Mount Pisgah is a 2050-foot mountain just north of the village of Saranac Lake. Park Avenue wraps around the southern side of the hill. It is one of three small mountains surrounding Saranac Lake: the others are Mount Baker and Dewey Mountain. The name comes from the Bible: it was the mountain east of Jordan from which Moses was permitted to view the promised land. 1 On two map of the village drawn by Gilmore E. Thew, one from about 1890 and the other dated 1897, it is called Jenkins Hill.
In 1952, poet, novelist and short story writer Sylvia Plath broke her leg skiing on Mount Pisgah while visiting her boyfriend, Dick Norton, who was curing at Ray Brook Sanatorium. She fictionalized this incident in her novel The Bell Jar.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, November 4, 1948
Pisgah Area Will Be Surveyed for Writing of Lease
A decision to have the Pisgah ski development area on the Harland Branch farm surveyed before the lease is drawn up was made by members of the Village Board and Ski Commission at a special meeting held in the Village Offices at 4:30 yesterday afternoon.
Conducted by Mayor Alton B. Anderson, the meeting was attended by the full Board; the Commission including Robert Demerse, William Dupree and Joseph Munn; Harland Branch whose land will be used by the Development and Thomas Cantwell, representing the parties who own the ski tow equipment.
Mayor Anderson was instructed to get in touch with Harold Durban, surveyor, and have the land surveyed this afternoon if possible. Terms of the lease will be discussed at a future meeting of the group.
Members of the Saranac Lake Ski club have been clearing the mountainside of trees, stones and brush for the past month and the Commission reported the area ready for skiing.
Purchase and improvement of the tow equipment is next on the Development's agenda.
The Cresta-type one-man bob run which is planned for the northeast side of the mountain will be discussed after the problems of the ski run are solved, the Board decided. It is not yet known whether or not the run will require an engineer to oversee its building.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 3, 1948
WORK ON MT. PISGAH AREA DEVELOPS RUN
Anyone who has not seen the Mt. Pisgah area recently will get quite a surprise when they next visit the site and wonder as many have, how so much has been accomplished in such a short time under the direction of Mayor Alton B. Anderson, the advisory committee and Engineer Millar Johnson who is directly in charge of the renovation of the site that will one day be known all over the world and is, at this time, the only run of its kind in this hemisphere.
Much valuable advice and information was recently given those vested with the development of the Solo Sledway by a visiting Swiss who is familiar with the original run in Switzerland. He spent much time on Pisgah and in conference with officials to aid greatly in the layout of the local run, devoting much time to the determination of grades, banks and contours.
Two bulldozers have been moving tons of earth in slicing a path down the Pisgah slopes and this work has progressed enough to beat the freezing weather and have everything in readiness for the first heavy snowfall.
The curves have been established as have the grades and with snow to aid later when final smoothing out arrives, the local run may even surpass the original at St. Moritz.
The ski runs and Slalom course have also been given a face lifting and this winter, Mt. Pisgah will be capable of staging the finest ski events ever held in this area as well as comparing favorably with any in the country and surpassing most runs, that in the past have been considered the best.
This year Mt. Pisgah will be among the best as the result of the Village interest in the do the Village interest in the development, the cooperation of the planning board and all who have given their time to provide the best skiing facilities ever locally and the first one-man bob run to over be built in this country. Its all right here on Mt. Pisgah whose future seems destined to become known the world over in operation within a few weeks.
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, March 30, 1968
I would like to call the attention of Saranac Lake people and our expected and desired influx of summer visitors this season to the exceptional scenic advantages from "Look Out Point" on Mt. Pisgah.
For many years now I have been in the habit of "riding the range" on my saddle horse across the Branch or Hoyt farms, and thence to the tip of this beautiful mountain in our front yard.
One can see Moose Pond, Colby Lake, Moody Pond, Lake Kiwassa and Oseetah, the Saranac River, Lake Flower and the Lower Saranac Lake and a fine panoramic view of Saranac Lake Village, all as clear and beautiful as the world renowned view from Whiteface.
Any hiker or rider can get there from the Ski Lodge, from Broadway up to a ski trail recently cleared by the Ski Club, or from Park avenue by the trail worn smooth by Boy and Girl Scouts to the "Old Gold Mine" on the south side.
Parties go daily up Baker Mountain near Moody, Pond by a well-worn, marked trail and picnic on the top. You can flag or wigwag the top of Baker from the place I am, describing. The New York Telephone Company has erected extensive telephonic or wireless apparatus on the summit of Pisgah.
I am credibly informed that about 1900 or thereabouts, a man named Fred Hebler, resident of Upper Broadway, supplied saddle horses and Glens Falls Buckboards to carry passengers to the top, up a good, passable road. The trace is still there and can be and should be used again. I have driven a dog team in years past to this same Look Out Point and that in the winter time over snow. It has always been a favorite hike for Boy Scouts. The view is unsurpassed.
I therefore think that this summer a few fireplaces should be placed at strategic points on the summit; the road should be cleared for hikers and the public invited by appropriate signs to "SEE PISGAH" as well as "SKI PISGAH".
