We have added one final equipment return night for Wednesday, May 26, 5-8pm. Each person does need to sign up for a specific return time slot. PLEASE make every effort to return your gear on this night.
Once you are signed up, please be sure to have your gear
ready to be returned. Have your boots buckled, the poles rubber banded
together, and your skis together with a rubber band on the tails.
Please show up for your return on time and check-in with
the greeter, who will be on the right-hand side of the road just before the
equipment garage. When they tell you it is your turn to return your gear, you
will pull your car up to the garage and (while wearing a mask) unload your
rental equipment. You will then check-in with our paperwork volunteers who are
located in the across the road form the equipment garage under a tent. Participants
who have completed their volunteer hours will be eligible to have their
volunteer deposit refunded during returns. You can choose to receive your
entire refund by check, donate the entire refund back to Chester Bowl, or split
it into a partial refund and a donation. Checks and/or donation receipts are
issued that night, and all donations are used to support the next winter’s ski
and snowboard purchase.
Our friends at Spirit heard that we had to shut down Chester early and are offering to give Chester Bowl season pass holders discounts on day passes for the remainder of their season to keep everyone out on the slopes.
If you have not yet used your two free visits per person, you can still do that.
For those that have already used their free passes, Spirit Mountain will provide $5 lift tickets to Chester Bowl passholders for the remainder of the ski season. What a great way to get out and enjoy the spring snow conditions at Spirit Mountain!
To take advantage of this deal, please bring your Chester Season pass and arrive at the ticket counter at the Upper Chalet. Before getting your tickets, be sure the online winter ticket waiver is pre-signed before arrival for each person getting a ticket.
Spirit has normal operating hours this weekend. Because of the high temps, Spirit has some changes to their hours next week. Spirit will be open Wednesday, March 17 through Friday March 19, 10am-6pm. Saturday and Sunday 3/20-3/21 they will be open 9am-5pm. After the 21st, please check their website and mountain message to make sure they are open before heading up there.
We are extremely thankful for Spirit’s support both with helping us to troubleshoot our lift issues and for extending this discount to Chester passholders. Please be sure to thank them when you are up there having fun!
After making repairs on the chairlift this past weekend we
had hoped that the lift was completely repaired and up to the task of carrying
skiers, snowboarders, & snowskaters to the top of the hill through the end
of the season. However, after our crew got the lift up and running Monday
night, the lift had more issues surface that will be keeping us closed for the
rest of the season.
These issues will require a substantial investment to fix
but we are committed to getting them resolved in the off season so that we can
have a seamless season next year.
If you were signed up to volunteer for the concession stand
or lift line monitor positions you will receive full credit for the hours you
had signed up for. During equipment returns you will have the opportunity to
amend your volunteer card. We will keep the scheduled hill cleanup for Sunday,
March 14 as planned.
We know that this is disappointing news and we apologize for the inconvenience. We hope that you all had a memorable winter at Chester Bowl. We are thankful for everyone we got to share the hill with, grateful for the opportunity to get to know you while you volunteered, and thankful to share the community we love with you all.
This post, “Hart Skis” is a memoir written by Aethan Hart in January 2021.
Winter in Duluth lasts an
extremely long time. I remember it snowing in April, just like the song by
Prince. In shady areas under the WPA constructed wall near
the Chester Creek Bridge, there would be a few small piles of snow in early June. When you are a young person, winter provides
many opportunities for recreation. As one
chronologically advances, winter presents the fear of falling and being cold.
My earliest memories of wintertime are sledding on a road through the woods. The road was not paved, but in the non-winter it was earth with grass growing between two ruts. It was an access road for construction of the ski jumps, Big Chester and Little Chester. The track was really an unpaved extension of Chester Parkway. The City of Duluth did not plow it, that was up to the volunteers from the Duluth Ski Club who constructed the jumps. I think my father earned some level of respect from the Club for insisting that the gravel portion of the road to our house was plowed by the City.
I first traveled that road when I was four years old with a red wooden sled featuring a piece of rope clothesline on the front to pull it. On many crisp, clear and cold winter days, my mother and I would trudge up that road, into the woods. It was not a wide path, barely adequate for a pickup truck to pass through the trees. It was enough space for the Harts to pull my sled and a toboggan which my father acquired when he realized that as I grew, my sled was too small for my mother and me to safely occupy on our sliding experiences.
I learned from an early age
that national champion skiers trained on the towering ski jumps. Several went on to the Olympics, which was a
great source of pride for someone living in the shadow of Big Chester.
Our sliding adventures began when reaching the end of the road, my mother and I would climb on the sled next to one of the concrete footings that supported the steel frame on of the wooden ski jump. The top of the ski jump was over 100 feet above our scarf and hat wrapped heads and my mother, a visual artist said we were underneath a giant dinosaur. Big Chester was also a landmark to me growing up. When on a family trip to Park Point, I could always see the head of Big Chester and I knew my home was right underneath that idol with a wooden head.
To start our slide, I would
give us as much of a push as my small legs would allow and jump on the red sled
and hang on. My mother would steer with
her feet. I now realize that her growing
up in New York City did not prepare her for this sledding on the tundra, but
she was a fast learner.
