3 Classic Double Chairlifts Walter Foeger Parallel Ski School
Base Lodge with Rustic Snowflake Lounge 11 Trails 6 novice, 2 intermediate and 3 advanced Complete Snow Making Facilities All Trails lit for Night Skiing
SLOPES AND TRAILS: 1--Empress; 2--Gypsy; 3--Sleeping Princess; 4--Royal Road; 5--Iron Duke; 6--King David Trail; 7--Courtyard; 8--King Slope; 9--Queen Slope; 10--Red Baron; 11--Esquire Run.
Trail map from the collection of Paul Gromkowski
Dutchess Ski Area was located off Route 9D in Beacon, New York. The ski center was first developed with chairlifts for the 1967-68 ski season. The mountain offers fantastic views of the Hudson River, the newly constructed bridge, and the valley from its western face.
Adult Rates: Full Day Pass, $7/weekday, $9/weekend.
Student Rates: Full Day Pass, $5/weekday, $7/weekend.
Patch, night photos & brochure contributed by Dutchess skier Tom Scuccimarra. Season pass contributed by Paul Gromkowski
Due to some extremely mild winters and complete lack of foresight by the local municipalities during a recessionary period, Dutchess closed in 1975. Rumors went around that a group of investors including Howard Cosell were going to revitalize Dutchess, but this never came to fruition. We now ski Dutchess only in our memories and on this webpage.
The rates above are from a warm day in 1972, when my uncle took me skiing at Dutchess. I strapped on skis for the first time the night before, and flopped around in his yard in Fishkill. The next morning he spent some time in the cellar drilling and moving bindings amongst various skis, so that my cousins and I would be set for the day. I then learned to ski on the King & Queen slopes beneath the 800' double chair.
For taking the time to introduce me to the sport of skiing, I dedicate this webpage to the memory of Lewis T. "Mike" Bolger.
Had Dutchess been built in the late 1950s rather than the 60s, it would've had a few successful seasons and built momentum when small ski areas were still popular. After personalities like Jean-Claude Killy, Billy Kidd and Spyder Sabich helped popularize the sport in the late 60s, large, destination resorts became the rage. Mid-sized operations like Dutchess had to rely on local enthusiasts, many of whom would opt for better conditions at Windham, Hunter, and Catamount. The mild winters of the early 70s took their toll. Many times, Dutchess would only be operational to "mid station," and I can recall a couple of visits when only the 800' chair was open.
Warm winters, high costs and hassles with the local governments over water for snowmaking brought down a great ski area. Had the community realized what a terrific recreational resource and economic opportunity they had right out the back door, the first half of this page might not be fictional. Faint traces of the trails are all that remain, while the citizenry debate the merits of housing developments. When I drive through on I-84 and see the community's new minor league ballpark, I wonder how they gave up so easily on major league skiing.
-- Rick Bolger
The last year it was open was 1975. I skied it the last day it was open with the Dutchess Ski Patrol. We were just visiting patrollers that day. We were thinking of patrolling Dutchess the next year -- moving from the newly merged Vernon Valley/Great Gorge. We were from the Great Gorge Patrol. We ended up going to Mount Peter since Dutchess closed. We are still active, patrolling at Sterling Forest and Mountain Trails Nordic. The Patrol Director at that time [was] Manny Schweitzer. Manny is now patrol director of West Point, and has been Regional Director of Southern New York Region of the National Ski Patrol.
-- Report from Carl H. Smith
The day that the area really closed it didn't open! On the early morning ski reports, Dutchess was the only place in the Taconic section still reporting that it was open. Each time the phone rang at the ticket desk, the woman working would report, yes, we were open. All that time the three lift attendants, the one ski patroller (me) and the ticket vendor were watching the brown spot on the trail get larger and larger in the light rain, until about 10:00 AM it became obvious that there would be no more skiing for the season. That ended the 1974-75 ski season. I am still a patroller, now at Smuggler's Notch, Northern Vermont section.
-- Report from Charlie Magill
Another big event of the year was the demolition of the Ski Lodge, now owned by the city because of tax default. The community has made it quite clear that it would like that property used for some public purpose, to keep its easy access to the mountain trails available, rather than have it be closed off for private residential use. The building itself was not in safe condition and the determination was made to take it down. The many people who remembered the Lodge in its heyday hated to see that happen, but unfortunately safety required that it be done.
This was part of the January 2001 mayor's review of the year 2000.
...it would be good to include info about a man named Jack Brunnell, he lived on the edge of the Dutchess Ski Area property and made plastic snow. It was like nylon mesh screen with bumps the size of dimes about 3/8 of an inch high. He had a small slope and 3 ski jumps in his backyard; that's where most of the locals learned to jump. We then built jumps at the ski area, and when Dutchess purchased the Mt. Beacon ski area they tore down the jumps after about 2 years.
At one time we used to have an old bus that would take you over to the incline railway. We would take that to the top of the mountain, then ski down two little work roads which merged into the main slope of Mt Beacon...then go back to the bus and do it again. It made for a heck of a workout.
