As you wind your way along highway 45 through the Northumberland Forest, there are still remnants of the old Northumberland Ski Club that operated from 1945 into the late 1970s. After the War, interest in skiing was growing. Hubert Cooey of The Cooey Machine and Arms Factory, an avid sportsman, was the driving force behind the formation of the ski club and encouraged Cobourg’s mayor, Joe Smith, to make use of the hills within the forest.
Runs were cut out of the woods using the expertise of William Krakenberg, who had worked with Joe Ryan to develop the famed Mt. Tremblant runs. The first rope tow was powered by an old army Bren Gun Carrier and was operated by “Jet” Hayden from Baltimore. The massive tow rope was hand spliced and carried uphill on bull wheels. If you’re wondering what safety mechanisms were in place – there was a safety wire stretched across at the top of the hill. If you didn’t let go of the rope at the proper time, you would trip the wire and the whole lift system would completely shut down.
In the early years, all schoolchildren in the United Counties and Durham and Northumberland could become members of the club at no charge. The Town of Cobourg gave out free bus tickets and tow tickets to those who could not afford a trip to the ski hill. A ski school operated at the hill and a ski patrol was formed under the guidance of Dr. Douglas Firth, the founder of the Canadian Ski Patrol.
Eventually the county and the Town of Cobourg divested their interests in the club and leased it back to a committee of volunteers and sponsors for $1 a year.
The club operated for over thirty years – a hub of community volunteerism, a place where families could escape for some fresh air on a winter weekend – eventually closing when the cost of insurance and the need to modernize the slopes were simply too steep to manage.