The Vermont Tradition of Backyard Rope Tows | Podcast

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Vermont backyard rope tow

The Tradition of Backyard Rope Tows in Vermont

Pete and Sandy Gebbie are farmers and skiers with three backyard rope tows. When the snow is good, friends—and sometimes strangers—come over to ski.

This year marks the 90th anniversary of the first rope tow in the United States, which opened at Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock in January 1934 and revolutionized downhill skiing. Ski areas like Ascutney Outdoors, Lyndon Outing Club, and Northeast Slopes still use rope tows. Around the state, Vermonters like Pete and Sandy run backyard rope tows on their property.

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In 1961, Pete’s father first installed a rope tow at the family home, where Pete and Sandy live today.

“My father started a rope tow because he thought it was expensive to go to the ski areas,” Pete says.

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How fast do the rope tows go?

“Probably go faster than a lot of people are used to—I’d say 20 miles an hour,” he says.

I met Pete and Sandy on a sunny day in February and rode what they call “the little tow.”  When they first told me about the little tow, I figured it was a kiddie tow—my mistake. The speed of the tow was faster than I ever imagined, and I had to use every muscle in my body to get to the top of the hill.

I’ve skied most of my life, but I’ve never been on a rope tow like this one. It was the most fun I’ve had skiing in a long time.


-Skiers at Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock in 1940. The rope tow was the first to open in the United States.  Library of Congress 

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Happy Vermont Podcast

In this episode of Happy Vermont, Pete and Sandy talk about their backyard rope tow and what running a rope tow brings to their life. Listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you find podcasts.



Agriculture, Vermont Podcast, Winter
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