We also used to get free season passes for helping Bill Kaputa pack down the new snow, side-stepping up and down the mountain. He would also have the city drop off all the leaves they collected in this big vacuum truck; he would load it on a trailer, tow it up the hill, and we'd spread it out over the slopes like hay, just before winter.
Mr. Kaputa also made his own snow gun. He would blow piles of snow and then use his bulldozer to spread it around, usually down near the bottom, were everyone skidded to a stop. He modified his dozer by drilling each track plate and bolting on a 2x4 like a slow modern snowcat. He then put us out of snow packing jobs by building a roller, out of a large culvert pipe, welded to a frame he could tow with his dozer. My dad remembers some nights, straight off 3rd shift at Nabisco, he would find Bill fast asleep after watching his snowgun all night. By morning it would be blowing water on his new snow, and my dad used to shut it off for him then go have coffee with him.
I now live near Mount Snow; if the ski area hadn't closed I might've stayed!
-- Bob Resek
If things go according to plan, Beacon will have a $2 million ski center by December of 1969. The first phase of the Dutchess Ski Corporation's plans is scheduled to be accomplished by December of this year with the construction of two ski lifts and the modernization of the present Mt. Beacon Ski Area lodge on the property currently owned by William Kaputa.
Mr. Kaputa indicated that the work [at] this point would commence in the spring of this year.
When the 1967 phase is completed, there will be two ski lifts, the longer extending three-fourths of the distance up Mt. Beacon with an advanced skier trail at the end of the lift and a half-way stop for intermediate skiers.
By December of 1968, work is expected to be completed on two additional ski lifts starting up the mountain from the East Main Street area going right to the top to transport skiers to the main ski trails.
The final phase, expected to be completed by December of 1969, will be the construction of an $800,000 modern ski lodge with cafeteria, dining room and ski shop, to be located near the East Main Street lifts.
Mr. Boccia spoke entusiastically of what the ski center could mean to the City of Beacon and the Town of Fishkill, predicting it could stimulate complimentary developments such as modern motels and other facilities.
He said when completed the ski center will handle "thousands of skiers over the winter weekends."
He pointed out that Beacon is close enough to draw considerably from the metropolitan area over the weekend and also to draw well from the rapidly growing local area for day and night skiing during the weekdays.
He said trails will be well-lighted for the night skiers.
The lift attendant says you are the skier to electronically ride the fixed grip double chair past midstation. We thank Digits.com for not smacking the back of our knees with the chair while they count.
Have any Dutchess Photos? Your snapshots and memories would enhance this site nicely! Anybody have an original brochure? Bumpersticker? Please e-mail any content you'd like to contribute to email@example.com ...let's preserve these records before they gradually disappear, like the trail cuts on Mt. Beacon.
Interested in other "lost" ski areas? NELSAP.ORG is a great site.
Another great site for visiting ski areas of the past is Laurie's TeachSki site which is chock full of photos and maps and other skiareaiana. Or would that be skiareaobilia? Bookmark it!
A group of us kids, that lived in close proximity to Mt. Beacon, all assisted in the development of the original ski area. Many of us learned to drive by using Mr. Kaputa's tractor to haul away cut trees for burning, while building the main slope. Bill Kaputa Jr. and many of us spent our after school hours and weekends there. Later we all assisted in maintaining the area, making snow, ski patrol, the lodge and ski shop.
By the way, the car used for the first tow rope was an old Packard. It had a dual wheel built for the rear that had the rope ride through the middle, which ran to a pulley at the top of the slope. Dangerous but functional. A major problem with the ski area was it faced too much to the West. As a result, it received too much afternoon sun, which made it difficult to maintain a snow base.
I'd like to thank Bill Kaputa for helping to make our childhood a fun and growing experience....
-- Vincent Pisco
I first was on skis at Dutchess in 1966. Four guys from work (IBM in Poughkeepsie) went there one night, all for the first time, and took a lesson from an instructor named Pepe. I was hooked at once, although, as far as I know none of the other three ever tried it again.
I ended up playing piano in the lounge a few nights a week and in addition to making a few extra bucks, got free skiing for my wife and three kids. We all learned to ski there, two of the kids going on to become excellent skiers. I never got to be a great skier but it was a wonderful family activity over the years and to this day, at age 73, I still enjoy getting out with my six year old grandson on the slopes in California, where we now live.
After skiing only in Beacon, mostly at night, we started going to other ski areas and were amazed to realize that there were surfaces other than the black ice that covered most of the slopes at Dutchess!
-- John Relle
Thousand Oaks, CA
Often when I tell my Tennessee coworkers I grew up one block down (Duncan St.) from a ski run in New York -- and went skiing every night it was open -- I can see they are skeptical. When I would add that we would look out from Beacon High (7th grade- 12th grade) wondering how much snow melted and if it would be icy, they get a funny look on their faces. We all had those original season passes that Bill Kaputa never had to check because he sold us our skis from his shop on Main by the old Howland Library.