Adirondack Daily Enterprise, April 10, 2002
Mount Pisgah keeps up with the times
By BILL JOHNSON, Enterprise Sports Editor
SARANAC LAKE - In the Adirondacks, the sport of downhill skiing is as much a part of the winter landscape as the snow itself. Skiers from across the nation and from around the world have flocked to Saranac Lake for decades to sample the skiing conditions and take part in a tradition that began before the turn of the 20th century.
With ski clubs forming throughout New England in the 1880s, a gentleman by the name of John R. Booth brought the first pair of skis to the area from his native Ottawa in 1892. Amazed and curious, the people of Saranac Lake began to manufacture skis at the Branch and Callanan mill off Depot Street under the supervision of Napoleon Bailey, a local carpenter.
As the 1900s began, skis began to take on a different look as bindings became the latest feature and stores began to stock skis. On Slater's Hill (now the campus of North Country Community College), J. Insley Bair attracted attention to the sport with nine-foot skis, with old Telemarken heel loops, and a nifty maneuver or two.
As skiers became more daring, ski jumping began to take its place among local skiing enthusiasts and a jump was erected on Blood Hill, now Lake Street hill behind the village offices, and contests were held weekly by the newly-founded Saranac Lake Ski Club. All of this activity would eventually spawn the United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association (USAEASA) an organization that promoted skiing and sponsored an annual banquet at the Berkeley Hotel in Saranac Lake. It is a little known fact the current United Stales Ski Association, the nation's governing body in both amateur and Olympic skiing, would have its roots in Saranac Lake and USAEASA.
The first downhill ski area was developed in 1938 as Charlie Keough and Hector Woods opened "Sky View", a slope located on the hillside above Donnelly's Comers on Route 86. A sophisticated rope tow was devised to assist skiers to the top of the hill and aid the considerably long lines of skiers who congregated there. The ice cream stand that currently services thousands of customers in the summer months was originally built to serve as Sky View's ticket booth.
Popular until the onset of World War II, Sky View necessitated the used of an automobile, and subsequently motivated local developers to look for a sight closer to the village on which to build another ski center.
In 1940 Tom Cantwell and Bob Demerse drove an old ambulance to the top of Betters Hill on Kiwassa Road and used its rear axle to propel a rope tow. As the area's newest ski center, they attracted skiers with demonstrations of new downhill maneuvers, namely pirouettes and somersaults. Local skiers Bob and Bill Distin as well as Bob Brown engaged in the demonstrations as well.
To this day Dewey Mountain serves hundreds of skiers of all ages and abilities. The mountain's place in skiing history began in 1941 when Keough and Guy Wood built a rope tow on the mountain arid envisioned running a ski center of their own. However the project would soon falter as a nearly snowless winter would hinder the mountain's operations. With World War II raging half a world away, the rope tow was sold to the Village of Saranac Lake who were destined to open a ski center later that decade.
From December of 1946 to April of 1950, the Wamsganz brothers, Curt and Raymond (Poppy), operated SkyView while Joe Perry took on the duties of ski instructor. With skiing's popularity at an all-time high. Cantwell. Perry and John Duquette began to search for a sight to build a ski area that would serve the needs of the village.
Recognizing the advantages of the slopes located on the Joe Branch farm near Trudeau Hill (Mount Pisgah), an urgent request was made to the village board of Saranac Lake, asking them to acquire the property to build a community ski center. After several years of debate, a discussion was held on the evening of November 15, 1948 on the possibility of leasing the property for $500 annually with an option to purchase at a cost of $16,000. One day later the lease was signed and Mount Pisgah was born.
The ski tow equipment from SkyView purchased and moved to Mount Pisgah shortly thereafter. In the first 32 days of operation, the Mount Ski Pisgah ski area took in $564.55 in revenue and incurred only $421.68 in expenses.
The center continued to grow into the 1950s and on December 16 was dedicated as a living memorial to the veterans of Saranac Lake who gave their lives in the service to their country. The ceremony was presided over by Mayor Alton B. (Tony) Anderson and a plaque was inscribed to commemorate the event. The plaque remained locked in the village vault for security reasons, but is now permanently in the mountain's ski lodge.
The property was formally deeded to the village by Harland Branch on December 30, 1953 and the Saranac Lake Ski Club used the facility for various functions including picnics, clinics and races. Using the ski center as its foundation, the ski club became one of the most popular clubs in the area, a position it maintains to this day.
From 1952 to 1969 the Saranac Lake School District offered free ski lessons as well as transportation to and from the mountain to Students in grades two to eight. One of the earliest program of its kind in the East, the lessons were held five days a week under the guidance of Natalie Bombard Corl (now Natalie Leduc), a local PSIA certified instructor.
As years passed, the rope tow was replaced by a T-bar lift and a modern, more comfortable lodge was erected to meet the needs of area skiers. Snow making equipment was purchased to reverse the effects of the increasingly mild winters and a group of local skiers known as "The Friends of Mount Pisgah" have brought the ski center back to the forefront of the Adirondack skiing scene.
In this day and age of large ski centers, with their advanced machinery and high ticket prices. Mount Pisgah stands, as it always has, as an affordable alternative to families of skiers in the Tri-Lakes area.
Editor's note: The Adirondack Daily Enterprise would like to thank Natalie Leduc for the information provided in this feature.
1. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, December 8, 1964, p. 1