Wentworth ” The Valley of Dreams” by Dave Wilson
Groups of skiers from Halifax and Truro started making excursions by train to Wentworth Valley during the 1930’s two or three times a winter. Wentworth was not accessible by road in the winter so these skiers had to travel by train. Truro skiers included George Wilson ( father of David Wilson who owns the Wentworth skiing facility today), Charlie Stanfield, Claude Chapman, Bob MacLellan, “Ducky” Cream, and several others including the Colchester County Academy Ski Club which was led by Doug Embree, Sam Stallard, and Sleepy Kerr, just to name a few.
Ski Train at Wentworth
These Truro skiers would join the Halifax group on a special rail car and they would all pile off at Wentworth and ski on the lower pasture slopes at the present ski hill site. There were no lifts and no groomers. The skiers packed the snow as they climbed up the cleared section of the hill to ski down. They brought their own lunch and late in the afternoon a weary bunch of skiers made their way up to the station on the west side of the Wentworth Valley to catch the train home.
During World War II (1939-1946) all skiing activities ceased except for some military personnel from Camp Debert who would come over from the camp for military exercises.
With the conclusion of World War II in 1946, an entrepreneur appeared on the scene, Stan Leblanc, who had the first vision of developing a ski resort in Wentworth Valley. The site Stan chose was on the east side of the valley opposite the present Wentworth Motel. He proceeded to solicit financial support from Truro skier-businessmen George Wilson, Chas Stanfield, Claude Chapman, Bob MacLellan and a few others. Stan’s plan was to buy a surplus hotel at Camp Debert and move it to Wentworth for accommodations. Skiers would get off the train at Folly Lake and ski down to the ski lodge. A couple of mild winters followed and the scheme was abandoned. Stan LeBlanc is still living and resides on Robie Street in Truro in front of the Canadian Tire store in a log cabin. Stan has pictures and sketches of the ski resort facility he proposed back in 1946.
The Halifax Ski Club in 1957 at Ma Purdy’s House
The snow conditions improved in the 1950’s and the skiers returned by train to Wentworth.
The Halifax Ski Club was reorganized in the city and boasted 102 members in 1952. Enthusiasm was growing for skiing in Truro as well with Doug Embree, Sam Stallard, Bob MacLellan, George Wilson, Ducky Cream, John Snook and Foster Cox (to name a few) venturing by train three or four visits per season to the Valley of Snow. Some younger Truro lads – Sunny ” Tiger” McDonald and Albert Abraham who had been introduced to skiing in Truro’s Victoria Park on the Lewis Road, also joined these skiers.
In 1955, the Halifax Ski Club, which was now boasting a membership of over 160 voted to
rent a house from Mrs. James Purdy – commonly known as Ma Purdy – which was located on the
Old No. 4 road next to the Wallace River. Howard Waugh resides on the same site today in a new white bungalow.
The Halifax Ski Club members built bunks in the house and some of the members stayed overnight in the old house heated with wood stoves. With this flush of enthusiasm in 1956, then President Bob Jollymore sold the club on the idea of constructing a 400′ rope tow lift on the north side of the Beaver. The club voted $1000.00 for the tow which Jollymore was to build. As Doug Mahon ( a well known personality in the skiing community) wrote in his notes “this rope tow lift was to become known as Jollymore’s $1000.00 folly!” The rope tow never performed, the club paid off Jollymore and he retired from skiing.
At the 1957 Spring Meeting of the Halifax Ski Club, the membership was in no mood to talk about another tow lift for the Wentworth Ski Hill after the Jollymore $1000.00 fiasco. The Club had plans to give up on Wentworth and move there skiing activities to Ellsmere in Lower Sackville.
Beaver Rope Tow – 1957
The Truro group of skiers led by Doug Embree and George Wilson came to the meeting with a proposal:
1. The Truro group of volunteers would construct a 1000′ rope tow which would extend from the foot of the hill to half way up the Beaver slope for $1000.00. After the Jollymore tow blunder the Truro skiers proposal gave a guarantee.The Club would not have to pay for the tow if it did not operate satisfactorily.
2. The Truro Group proposed to build a second 1000′ lift the following summer to the top of the Beaver. As the top section of the Beaver was not cleared at that time, this would mean cutting trees from the property before it would be accessible for skiing. The group asked an additional $1000.00 to complete this project.
3. In recognition of the contribution the Truro volunteers were making to the Halifax Ski Club they wanted the Club name changed to Wentworth Valley Ski Club.
The meeting accepted the Truro volunteers proposal unanimously. The Club had nothing to lose and they had contingency plans to move to Ellesmere if the rope tow did not work. The 1000′ foot rope tow was constructed on time by the Truro volunteers for the start of the 1956-57 ski season. It worked perfectly and paid for itself in its’ first year of operation. It was the first ski tow in Atlantic Canada. Wentworth’s future was assured.
