The ski club (NFSC), located in the heart of the Northumberland Forest on Highway #45, came into existence in September, 1945. Before the establishment of the NFSC, locals went skiing on the hills around town (Cobourg). They would hike up, ski down, and do it all over again. Two popular locations were on Elgin Street East, (east of where the depot was built, on the north side) and on the back side of Creighton Heights hill.
By 1945, young people wanted to ski. Hubert Cooey of The Cooey Machine and Arms Factory spurred Cobourg Mayor Joe Smith to encourage the sport and to make use of the Northumberland Forest and the hills on the property and was the driving force behind the formation of the ski club.
The Town of Cobourg ran ski buses on the weekends and Mayor Smith would give free bus tickets and tow tickets to those who could not finance the trip. Tom Krakenberg’s father moved here from Mt. Tremblant to help build the ski runs and lifts. He had worked for Joe Ryan at Tremblant previously.
The publication, Cobourg 1798-1948, stated that at present 2 tows were developed to take skiers to the top of the 2 hills. There were at least 3 runs per hill which ranged to suit the timid beginner to the fanatical expert in search of more and bigger thrills.
The ski club had a chalet, lunch counter, lounging space, ski shop and office available to the skiers. Many local families were involved over the years. The Cane’s, Krakenberg’s, Margles, Mann’s, Russ Lake, Jim & Bonnie Sheridan, the Zinkie’s, the Curtis family from up the road, and many, many more contributed a lot of volunteer hours over the years. At the time, all children attending school within the United Counties and Durham and Northumberland could become members at no charge.
Initially, there was no electricity at the ski club. A gas generator was brought in to power the lights and coffeemaker in the chalet which housed a large fireplace and tuck shop.
Phil Calnan recalls that in the 1950s, professional ski instructors were brought in and a ski patrol was formed. The local ski patrol was provided guidance from Dr. Doug Firth, the founder of the Canadian Ski Patrol. Several of the local ski patrol went on to help form ski patrols at many of the eastern Ontario and New York ski areas.
At the time, a Bren Gun Carrier was used to power the rope tows and ‘Jet’ Hayden from Baltimore was the individual who kept the tow operating. The ropes were massive affairs. Each was hand spliced. The splices could be 5 or 6 feet long in total. A seasoned skier would see the splice coming downhill, and let it slip through his hand before gripping hard. In 1948, a second tow was installed and 3 more runs were developed for the skiers. Mr. Hayden would go on to become the club’s ski manager in 1961.
Notable members of the Northumberland Forest Ski Club and racing team included brothers, John and Vic Emery. Both attended Trinity College School at the time and went on the win a gold medal for Canada in the 4-man bobsleigh race at the 1964 Olympics held in Innsbruck Austria.
Phil Calnan also recalls that weekends at the ski club were very busy and very crowded because they were ahead of the development of the ski industry in the Collingwood and Huntsville areas. The Cobourg Sentinel Star reported on January 20, 1955 that on the previous weekend, the ski club saw 200 skiers enjoy the runs. It again reported two weeks later, the club set a new record as over 300 skiers saw action at the Northumberland Forest Ski Club.
The Northumberland Forest Ski Club was popular not only for down hill skiing but for cross country skiing. It boasted an active Ski Patrol and in the 1960s and 1970s hosted winter festivals, race days and school days.
In the late 1960s a new chalet was erected with all the modern amenities as well as a ski patrol cabin.
A Poma lift was installed in the late 1970s, perhaps the last year that the club was operational. Mr. Calnan noted that with rising insurance costs and the lack of snowmaking and grooming equipment, it was difficult to stay competitive with other ski areas.
On The Slopes
A.L. Skee – Cobourg Sentinel-Star Oct 24, 1957
The first snow has fallen and although many hundreds of miles to the north, indications are that the great white flakes will be upon us in the next month or so.
Northumberland Forest Ski Club has opened its doors and plans are being made for a bigger and better season. Johnny Ewart spent several happy days last week delivering cheques to many of the note holders and this serves as good public relations. Jet Hayden is busy fixing up the chalet, replacing windows and getting the tows in good shape. Sandy Campbell is anxiously awaiting the arrival of our giant grass cutter and the hills and trails will receive their annual hair cut this weekend.
The best news of all concerns our facilities. That narrow Razorback Trail that we used to know is no more. It has received a face-lifting and is now over 40 ft wide at the top and tapers down to 20 ft near the bottom. Joe’s Run has been widened at the top and more turns and speed can certainly be guaranteed from this hill.
The trail that we the members hacked out of the woods just one year ago is complete, all stumps removed, widened in several places and just waiting for the snow to arrive. The Herman Gadner and Campbell’s Cut are next to feel the blows of the axe and both trails will be considerably improved.
All in all it has been a busy fall for those concerned as we realize that improvements must be made to remain competitive with other clubs and to attract more skiers. We realize that when the new 401 highway reaches Cobourg it will only be 11/2 hours drive from Toronto to the hills and this in itself will bring many more dollars to both our ski club and the Town of Cobourg.
Reviewed August 2020