REGION — Gould Academy has been known for its exceptional ski program for quite a while, especially with its short distance from campus to Sunday River. But before the mountain officially opened in 1959, where did skiers from Gould go?

Gould’s earlier down-hill, jumping, slalom and giant slalom spot was “Anderson Hill,” which was on the side of Robertson Hill, right behind what is now the property of Bethel Auto Sales on Route 2. For its cross country skiing, the course started behind the girls’ dorm and made its way up to Grover Hill, similar to the course that they still use today.

In the early to mid 1940s, Gould acquired use of the land that was part of the Locke-Swan farm on the Sunday River Road (across the road from River Bend condos).

One key advantage the new land had over Gould’s pre-existing trail system was the angle of the slope’s fall-line, according to Bethel Journals. The ski area was also easily accessed by cars and buses and had plenty of parking for viewers. Getting the course ready for the different styles of skiing took some work though.

According to the Bethel Journals, in 1944, Gould graduate Ruel Swain said extensive shovel and wheelbarrow work was required to get the slope in proper shape for high school ski jumping, landing and giant slalom competition.

When work on the ski area at Swan’s Corner was finished, Swain said that the jump length was between 80 to 100 feet long, compared to only 60 feet at Anderson Hill.

An added benefit of skiing at Swan’s was the rope tow lift, which was built around 1950 according to Roger Adams, a skier on the Gould team in the early 1950s. Adams states in the Bethel Journals that the Gould jump was the only one to have a rope tow. Adams also said that the tow “paralleled the jump’s landing hill,” making the lift line “extremely steep.”

A new Ford V-8 engine powered the lift. When the lift was moving at a slow speed it pulled on skiers’ arms, making it difficult for them to hang off. The consensus was going at a faster speed was the better option, though this often lead to skiers becoming airborne once they let go of the rope at the top of the hill. The lift could reach speeds between 25 to 30 mph. Another downside to a faster moving lift was that many skiers struggled grabbing hold of the lift at the bottom. According to Bethel Journals, “it was necessary to wear leather mitts and gloves,” because regular mittens would burn due to the rope zipping by so fast.

Skiers of the time said the rope tow lift allowed them to make additional training jumps, which ultimately improved their competition results. Skiers also believed the tow rope was a “competitive advantage” over other schools jumping teams. Berlin High (Berlin, N.H.), Hanover High (Hanover, N.H.), Lebanon High, (Lebanon, N.H.), Stephen’s High (Rumford) and Edward Little (Auburn), were the other schools Gould’s jumping team competed against, according to the Bethel Journals.

 


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