Rope Tow Installation 1957 by Truro volunteers
The Truro group of volunteers who constructed the first lift are Doug Embree, George Wilson, Robert Annand, Chas Annand, Ducky Cream, Phillip “Tiger” McDonald, Ross Mitchell, Fred Caudle, Dick Morely, Virl Bartlett, Donnie Bartlett, Leo MacCallum, Dave Wilson, and Frank Harvey.
In late November of 1956, on a Sunday afternoon, a mysterious fire occured on the Beaver slope, burning to the ground the remains of the Jollymore tow shed.
Before starting on the upper extension of the rope tow on the Beaver, the Club decided it should approach Mrs. Jim Purdy who owned the Beaver Slope to purchase the property. The Halifax Club had been renting the land from “Ma” Purdy for $200 per season. A deal was struck for $10 000 to purchase the 40 acres of land – the only catch was that Art Betts, who had a lumber mill in the Valley had the timber rights. The committee that was looking after the land purchase could not come to terms with Betts on the timber rights value and the deal fell through. It was at this point in time, the summer of 1957, that George Wilson stepped in and purchased the land from Ma Purdy and the timber rights from Art Betts. George Wilson had felt that the Truro volunteers had put to much effort into the hill to see it all go down the drain for the sake of a few dollars pertaining to the timber rights. A few years later George Wilson sold the land to the Wentworth Valley Ski Club for the same price he had paid for it.
With the commencement of the Trans Canada No. 4 Highway through Wentworth Valley, the lower Rosebowl was cleared by the highway contractor for access to gravel to build the highway.
That summer the President of the Club, Commander Tony German, invited John Clifford, Manager of the Ottawa ski Club to come down and inspect the Wentworth ski site and advise the Club on the best layout for the area. John Clifford recommended developing a beginner slope on the lower Rosebowl, a ski lodge to be located where the present lodge is today and the installation of a t-bar lift where the are located today.
Once more George Wilson stepped forward and with his son David and offered to build a Ski Lodge in the summer of 1961, which they rented to the Ski Club. In January 1962, the new lodge ( built by Wyman ” Bun” Betts and brother allison Betts) was opened by the Honourable Ike Smith, Deputy Premier and Minister of Highways for Nova Scotia. The new lodge housed seating, a canteen and a rental shop operated by the Wilson’s. ( Currently the building houses the Ski Patrol and lockers).
1963 was the year of major transformation for Wentworth with the installation of a T-bar tow lift in the location recommended by John Clifford.
John Dickey, Halifax lawyer and former M.P. For Halifax carried out the project. A longtime skier, John formed the Wentworth Valley Development Company Limited and was named president.(Dickey was married to Joyce Carney, another Wentworth skier of the 50’s) The Company’s seven directors were Jack Bagnell, John Snook, Rollie MacLeod(all of Truro) and the Halifax directors were Norman Newman, David Roscoe, George Mitchell and Bob Merchant.
With hard work and dedication as well as a shared love of skiing on the part of the volunteers, Wentworth “Valley of Dreams” grew into “Wentworth Valley of Snow.
First Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance’s Course
given in Atlantic Canada at Ski Wentworth – 1958/59
What’s in a name?
Do you know how Wentworth’s trails got their names?
Beaver – Wentworth’s first trail – The president of the Wentworth Valley Ski Club, Tony German, named the Beaver. German also named the top of the Beaver, The Bobcat.
Sissy Shush – Named by another president of the Wentworth Valley Ski Club, Jack Waite. The Sissy was named after a trail at Mt. Tremblant, Quebec.
Rosebowl – Named by Bob Edie, former manager of Wentworth Valley Ski Club
Embree – Named after Doug Embree, one of the original skiers and developers at Wentworth.
Horse Pastures – In the late 1800’s, a local horse rustler would hide his herd of horses up in the horse pasture in the valley at the top of the mountain.The legend goes, in order to fool people, he would put the horse shoes on backwards so they would think the horses were coming out of the valley instead of going in.
Feffie Weffie – Named by Dave Wilson after his daughter Leslie Wilson, the current General Manager of Ski Wentworth. It’s her nickname.
Gooey – Named by Dave Wilson after his son Gregor Wilson, former General Manager of Crabbe Mountain. It’s his nickname.
Kingdom of the Weeble – Named by Dave Wilson after his son Steven Wilson, former General Manager of Wentworth. It’s his nickname.
Robin’s Run – Named after Robin McLennan – a long time skier and supporter of Wentworth.