Schenectady Wintersports Club
MORE ABOUT THE 1934 SNOW TRAIN
Skiing headline 1934 - Snow train finally leaving the Schenectady Station for North Creek after two years of lack of snow!
To commemorate this historic event, Wolf Hollow Brewing located on Route 5 in West Glenville, is developing a special brew aptly named “Snow Train ‘34”. Owner Pete Bednarek promises there will not be a lack of supply for the new brew, a special cream ale that all deep powder ski enthusiasts should especially enjoy with a healthy head start. Bednarek noted customers had been pleased with the success of “Ski ‘37” ale named for the nearby Wolf Hollow Ski Venture area, and we cannot wait for the new draft!
A special committee made up of members of the Schenectady Wintersports Club, the Ski Venture area at Wolf Hollow and other interested individuals have planned two special events to introduce the new brew and share stories, pictures and films about the Snow Train, and the Schenectady Wintersports Club. The committee is led by Jim Schaefer, son of the late Vincent Schaefer, who was the mastermind behind the idea of snow train transportation.
Location Date Time
Tannery Pond Center, North Creek Sat, 1/27 7 PM
Wolf Hollow Brewing, West Glenville Tues, 1/30 6 PM
Among those ski films will be excerpts from 33mm films shot by Bill Gluesing, who ran GE’s House of Magic show and was one of the original backers of getting the snow train started. Included will be scenes from “Skiing Rotterdam Hills,” “Snow Train arrives at North Creek,” and “Ride Up, Slide Down.”
One of the best-known scenes, recalled by Vincent Schaefer when he was interviewed by the late Ernie Tetrault of WRGB, involves placing a stuffed bear on rails along the Pete Gay Trail. It was pushed out in the trail to have fun with those who came from New York City to take the Schenectady Train to North Creek. They were called “city slickers.”
Brief History of the Snow Train and Early Years of SWC
Vincent Schaefer was the first president of the Schenectady Wintersports Club (SWC) in 1932. In the late twenties, he was head of the Mohawk Valley Hiking Club (MVHC) where members skied on trails they designed starting in 1927 on Yantaputchaberg – the highest of the Rotterdam Hills.
After the MVHC was formed in 1929 they planned to attend the 1932 Olympics in Lake Placid staying in lean-tos in the outdoors. In preparation, they made camping gear including sleeping bags using a design by GE's Nobel Prize winner Irving Langmuir and John Apperson, a noted Adirondack environmentalist. They created the bags using a zigzag pattern for 3 pounds of down that filled tubes of balloon silk and Egyptian cotton. The design prevented the complete collapse of the sleeping bag while on the ground, thus insulating against the cold. Twenty-five MVHC members camped in the outdoor lean-tos at Heart Lake in February 1932 at -28 to 51 degree weather! They spent days skiing in the High Peaks and attending some of the Olympic Games.
During their stay at Heart Lake they hatched the idea of forming a new club to champion winter sports and to get trains to transport enthusiasts to snowy destinations. SWC was subsequently formed in May of 1932. Schaefer organized a petition drive and got 149 people to support a “reasonably priced, well-managed” snow train. Five snow trains planned to go to Wilmington VT on the Boston & Maine Railroad, but had to be cancelled due to a lack of snow at their destinations, Haystack and Mt. Snow.
Instead, they spent 1933 as a year of planning which ultimately saw SWC link up with like-minded outdoor enthusiasts in North Creek to cut trails on Pete Gay and Gore --- and to talk up a Snow Train. One of Bill Gluesing’s “GE House of Magic” talks energized folks in North Creek to organize trucks and other means to take skiers from the train to the top of the mountains at Barton’s garnet mine. The “ Ride Up and Slide Down” theme was realized. Again a lack of natural snow stymied the Delaware & Hudson Snow Train plan until March 4, 1934 when the train finally was able to make it’s historic first run to North Creek from Schenectady.
In 1934 with support of Bill Gluesing, Carl Schaefer visited the rope tow in Woodstock VT and returned to North Creek to build New York’s first rope tow. He had the help of mechanic Eugene Morehouse and the Alexander Garage to retool a 1929 Buick and rig 700 feet of hemp rope to make the tow on the North Creek Village Slopes. The rope tow got underway December 20, 1935. Skiers in SWC who were using trails in Wolf Hollow and the Glenville hills adapted a Model A Ford into a rope tow for the club’s enjoyment by 1936. A flurry of rope tows sprang up throughout eastern New York within a few years.
"Schenectady Wintersports Club Inc." is a 501(c)4 non-profit organization. P.O. Box 2072, Wilton New York 12831