Greensboro, News

Historical Society Presents Program on Skiing in Greensboro

photo by Hal Gray
Willie Smith and Sandy Gebbie, ski talk speakers, hold an early downhill ski (held on by only a single leather strap).

by Nancy Hill, Community Journalist

GREENSBORO – Unlike most small Vermont towns, Greensboro has been fortunate to have both Nordic and downhill skiing available within its borders for many years. Nearly 50 people were at the Greensboro Historical Society annual winter meeting at Fellowship Hall on Sunday, March 5, to hear Sandy Gebbie and Wilhelmina Smith tell the history of skiing in Greensboro. Many of those present had learned to ski right at home, either at the Gebbie Ski Tow or the Highland Lodge trails.

Gebbie described the Gebbie Farm Community Ski Tow in North Greensboro. In the early 1960s Donald and Madeline Gebbie wanted their family to have a local place to ski, so they outfitted their farm tractor to power a rope tow on a hill near their home, and the lift was born. Their son Peter began to operate the tow and by the early 1980s he and his wife, Sandy, were in charge and the operation became well-known. Some winter days as many as 50 avid skiers were waiting in line for a turn to be pulled up the hill, though at other times, only the five members of the Gebbie family used it. Many adults today remember skiing as children, and now their children are learning to ski the same way. The regular skiers became a community and still gather as friends, Gebbie relates. The tow is still operating, free to all.

photo by Hal Gray
Nancy Hill, former GHS president and who organized a ski talk, with an image on screen behind her of a tractor used by the Gebbies to power the ski tow.

The Gebbie tow operation was not the first in Greensboro. On a neighboring farm, the Hank Merrill family had a similar tractor-powered tow for a short period in the mid-1950s. Gebbie showed home movies of that first tow, and went on to show clips of the Gebbie tow in a documentary about New England home tows by T-Bar Films. She also showed a WCAX-TV film featuring the Gebbie tow. The films brought back happy memories as the crowd reminisced.

Willie Smith then described the X-C (Nordic) skiing operation at Highland Lodge. It began in the early 1970s when the proprietors, Dave and Carol Smith, decided that the Lodge, which until that time was primarily a summer resort, could become a winter resort as well. Their son David, Jr. and his wife Willie took over the operation. David Smith Jr. and Jed Guerten from Johnson laid out trails around the Lodge and Smith Jr. asked many abutting landowners for permission to cut trails across their land. He and a crew of trail packers packed the trails each day with a heavy-duty snowmobile, and lodge workers Sig Lonegren or Scott Irwin led ski tours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. (Eventually Smith Sr. bought a Bombi, an enclosed cabin trail packer.) They cut and maintained a trail from the lodge to Craftsbury village which connected with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center trail. Willie Smith described the Point-to-Point Ski Marathon that started at the lodge several years and ended at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center. The lodge served coffee and muffins to hundreds of skiers before they started the race. She said, “For one morning a year Highland Lodge was the center of the X-C ski universe!”

photo by Kyle Gray
Greensboro Historical Society (GHS) presentation on early skiing in Greensboro included (left to right) B.J. Gray, current GHS president, holding early ski (fastened with a single leather strap); Sandy Gebbie, speaker about rope tows; Wayne Young, presenter about cross country trail grooming; Willie Smith, former GHS president, speaker on Highland Lodge cross country ski trails; and David Smith, former owner of Highland Lodge, holding early cross country skis.

The summer play house at the lodge became the winter ski shop where they rented skis, boots with three-pin bindings, and bamboo poles. Willie Smith recalled pine-tarring wooden skis and mounting bindings. It was the place to pick up a trail map, sign-in, and get warm after a day of skiing. There was a small cost for out-of-town skiers; local Greensboro folks were invited to ski free.

Wayne Young related how he had spent many long hours packing the 40 miles of lodge trails. Some in the audience recalled helping David Smith keep the trails open each fall for many years by clipping the bushes that inevitably grew there. Willie Smith thanked the group of clippers with a lunch each day. The incomparable beauty of the scenery from the lodge trails was once pictured on a Visa card. Craftsbury Outdoor Center took over the maintenance of the trails after David and Willie Smith retired and sold the Lodge in 2016; the trails are kept in prime condition for skiing today.

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