Going Downhill!

Visitors receive ski instruction at Snow Trails Ski Resort near Mansfield, Ohio, in the 1960s. Via Ohio Memory.

Last weekend brought a real taste of winter weather to much of Ohio, and as of this post’s writing, even more snow is expected this weekend! What a perfect time to look back at the way Ohioans have taken advantage of the snow in seasons past.

Snow Trails Ski Carnival Queen, 1967, via Ohio Memory.

While our state doesn’t have the dramatic elevations that others do, kids and grown-ups alike have long enjoyed riding down the hills and mountains that Ohio does have to offer. Over the years, ski resorts in Ohio have come and gone; some former sites include Mt. Chalet near Cleveland, Sugarcreek in Bellbrook, Echo Hills near Lancaster, and Spicy Run in southern Ohio. These days, Ohioans can visit one of five ski areas around the state–Mad River Mountain in Zanesfield, Snow Trails near Mansfield, Alpine Valley in Chesterland, Big Creek Ski Area near Chardon, and Boston Mills/Brandywine in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park area–as well as countless local sledding and tubing hills.

The January 1967 image at right shows the Ski Carnival Queen who was crowned at the annual Ski Carnival at Snow Trails Ski Resort near Mansfield, Ohio. Snow Trails was the state’s first commercial ski resort, and began the carnival during its inaugural season of winter 1961-62. Over the years, the popular weekend festival has featured various serious (and not-so-serious) ski races including Bikini and Chippendale Slalom races, a “Cardboard Creation” race, and bobsled tubing, along with dances in the “Snowflake Loft” lodge, the crowning of the Ohio Winter Ski Carnival Queen, and more. This year, the 58th Annual Ski Carnival will take place during the last weekend in February.

Leisure Group workers with Flexible Flyers, 1969. Via Ohio Memory.

In addition to its status as the first commercial resort, Ski Trails lays claim to a number of other “firsts” in Ohio ski history. It was home to the state’s first ski patrol, was the first to use a chair lift (and later double and triple chair lift!), was first to use man-made snow to powder its slopes, and was first to offer snowboarding and instruction, including certification, in Ohio. The photograph at the top of the post shows ski instruction taking place during the resort’s first few years of operation–you can see other 1960s-era images on Ohio Memory here.

In the past, Ohio’s manufacturing industry prepared for winter activities all year round. Employees of the Leisure Group factory in Medina can be seen posing with various models of Flexible Flyer sleds in the 1969 photograph at left. This iconic children’s sled features a wooden-slatted body and steel runners, and could be steered by its passenger. Flexible Flyers were produced in Medina for several years before the Leisure Group’s toy division was bought and production moved out of Ohio.

In Ohio Memory, you can also find a photograph showing then-Governor James Rhodes at the Ohio State Fair atop a Ski Whiz, a snow mobile model produced by Massey-Ferguson. Inc. Massey-Ferguson was better known as a manufacturer of farming equipment, but briefly entered the snowmobile market for about ten years starting in the late 1960s. Looking for more? Check out Ohio Memory, where you can see sledders from the 1910s to the 1930s, skiers venturing to larger slopes beyond our borders, record-breaking snowfall, and more!

Thanks to Lily Birkhimer, Digital Projects Coordinator at the Ohio History Connection, for this week’s post!

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