There is a story from the days of the rope tow I tell, although my sister may not appreciate it- We were going up on the "big tow", which if you remember was to the left of the slope as you look at it from the base. I was ahead of my older sister Cheryl as we went up. The rope would have a tendency to twist in your hand and you could hold it back only so long and you would need to release slightly and let it spin and grasp it tightly again with the special leather reinforced mittens/gloves.
We were above the second bump in the slope where the grade is quite steep before you reach the top and my sister started screaming her head off. I looked back and all I could see was what looked like a snow plow with her being dragged by her long blond hair that got twisted around the rope, her ski's were flopping along behind her hanging by the safety straps. I thought "she's gonna die" as I looked to the top of the slope where you unloaded and the rope continued up into the mountain 20- 30 feet and about 15 feet in the air to where the rope made its turn around an automobile rim pulley and back down the mountain. Then I remembered the safety gate and thought "ok, ok, I'll hit the safety gate when I get off and we'll get her untangled, not a problem."
Things happened really fast when I got to the top, I got off the tow and started to hit the safety gate when I saw her being lifted by the tow as it made its way up and over the safety gate to the automobile pulley bolted to a tree, this tow really moved and in a split second she smashed into me on her way over the safey gate. She was hanging by her hair twisting and tugging to get free. I don't really know if I hit the gate when I fell or if her ski's hit the gate but remember clearly it swinging aside, the tow stopping, the gate swinging back, the tow starting and Cheryl ripping her hair out of her head and falling to the ground.
She was up in an instant screaming at the top of her lungs again and I expected to see that something really, really bad had hapened to her. When I got over to her she told me she couldn't believe it, she had a bald spot on the side of her head where the tow had ripped the hair out of her head. As she rearranged her hair she asked me "was it noticable?" I told her it "looked great because she could have been DEAD!" She made me swear I would not tell our parents because we were sure one of two things would happen; either we would not be allowed to go skiing again or pop would certainly drive Bill Kaputa into the ground to his chin for the faulty safety gate. Learned a lot about life, and girls that day.
I date this around 1964-65 as I remember hearing the Beach Boys- Barbara Ann for the first time on the juke box.
-- Henry Yankowski
If you're a more "hands-on" type and prefer to get out there and bang down some classic New York trails -- or enjoy an armchair approach -- I heartily recommend David Goodman's Backcountry Skiing Adventures: Classic Ski and Snowboard Tours in Vermont and New York. These are the "historic" trails, the forgotten runs, and the "out-of-bounds" runs that enable you to relive skiing as it was in the 1930s. Great book; this is a link to amazon if you're interested.
Patch, night photos & brochure contributed by Dutchess skier Tom Scuccimarra
I learned to ski on Mt Beacon in the late 50s when a local man, Bill Kaputa owned the area. There was a rope tow that started just at the base of the hill near Howland Ave where the road curves around to the right. I don't remember what kind of car was used to power the tow, but it was an old, smelly contraption. The hill was not that big, although to a young kid of 10 it seemed bigger than it does now. To the left of the main area there was a ski jump...we had a number of local kids who were good jumpers (I was not one of them!).
When the Dutchess ski area folks bought the property it had the potential to be a great little ski area. There was one winter when the incline railway was used to bring skiers to the top of the mountain. I think this was done after one trail was cut from the top for Dutchess but before any of the lifts were put in. Again Im not sure of these facts, but I do remember taking the incline up in the winter -- it was a little frightening!
Then Walter Foeger came on the scene and "designed" the trails. I worked at the ski area clearing trees and brush for the trails...even a young, relatively inexperienced kid could look at some of those trails and realize that they were "banked" the wrong way. I know that the residents on Howland Ave in Beacon remember the disaster created by his trail designs and the subsequent erosion. Don't get me wrong, I have great memories from my years skiing at Beacon, both when it was run by Bill Kaputa and then Dutchess...I even taught skiing there, but I'm actually glad that the ski area is now defunct...the mountain is returning to a more natural state.
contributed by John Fasulo, Beacon NY
For more information on Walter Foeger, this link goes to the "official" Walter Foeger/Natur Teknik website, or if you prefer, you can go straight to a page mentioning his involvement with Dutchess. Most would agree that Foeger did an excellent job designing the trails at Dutchess. His trails worked "with" the terrain, and that approach was far preferable to the "dynamite" cut & fill technique employed at many ski areas, including nearby Hunter. In addition to developing Natur Teknik, Foeger is recognized for being the "father" of Jay Peak, one of the finest ski areas in New England. This is a great link to learn more about one of the true legends of skiing. The Natur Teknik sign at left is from Foeger's ski school at Camelback, PA, circa 1972.
While gathering information for this website, I found that the former Snowflake Lodge and uses for the Ski Dutchess property were/are a regular topic of discussion at city meetings, citizens' forums, etc. Strangely enough, "activities for kids" and "recreation for kids" appears as a topic with similar frequency. I think somebody's asleep at the switch...
Also looking for photos and memories of Snow Bowl, Milton NJ, and 1960s/70s photos/memorabilia of Vernon Valley/Great Gorge; please forward to rickbolger[at]yahoo[dot]com thanks. Original commentary copyright 2002-2007. Photos, comments, and quotations used by permission.