Chestnut Ridge

Morgantown, West Virginia

This photo shows the 550-foot ski slope at Chestnut Ridge, a small ski resort located near Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia from 1951 through 1973.  During the season this photo was taken, the ski slope was open for 40 days of skiing.
Skiing in the early 1950s at Chestnut Ridge. This photo shows the 550-foot ski slope at Chestnut Ridge, a small ski resort located near Coopers Rock State Forest in West Virginia from 1951 through 1973. During the season this photo was taken, the ski slope was open for 40 days of skiing. Photo courtesy of James Shepherd.

Chestnut Ridge offered a 170-foot vertical with one rope tow.

In 1993, the eleventh edition of Lost Colorado Ski Areas, a newsletter posted to the Internet newsgroup rec.skiing by Mark Wallace, included some details about Chestnut Ridge.

According to the newsletter, Chestnut Ridge operated from about 1966 to 1980. The ski area was located in Coopers Rock State Forest, about 12 miles east of Morgantown, West Virginia. The base elevation of the area was at 2,100 feet above sea level, with the top of the area at 2,270 feet.

DCSki reader Matt Kavlick tipped us off to a book titled Greater Morgantown and Its People, Volume III, published by the Dominion Post, a newspaper based out of Morgantown. The book includes historical information about the Morgantown area, and includes a photo (above) of Chestnut Ridge taken in the early 1950’s by James Shepherd. James Shepherd served as Recreation Director of the Monongalia County Consolidated Recreation Commission until June 30, 1973. In the book, the photo’s caption indicated that Chestnut Ridge offered winter activities from 1951 through 1973, when the 500-foot long slope was closed. These dates indicate that Chestnut Ridge’s lifespan may have been greater than that indicated in the Lost Colorado Ski Areas newsletter.

Thanks to the efforts of Matt Kavlick, Kelley Dlugos at The Dominion Post, and Bruce Miller, the current Park Superintendent at Chestnut Ridge Park, we received a note from James Shepherd providing permission to publish his photo above. James was in charge of the recreation commission at Chestnut Ridge in the early 1950s, and we extend thanks to him for permission to publish a great photo that provides a rare window to the history of Chestnut Ridge.

James also sent us a newspaper clipping from the January 8, 1984 issue of Panorama. In that article, author Janice DePollo provided a historical look at Chestnut Ridge. DePollo notes that the Chestnut Ridge Ski Area (and related Mountaineer Winter Sports Club) was formed by a group of Morgantown residents in the early 1950s.

“There were a bunch of boys trying to ski down the hill and miss the trees at the bottom,” James Shepherd is quoted in the article as saying. By 1953, interest had peaked and construction of a ski slope began. Members of the Mountaineer Winter Sports Club purchased a Model A Ford Engine for $25 to drive a rope tow, but according to the Panorama article, the greatest expense was the 1,200-foot long rope, which cost the club $500. The rope was driven by a large wooden wheel powered by the gas engine, resulting in a rope tow that initially ran only halfway up the vertical slope, later expanded to run the entire length of the slope. Shepherd recalls that Chestnut Ridge probably had the first rope tow in operation in the state of West Virginia.

The primary slope at Chestnut Ridge faced east/southeast, which helped limit the average snow season to 25 days. According to DePollo, club members were anxious to add a northerly slope, which would retain snow better. Two northerly-facing slopes were cut, although only one was ever in use, and apparently not for an extended period of time.

DePollo reports that the regular ski rates at Chestnut Ridge were $1 for adults and 50 cents for students. As many as 200 skiers turned out to use the facilities on Sundays, she writes.

According to Matt, the Coopers Rock State Forest currently offers two cross-country ski trails: a two-mile intermediate loop and a three-mile advanced trail.

Today, Chestnut Ridge Park offers hiking, fishing, paddle boating, swimming, camping, and other recreational activities.

DCSki Sponsor: Canaan Valley Resort

Reader Comments

March 21, 2006
This area is still used by locals as a great sledding hill after a decent snow
March 21, 2006
This area is still used by locals as a great sledding hill after a decent snow
November 13, 2009
I learned to ski at Chestnut Ridge, where my family skied regularly in the 60's and even occaisionally into the early 70's. The Model A was still in use. The rope return was run over old wire spoke automobile rims attached to poles and trees. There was night skiing using a wide array of big light bulbs. After about about 9:00 pm on some nights, when most of the crowd had left, someone would throw the Model A into 3rd gear and you could get pulled up the hill as fast as you could ski down. Talk about getting a lot of runs in! As you might guess, the high speed rope was really tough on gloves, quickly tearing the palms out. Timing was everything at the top because at speed, one had to let go of the rope very early or risk getting pulled into the shed where the Model A was running. An aquaintance managed to get a broken rib when he forgot to let go early and smashed into the shed. The slope was steeper at the top and had a hump about halfway down. There was a narrow trail (jeep trail?) off to the left, but there was seldom enough snow to ski it. I do remember a few hotshots getting some air off the hump when conditions were fast. The "base lodge" was small, either hexagonal or octigonal and had a large potbellied stove in the center that kept the place pretty toasty. They had rental equipment available, but I recall it was usually pretty outdated (no quick release bindings back then). I recall they also served some snack foods and hot drinks. The roads in were often trecherous and many times cars would get stuck and block the road. One vivid memory is when my father and I went out for some night skiing. We had just managed a couple of runs when a WVU coed fell and broke her leg (remember no quick release rentals). As a physician, my father quickly took charge and had her splinted and moved inside. She was in a lot of pain and kind of shocky, so we ended up loading her into our VW camper bus and for the long ride (before the interstate) to the emergency room rather than waiting for an ambulance. Fortunately, the VW was always great on the snowy roads, but riding in the back with her, I still remember her screeming everytime the bus went over a pothole. Sometime in 70's a new slope was developed on the other side of the pond at the bottom. It had a real rope tow (no home built Model A this time). The slope was a little wider and longer, but a lack of snow and funding meant it did not operate often. I think the Model A was about shot the original slope was seldom used except for sleding. Although funding and limited snow was always a problem, I believe the final blow to this area came when a fairly young female skier got tangled in the new rope and was crushed to death in the tow mechanism. A very sad ending to this little area.
January 18, 2011
Annual Toboggan Festival held at Chestnut Ridge

Check out this link to view a story and video of Chestnut Ridge
January 18, 2011
Link correction:
January 18, 2011
Don't know why but the equal sign () was stripped from the link. Should be an equal sign () between func and viewstory in the link; also between storyid and 92745 in the link. Hope this helps.

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