by Ian Scott, July 27, 2017
Over the last few years I spoke with people who had a connection to the early days of skiing on Prince Edward Island. As there has been little published on the history of winter recreation, this might be a chance to share these stories.
|James William "Bill" Profit|
Adventure seeking skiers would hike up farm hills and ski down. The first ski lift appears to be the rope tow located in Clinton, PEI. The Clinton hill overlooking the Southwest River near New London had a lodge building. Built for the summer hotel and restaurant trade, Allan Rankin, the son of the founder recalled, "Clinton Heights Motor Lodge was built and operated by my father, Robert H. Rankin. After retiring as a building contractor, he purchased land at Clinton and constructed the combined motor lodge, dining room, and lounge. He operated the facility for many years, together with the first downhill ski business on the Island. The dining room was well known across the Island. I worked at this tourism establishment during the summers, and rented skis in the winter."
|Clinton Heights Motor Lodge in 1970's|
After the ski hill closed many people recall the continuing operation renamed the Clinton View Lodge. Eventually it changed from a tourist hotel to a community care facility known as Perrin's Clinton View Lodge.
|13 of the 17-member PEI Ski Team headed to the 1971 Winter Canada Games in Saskatoon. Picture taken at Brookvale Ski Hill.|
Ken knew that a bigger operation than the fun slope in Clinton was needed to develop the sport and he gathered a small group of Summerside residents who shared his interest. Besides himself they included three other men: Creelman MacArthur, Lloyd Miller, and Laurie Coles.
|Ken Judson in 2017|
Having heard of some good hills in Central Queens Co., Ken decided to take a detour one day when headed to Charlottetown on a business delivery. Heading inland from the Trans Canada Highway in Crapaud he soon found himself in Brookvale where spotted a steep slope and he turned onto a tiny logging road in his new Oldsmobile in hopes of exploring it further; with nowhere to turn around, he backed down to the road in the rain. He continued on to Charlottetown where he referred to a relief map to confirm elevations and decided to travel home the same route stopping at the nearest house to ask who owned the hilly woodlot. He obtained information on the owner from a neighbour and reported back to his organizing team.
Thus began the effort to purchase the hill at Brookvale from the owner, Mrs. Curley which Ken undertook concluding with a commitment by the four Summerside partners to develop the hill and sign personal commitments for a loan of $25,000 with a government guarantee provide to the bank. The next stage in 1966 saw the clearing of the hill using logging horses and the help of Boy Scouts and other volunteers to clear branches. Ken Judson and Lloyd Miller provided leadership with the daily operations getting the ski hill running with a rope tow in 1967. The hill opened on July 11, 1967 with official ceremony on July 28th of the same year.
|Ken Judson with Nancy Green in 1968|
Ken Judson along with his family remained involved with the sport and had received certification as a ski instructor. He started travelling to the larger hills in New England and meeting with ski leaders like Nancy Greene. As a natural leader and promoter of the sport, Ken Judson played a key role in building organizations that have allowed families to enjoy skiing on PEI, and for young athletes to gain the skills necessary to compete nationally and internationally.
|Ken Judson with Nancy Green|
Ken also recognized the early effort played by Judy Ellis in establishing the first training programs for children and adults at Brookvale. While many others have carried on the ski and snowboarding programs he credits Judy with the seminal role in getting things started in the early years. Ken Judson and Tom Richardson both took training as instructors in Nova Scotia. Operating under the Nancy Greene Ski School name, the program developed over time with Nancy Greene lending her celebrity endorsement as well as an ongoing expertise and support for youth skiing across Canada. The ski school under Judy Ellis gave skiers of all ages a solid start with safely as a key component instilled early. Many students starting as children in the program joined ski teams and saw their skills progress.
Another site which played an early role was Stratgartney Provincial Park which was the first park within a growing provincial park system. A gift of Robert Lawson Cotton (1881-1968), the park was under the direction of Wendall Profitt (1922-2017), who was able to secure a motor for a movable rope tow which was installed on the hill during the 1960’s. As a forest engineer, Wendall had started the Provincial Forestry Nursery along with J. Frank Gaudet. It was with his appointment as the first director of provincial parks that he was able to develop a network of parks and campgrounds across the Island and is referred to as the Pioneer of Provincial Parks. Standing on the top of the hill at Stratgartney in October 2011 with Wendall, enjoying its sweeping view he outlined for me the area where the ski operation was based. At that time his concern was for the whole park as a major highway was planned to run through the middle of the park. Luckily the combined efforts to mobilize support to “Save Stratgartney” worked and government rerouted the highway around the edge of the parkland, eventually expanded the total parkland holding in the general area.
This article covers a few individual who played an early role in winter recreation and is meant as a companion article to two others issued by the Provincial Park system which are I have copied and hosted on this blog.
- Celebrating 50 years of fun in the snow! - History of Brookvale
- Brookvale Provincial Ski Park - 50 years of history!