50 Year's Ago Today
As we sit here today enjoying the snow and having a great time on the mountain we received an email reminding us it's a really special day. 50 years ago today Liberty (then called Charnita) opened its slopes for the first time EVER! The email below came today from Wally Shank. Wally started at Charnita as a do everything kind of guy and years later worked his way to become the GM of the resort. Read his email below of how he remembers this day, and then maybe take a minute to sit back and remember some of your favorite memories (feel free to share them in the comments) at Charnita and Liberty .
| Memories from Wally Shank |
50 years ago - January 25, 1965, was Liberty's (then Charnita) first day of skiing and my first day of work at the ski area.
It had been a mild winter and opening had been plagued with getting the snowmaking system up and running. Snowmaking was powered by 6 very loud Gardner Denver 300 cfm piston-driven compressors with no cooling - located where the rental shop is today. The water pump for the snowmaking was at the Golf Course pond. The water pump had a bypass valve and a pressure gauge. A person had to sit by the pump, as long as the pump was running, to adjust the water pressure by opening or closing the bypass valve.
Ski Patrol was then the newly reconstituted Oregon Ridge Ski Patrol and they were given a small room at the end of the compressor building closest to the ski lodge. Oregon Ridge was a small ski area just north of Baltimore that closed when Charnita opened.
The Rental shop was where the retail shop is today and had 100 sets of wooden skis with Teisler bayonet-pin Safety Bindings. If you fell, the bayonet pin pulled out and the binding disintegrated. Before you could put the ski back on you needed to get a new bayonet pin because the first pin was lost in the snow.
The Ski Shop was across from the Rental Shop and the Louis Sanchez Ski School with about a dozen ski instructors (Ron Beaumont was one of the few who's primary language was English) had a small room in the back of the Ski Shop.
The cafeteria was basically where the cafeteria still is today but the entire porch-area facing the ski slopes was the bar - so the only people in the lodge who could look out and see the ski slopes were those sitting at the bar.
Where the Coffee Shop sits today (at the top of the stairs) was the Band Stage and about half of the Cafeteria floor was a polished maple dance floor. That would be a real slip and fall hazard today but almost all ski boots back then were leather lace-up boots with non-slip rubber (vibram-like) soles.
The cafeteria closed at 8pm and the live band started playing. Don Feaser was the band leader and he sang and played the Saxophone. Ronny Dove was one of the early favorite performers. Even though skiing went till 10pm You had to be 21 or older to go "upstairs" (cafeteria floor level in the ski lodge).
Charnita, in it's beginning wasn't family oriented - nor was it intended to be. It was a nightclub with skiing. Looking back, this was perhaps the greatest difference between Charnita and Ski Roundtop - as Roundtop from it's very beginning was focused as a family oriented operation.
The office was a tiny room in the attic of the ski lodge and it had the greatest view of the ski area.
Perhaps the only building that has survived relatively unchanged over the past 50 years is the green Tin Maintenance Shed. It was the Maintenance Shop and housed the Groomer - an open-cab John Deere 350 tracked crawler with extra wide-swamp tracks that pulled either a 3-gang Valley Engineering Powder-Maker, or a 12' wide roller. The slopes were groomed maybe twice a week - if Dick Brown thought they needed it.
Lifts consisted of a Hall double chair with mid-station unloading and 2 rope tows. There were 2 trails from the top, "S Trail" (basically where White lightning starts today) and "Expert" (which closed when the Alpine Slide was installed in 1977). 3 trails from mid-station and there were 2 trails at the rope tow beginner area. The ski trail names changed a lot in the first few years.
Thanks for letting me share this with you. I hope the next 50 years will be as interesting and with as much prosperity - and as many improvements as were seen in the first 50.
I hope you have a chance to go out and ski today and if you happen to ski past that old green maintenance shed please give it a birthday salute for me.
Kindest personal regards,