the resort sits today at the south entrance to Smugglers Notch.

Nobody knows exactly when the first skis glided across the winter snow in Stowe but it was almost certainly in the mid to late 1800s. Stowe was a farming and logging community after the Civil War and loggers sometimes traveled through the winter woods on long boards with upturned tips.

Brian Lindner is a member of the Mount Mansfield Ski Patrol and historian for Stowe Mountain Resort.

Read the complete history, including many more old photographs, at the Burlington Free Press

70th Annual Stowe Derby is on for Sunday, February 22, 2015



New Fatbiking Competitor Class in 2015!
Make history by competing in the first ever Stowe Derby Fatbike race

The Stowe Derby is one of the oldest and most unique ski races in North America. It started in 1945 as a personal challenge between two amazing skiers - Austrian, Sepp Ruschp who was hired to come to America and head the new ski school at Stowe and Erling Strom, world famous mountaineer from Norway. The challenge was the same as it is today - to race from the top of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont's highest peak to the historic village of Stowe... on ONE pair of skis! The ultimate test of a skiers ability. Ruschp was the winner of the first Stowe Derby.

Today, the race attracts over 900 competitors, ranging from Canadian Cross Country Ski Team members and NCAA Champions to recreational skiers looking for a thrill. While the race can be very competitive at all levels, it is also a fun race, having been chosen as one of the top sporting events in the state by readers of Vermont Sports Magazine.

Over the course, participants ski through 20km of challenging terrain, racing down Mt. Mansfield's Toll Road and along the entire length of the Stowe Recreation Path before reaching the finish in the village. The course has a total vertical drop of over 2,600 feet. The winners will complete the course in under 45 minutes, while recreational skiers can take a couple of hours to go the same distance.

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Presidents Week ends with the 64th Annual Stowe Derby

Tomorrow, one of the highlights of the winter calendar is the annual ritual known as the Stowe Derby. At precisely 10 a.m. competitors will be launched down the Toll Road in waves of five skiers every thirty seconds. No big deal right? Heck Toll Road is easy. Oh yeah just one other detail -- the skiers will be on skinny little cross country skis and the next 10-15 minutes of their lives will be rather challenging. The race begins as a dash down the Toll Road and then once competitors reach the Mansfield Touring Center they begin an additional 13-kilometer journey all the way into the Village of Stowe. The race began in 1945 as a challenge race between two legendary figures in Stowe history -- Sepp Ruschpp the founder of the Stowe Ski School and first president of the resort and Erwin Strom a world famous mountaineer who had a farm in Stowe. Ruschpp, a former national Austrian X-C Champion triumphed easily on his dash to town and a tradition was born.

Now some 60 years later the thrill of the event remains a draw for some of the nation's best X-C skiers. Virtually everyone who lives in Stowe has done the race at least once. A new wrinkle that has been added in recent Derbies is the creation of the Derbymeister category. Derbymeisters do the race to town on skating gear and then return to the top of the Toll Road and do a second race this time on classical skis.