Ski historian E. John B. Allen doesn’t interject much of himself into his latest book, “Traveling the Old Ski Tracks of New England,” but when he does, he makes it possible for us to envision what Stowe, Vt., was like in the mid-1950s.
“I owe much thanks to Stowe,” he writes to begin Chapter 10, “for it was here that I learned how to ski. From 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., I was a bar waiter at The Whip, the rather classy pub of the Green Mountain Inn, so I had all day to ski. While serving Tom and Jerries and Gluhwein, I overheard odd snatches of conversation: ‘I depend on Markers, but, of course, Cubco’s front throw…’; ‘that second flush I dug my pole…’; ‘mark you on my Riesenslaloms…’; ‘Moguls,’ ‘aerials,’ ‘Stein turns,’ ‘Schusses’ — incomprehensible language.”
Allen goes on to write that, during his first day skiing at Mount Mansfield, the rope tow operator wouldn’t let him on after he’d already fallen twice in line. Maybe there’s a common thread there for some of us, but with personal tales like these, Allen manages to humanize his most-recent, deep dive into New England skiing history that is “Traveling the Old Ski Tracks of New England,” released by University of Massachusetts Press in November (In full disclosure, I was asked to read an advance copy of the manuscript in 2021 in order to provide a review blurb for the back cover). The book introduces us to some of the most notable timelines in the sport’s history here, from the original ski clubs that formed in the region to forgotten stories of ski areas that have since been abandoned. Each state in New England receives its own focus at one point or another.
“But it was really, really difficult to find something respectable to say about Rhode Island,” Allen said, “You know, the Ocean State and all that.”