The Tales Behind the Trails

Story by Benjamin Lerner

The stories of how Stratton Mountain’s ski trails got their names.

As seasons change and snow begins to fall, feverish anticipation is growing in the hearts and minds of skiers and snowboarders everywhere. Winter sports enthusiasts from all corners of the Green Mountain state and beyond are busy preparing for one of the most exciting events of the year: opening day at Stratton. When they enjoy their thrilling first ride down the majestic mountain’s storied slopes, they will pass through an intricate network of flawlessly sculpted trails.

Some of these trails are named after legendary figures that played pivotal roles in Southern Vermont’s history. Other trail names pay tribute to Stratton’s founding partners, and the athletes and employees who helped to influence the trajectory of the resort’s development and promotion. To learn the fascinating tale of how Stratton Mountain was transformed into a world-class ski destination, one need only follow the winding curves of the trails. The story itself is written on the signs that bear the names of many of
Stratton’s most celebrated icons.


Daniel’s Web
In the year 1840, Stratton Mountain was the site of a political rally for the Whig Party during the election campaign for General William Harrison. When the famous Massachusetts senator Daniel Webster was named the keynote speaker for the Whig convention, the event planners understood that his name was going to draw a massive crowd.

Knowing that the crowd would be large enough to demand an unprecedented amount of space, The Whigs decided upon an open clearing that bridged both sides of Stratton mountain. Extensive preparations were put in place for the momentous speech, such as a brand-new log cabin that was built at the mountain clearing as a political symbol for the rustic and hard-working rural lifestyle exemplified by General Harrison.

Approximate estimations of the rumored turnout claim that anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people came to listen to the famed orator’s rousing address. It would be over a hundred years before Stratton Mountain would draw massive crowds to its stately peak once more, but the convention permanently solidified Stratton Mountain’s place in the annals of American political history.

Frank’s Fall Line
Frank Snyder was a Connecticut-based businessman who worked at the
commodities firm of Moore & Munger in New York City in the mid 20th century. Snyder first became enamored with the prospect of developing a ski resort in Southern Vermont when he took a trip to Stowe in February of 1959. During the long drive back to Connecticut, Snyder began to wonder why there were so few ski areas in the southern part of the state. Due to its closer proximity to New York City, it seemed like a logical and convenient choice of location.

After being serendipitously introduced to Norwich University professor and amateur ski racer Robert Wright through a mutual acquaintance, the two of them formed a cooperative partnership. The original aim was to recruit a team of enthusiastic and adventurously-minded investors to develop Stratton Mountain into a full-fledged ski resort. When Snyder took a trip with his wife Jessie to see Stratton Mountain firsthand in October of 1959, he met local logger Herbert “Tink” Smith, who would play an integral part in the advancement of the Stratton Mountain project.

Tink’s Link
Herbert “Tink” Smith was a sturdy and hard-working Vermonter who was born in South Londonderry, Vermont. Nicknamed “Tinker” due to his inherent propensity for mechanics, Smith was a lifelong woodsman who began working at his father’s lumber mill when he was only ten years old. After the mill experienced a tragic fire in 1933, Smith’s father purchased stumpage from the International Paper Company on Stratton Mountain. Smith went on to take over the family logging business and expanded
it to a bustling operation that employed nearly a hundred men.

Although he was approached by several businessmen who were interested in developing ski resorts before Snyder’s arrival at Stratton, Smith turned them down in favor of retaining ownership of the land. Smith’s knowledge of the local terrain – combined with his natural bargaining skills – made him an ideal business partner for Snyder. After Smith’s second meeting with Snyder, they formed a long-lasting collaborative alliance with one singular goal: to build Stratton Mountain into the finest ski resort that Vermont had ever seen.

Janeway Junction
Vermont State Senator Edward Janeway first caught wind of the Stratton ski resort project after his fellow state legislator Bob Gannett was introduced to Frank Snyder by a Stratton Mountain resident by the name of Malvine Cole. Snyder had become aware of multiple state-sponsored initiatives that were subsidizing the construction of access roads for developing ski resorts around the state.

After a productive business discussion with Snyder, Gannett agreed to help him organize a dinner with a number of prominent Vermont stat legislators at the Colburn house in Manchester -which is now the location of the Northshire Bookstore. Not long after the dinner was scheduled, Snyder received a call from Janeway, who offered full legislative support for the Stratton project. As an ardent advocate for ski development efforts in the Green Mountain State, Janeway was eager to join forces with Snyder and Smith to help them actualize their dream of a world-class Southern Vermont ski resort. As the oldest of the three, Janeway served as the level-headed diplomatic liaison that built a solid foundation of trust with the greater Vermont community.

The fundraising stage for the Stratton ski project proved tiresome and tumultuous. In order to secure proper funding, Snyder, Smith, and Janeway had to court dozens of potential investors, negotiate with state legislators, and broker a land deal with the International Paper Company. In the midst of this lengthy and eventful process, Smith and Snyder founded the “Stratton Corporation.” Membership grew to include Smith’s brother, Nelson “Dick” Smith, and attorney Luke Crispe. Together, these five men forged ahead against seemingly insurmountable odds to manifest their vision for Stratton’s future into a tangible reality. After a long period of construction and development, their collective dreams were achieved when Stratton opened to the public in December of 1961.

World Cup
The winter season that bridged 1977 and 1978 was a landmark year for Stratton Mountain. Ideal conditions throughout the winter brought generous amounts of natural snow, which drew skiers from far and wide to the Southern Vermont slopes. Stratton experienced its most financially successful year to date, and their much-welcomed prosperity was further bolstered when they played host to a Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) World Cup race in March of 1978.

The event featured both giant slalom and slalom races for men and women. The best amateur skiers from across the globe flocked to Stratton for a chance to compete. Large crowds of enthralled onlookers gathered to witness the triumphant victory of both of the American-born Mahre twins in the men’s giant slalom and slalom races. The races were televised on a nationally syndicated broadcast, which provided Stratton with an unprecedented level of national publicity. After everything was said and done, FIS technical delegate Luc Debois praised the event as being “by far the best race ever conducted in North America.”

East Byrnes Side
In 1983, Stratton became the first ski resort in Vermont to allow snowboarders to ride on their mountain. One of the most enthusiastic early riders on the Stratton slopes was Tricia Byrnes. Through the Stratton Winter Sports Club Allegro program, Tricia and her brother, Doug, were able to hone and perfect their snowboarding skills in a positive and encouraging environment.

Tricia went on to become an Olympic snowboarder whose career highlights included fifteen victories in FIS women’s halfpipe events. Tricia’s deep and personal love for Stratton Mountain is embodied in

the dynamic boardercross park that bears her name. Every carved impression left in the surfaces of the snowy curves of the East Byrnes Side park pays a poignant tribute to the indelible impression that the Byrnes siblings left on the Stratton snowboarding community.

Rowley’s Run & Big D
Rowley’s Run and Big D are named after the first two directors of the Stratton Mountain Ski Patrol: Casey Rowley and Denny Davison. Over the decades that they worked at Stratton, they rescued many injured skiers – and saved a fair number of lives in the process.

Denny and Casey’s diligent commitment to the continual well-being of Stratton’s guests exemplifies the selfless spirit of all members of the Stratton Mountain Ski Patrol. By going out of their way on a daily basis to make the mountain as safe as possible for skiers and snowboarders of all ages, they make a critical difference that positively impacts everyone in the Stratton Mountain community.