Signs and Archives at Stratton Mountain Resort
January 13, 2023
Stratton Mountain may not be Vermont’s oldest ski area, but its history is iconic. Tucked away at this Southern Vermont resort is a collection of Stratton Mountain signs, photos, and posters that tell the story of the ski area that opened in 1961.
Stratton was Jake Burton Carpenter’s home mountain and the first major resort to welcome snowboarding. It’s where Arnold Palmer founded a golf course, legendary Emo Henrich of Austria started a ski school, and longtime Stratton photographer Hubert Schriebl still captures extraordinary images.
Kimet Hand, of Manchester, started working for Stratton Mountain as a teenager in 1969. She immediately started saving anything resort-related she could—pay stubs, matchbooks, photographs, menus, and posters.
-Kimet Hand, of Manchester, sorts through Stratton Mountain signs, photographs, and posters. She began collecting items from Stratton when she started working for the resort in 1969.
Over the past 54 years, Hand has collected everything from a bronzed tennis ball served by Ivan Lendl at Stratton’s Volvo International Tennis Tournament to a tuba owned by ski school director Henrich, an artist and a musician who played in the Stratton Mountain Boys.
“I love knowing that I’ve saved the history,” says Hand, who describes her role as a self-appointed, volunteer archive coordinator for Stratton Mountain. “Back in the 1960s and 70s, nobody cared about the (mountain’s) history because there was no history; it was present. But as it got older, all the sudden, you would look at something and say, ‘Wow, that’s really cool—look at how old that is.’”
-Emo Henrich skiing at Stratton Mountain in the 1970s. Top photo: Stratton in 1961 / Courtesy photos by Hubert Schriebl.
Stratton provides a space for Hand to store countless pieces of the mountain’s history. During the resort’s 50th and 60th anniversaries, a selection of signs, photographs, and other items was shown to the public. But Hand hopes the resort or someone will permanently display the entire collection to the public someday. Until then, she spends her days collecting, sorting, and working toward digitizing as many items as possible.
Vintage Signs and The Art of Sign-Making at Stratton Mountain
When it comes to Stratton’s history, old resort and trail signs are among the most in-demand items. Years ago, signs needing replacement were tossed at the mountain’s “stump dump” at the maintenance building. But it didn’t take long for resort homeowners to realize they could dig the signs out, take them home, and display them over their fireplace.
For the past few decades, Hand has been working closely with Stratton’s in-house sign maker Mike Smith to collect old signs and add them to Stratton’s archives.
-Lauren Suriani and Mike Smith work together in Stratton Mountain’s sign shop. Suriani, Stratton’s senior marketing manager, also runs a small sign-making business. Smith mentors Suriani, teaching her hand lettering and other sign-making techniques.
Smith, of East Dorset, studied and taught sign-making in Boston. He moved to Vermont in the 1980s to open a sign shop in Manchester before being hired by Stratton in 1990.
Stratton is one of a handful of Vermont ski areas with an in-house sign-making shop. Smith makes and installs trail, directional, and welcome signs all over the mountain. When he comes across old signs from a bygone era he can no longer use, he passes them along to Hand for the archives.
“Mike realized the value of those signs,” Hand says. “So, we started saving them.”
Smith has created every sign imaginable for Stratton Mountain over the past 33 years. His work includes trail signs, event signs, and even the recently updated hand-painted Stratton sign at the bottom of the access road.
“I get joy when I finish a job and I’m happy with it,” Smith says. “I look back at it and say, ‘Wow, that was really fun.’”
Happy Vermont Podcast
Listen to the latest episode of Happy Vermont, featuring Kimet Hand, Mike Smith and Lauren Suriani talk about Stratton’s history, the resort’s impressive archives, and the art of sign making.