Looking to pack up the old station wagon and hit the slopes of Long Island?
If this were 1970 and Richard Nixon was President, you would have had four options for skiing in Nassau or Suffolk counties.
Sadly, what might have been the island’s first ski slope, Oyster Bay Ski Area in Mill Neck, closed in the late 1950s. According to reports the land was sold for housing. But that’s OK, because you could still ski the golf courses at Old Bethpage or what’s now Smithtown Landing, Hi-Point in Huntington Station or Bald Hill in Farmingville. We’ll start this trip down memory lane in Old Bethpage, then head east.
Bethpage State Park
According to this article, there was a rope tow on the 18th hole of the Green Course at Bethpage State Park that operated from 1948 until the early 1970s. It would pull you up the 400-foot slope — but only operated with enough snow on the ground because there was no snowmaking involved.
This report indicates the old rope motor house might still be there.
It’s unclear whether Bethpage offered skiing before or after Mill Neck got started in the late 1940s, because historical records conflict.
But skiing remained available at the Green Course until the early 1970s, possibly 1971.
One Greater Long Island reader, Lynn Warrington Small, told us in a prior Facebook post she had actually learned to ski on the Bethpage golf course.
“They had a tow rope. Great memories. Great sledding there as well!” she said.
Click here to share photos or memories from skiing in Old Bethpage.
Hi-Point Ski Club
There was no T-bar lift at the 110-foot slope, unlike with the Bald Hill Ski Bowl in Farmingville. In Huntington, two tow ropes did the trick for tiring yourself out for the day. But you might risk a rotator cuff tear, according to those who remember.
There was also snowmaking at Hi-Point, and beginner and “advanced” trails, according to reader Richard de la Sota, a Huntington High School graduate.
One undated ad we found bragged of “12 of the latest design snowmaking machines,” night skiing (flood lights), ski rental equipment available, a snack bar and expert lessons.
“Hi-Point blew away Bald Hill. We had better snow-making and [a] steeper trail!” David Sacks wrote in a conversation on Huntington History, Long Island, New York, a Facebook group.
“My aunt took me 1978,” said Scott Jay. “Really fun as a child to ski after school.”
According to this article, the slope opened sometime prior to 1960, reportedly in 1959. It was located off Dix Hills Road, just north of Jericho Turnpike near the water tower. It operated until the mid-1980s, according to this report.
“Hours of great fun!” said reader Tracey Walsh.
Alas, the memories shared weren’t entirely rosy to all who skied there.
“I graduated from Huntington High in 1964,” said Renée Blaker, now of Doylestown, Pa. “When I was a teenager my mother decided I should take ski lessons … I remember the slopes were icy and I was the oldest in a group of much younger children. Needless to say I never skied again. Thanks for the memories however!”
“The Hi-Point rope tow, which started at waist level, then went down to your feet, then holding on for dear life as it went way over your head,” added Randy Lavery, also a Huntington High grad.
“Yeah, good times. And people wonder why I don’t ski anymore.”
Merrywood Ski Area
We’re back on a golf course, this time at what’s now Smithtown Landing in Smithtown.
Merrywood Ski Area featured an intermediate slope and a novice slope, which ran next to each other, with a tow rope for each. The ski area in its initial form opened in the winter of 1962-63, according to this Golfdom golfing magazine article, which goes into great detail about the Merrywood golf club and ski area.
From the start Merrywood featured night-skiing and snowmaking.
“Our clubhouse is ideally situated to take care of the needs of our skiiers,” the ski area’s managing director, Joe Maietta, told the magazine in 1967.
“It’s near the base of the intermediate slope (near the 18th green in the golf season) and is one of the reasons [club owner and founder Arther E. Poole] decided to expand the original house on that site into our present clubhouse. He envisioned a ski operation at Merrywood from the start.”
Nearly 30 ski instructors worked at the slope, the report reads.
One former instructor from Northport who ran an after-school program for two seasons with the Plainview School District said the Merrywood Ski Area closed after the 1969 or 1970 season.
Click here to share photos or memories from skiing in Smithtown.
Bald Hill Ski Bowl
Long Islanders would flock each winter to the Bald Hill Ski Bowl in Farmingville, which according to the Farmingville Historical Society, opened in 1965 and was 344 feet tall.
For comparison purposes, that’s 8.5 percent of Hunter Mountain’s 4,040-foot summit.
But that didn’t stop the local kids from having a blast.
Some became lifelong skiers.
“I learned to ski there, circa 1972,” reader Craig Biscone told us. “Then New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont and all over the west … I was hooked!”
“The ski club at my high school night-skied there,” added Jim Gregg. “Lot of fun.”
Pete Mones recalled walking through the woods from his childhood home “with my lace-up ski boots. I skill ski today!”
The Bald Hill slope was located over 74 acres on the northwest part of North Ocean Avenue, reads the historical society’s website. That area now plays host to the Brookhaven Amphitheater.
In fact, the ski bowl chalet that housed the bathrooms and changing areas is still used today as a VIP room for amphitheater concerts.
The bowl, as it was called, operated until 1980.
“This area had Long Island’s only overhead cable lift, a T-bar, as well as two rope tows on a vertical drop of 200,” the historical society website reads. “The parking lot for the area was on the top, and there was minimal snowmaking …
“While the exact reason for closing is not known, changing weather patterns and a lack of snow certainly played a role. The winter of 1980 was one of the least snowy.”