We would sail down the hill, the runners of the sled which she had waxed with canning wax made a swishing sound in the pure winter air. We’d have a good rate of speed going as we neared our house, and her goal was to make a turn into our small driveway without tipping the sled. I always thought the sled on its side was the more fun, but she wanted to make that turn and remain upright. We would make a few runs on that road and when cold became a factor, went inside our house for hot chocolate, made from powder in a can my mother said came from Europe. Little did I know that that one day, I would be carrying skis up that same narrow road, walking under the ski jumps, not to fly, but to downhill ski.
Slipping and sliding
Chester Bowl continued to be
a part of my family’s winter recreation program through grade school. I went skating on the frozen and uneven pond
with my father, sliding on waxed cardboard with both parents and hiking through
the woods in all seasons. At age five, I caught my first fish, a trout with my
Eagle rod, reel and hook on the pond during a sunny spring morning.
When I was in junior high, a
portion of the woods around the pond was cleared to create a downhill skiing area. My friends had skis and I wanted to be
included. My father bought me a pair of
used Hart skis at the Ski Hut. The innovative metal skis were made in St. Paul,
Minnesota. I thought it was pretty cool
to have skis with my last name on them. He also had my name engraved near the
bindings into which I placed my lace up Kastinger ski boots. When I looked down at my skis before going downhill,
I saw my name twice. It gave me a sense
of confidence, which I really needed.
The first year on the new
hill there was no rope tow, or chair lift.
We stood in a horizontal position and packed up the hill one ski after
another till we got to a point to ski down.
Since I was learning, this was a good plan since it strengthened my
legs, allowed me to go a short distance and groomed the hill as well. I learned to snowplow with my skis and later
that winter actually used my ski poles to make turns with my skis close together. We’d ski at every opportunity. There were no lights on the hill, but we
would be on the snow nearly every night. We did not have driver’s licenses yet,
so our recreational opportunities were limited. However, we could all walk to Chester Bowl and
There was a building built in the 1930’s where
we could warm our cold feet and hands. As
we sat on the wooden benches with our feet on the dark wooden floor the ski
jumpers would come in from Big and Little Chester and make fun of us. “You are not real skiers like us” they would
shout. The jumpers did not picture any future
Olympians among the downhill and cross-country skiers. We however had worldwide aspirations as we
set up our bamboo poles with flags for our downhill ski races.
I lived the closest to the ski area and when I walked that same road at night that my mother and I had enjoyed sledding I remembered the speed and excitement. Now, I had a different level of speed on my Hart skis and the promise of more excitement and fun during those long Duluth winters.My ski learning was accelerated, because after walking under two ski jumps, I was at the top of the skiing hill. I had to get to the bottom, and I had to use all the skills acquired packing up that hill to make a successful downhill run. I fell more than once but having this forced ski test made me really learn how to turn very quickly. It was a lot like my New York City mother’s education in steering the red sled. The rudiments of maneuvering on ice and snow were imprinted on my mind from an early age. I successfully transferred those skills on a minimal level to the Hart skis.
At some point, my friends
deemed me good enough to go to a real ski hill, Mont Du Lac, located outside of
Superior, Wisconsin. We were not old
enough to drive, but a fellow Duluth Central Band trombone player, Dave Olsen, had
a driver’s license as well as access to his family’s Rambler station wagon. This station wagon was very handy for us to
load up our ski equipment and ramble across the High Bridge to Wisconsin.
I was excited when we arrived
at the Mount. My friends gave me a quick
lesson on how to ride the T-bar. I was supposed to sit on a piece of wood
attached to a pole on a cable, which concerned me, but of course as a teenager,
I thought I was invincible. I was told that if I kept my skis on the
ground, the T bar would pull me up the hill.
Unfortunately, on my first attempt to get on
the T-bar, I fell, and my ski caught on the wooden seat. I was dragged up the
hill for twenty feet. This was very
embarrassing for a teenaged boy. Despite
our minimal skiing skills, we were trying to impress girls we might meet at the
ski area. I was untangled by one of the
workers and helped onto another bar. They tied a red ribbon on the bar I had gouged
with my Cubco bindings (marketed in the 1970’s, as the most reliable release ski
binding) so that nobody else would ride it that day. That was a constant reminder of the not
positive attention during my visit. I had successful rides to the top after
that first disaster and enjoyed skiing on a variety of hills the rest of the
day. After that episode, my friends
called me Hartski.
Grab the Rope and I’ll Pull You In
The second winter I skied at
Chester Bowl, a rope tow was installed, not a T-bar, much to my relief. My fellow skiers and I took Basic and Advanced
First Aid classes taught by a National Ski Patrol instructor. We became the first members of the Chester
Park Ski Patrol. And, unlike the
jumpers, our crew included girls. Our
responsibilities were to check for tickets to ride the tow, be able to shut the
tow down if a young skier fell on the ride up (I had experience in that) and
tend to any injuries. In fulfilling
these duties, we skied for free.
Skiing made those long Duluth winters fly by as we flew down the hills of Chester Bowl. I did not matter if it was below zero. The lure of the hill always got us on our skis. Hart skis for me…
Chester Bowl has such a rich history! Did you know that there was a youth Ski Patrol in the early 70’s, before the National Ski Patrol as we know it now started at Chester in 1974? These high school volunteers helped monitor the tow rope, including watching for injuries occurring and stopping the rope if needed, in exchange for free skiing! This was an era with alpine skiing, ski jumping, and Nordic skiing all happening in the park. We hope you enjoy these photos and news stories, contributed by Aethan Hart, one of those first ski patrollers.