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Article paints picture of ski slopes in Youngsville

Photos courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society The "Youngsville Skiway" or the "Buckaloons" as it's been called — the ski slopes outside of Youngsville in this 1970s photo.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that digging into Arch Bristow’s Old Time Tales of Warren County has led me down a rabbit trail.

I’ve always known there used to be ski slopes just outside of Youngsville.

But when I was looking into why York Hill is called York Hill (last week’s Diversions), I came across a 1970 Warren Times-Mirror and Observer article on the ski slopes.

Then I found a ski slope site that contained numerous stories of the place.

And the Warren County Historical Society has photos of the site in operation.

So here’s the article first.

If anyone has photos or stories of the ski slopes, call me at 730-6304 or email me at jcotton@timesobserver.com. As I’ve said before, I’m not native to Warren County so I’m constantly learning about our area’s history and this is one of those situations where I know little so I value the knowledge you may have on the slopes, specifically on what brought about the slopes’ demise.

The headline presents an ambitious vision: “Can Y’ville Rival Famed Resorts?”

Now, obviously, we know the answer wasn’t “Yes.”

But the issues debated in a Youngsville Borough council meeting in 1970 were certainly serious.

Here’s how the discussion unfolded:

Can Youngsville rival the famed ski resorts of Aspen, Colorado and Boyne Mountain, Michigan? The new owners of the local ski slopes think so.

“We think we have really got a giant here,” their spokesman, George Nekervis, told Youngsville borough councilmen at their meeting on Monday night. He was there primarily to present proposals for new highway signs promoting the ski slopes and the community, and in the process roughed in a picture of what happens to towns that become famous as sky resorts.

“Thousands of visitors come with their pockets stuffed with travellers’ checks and they leave a lot of them there, and that money turns over two or three times in the community. It is a simple matter of economics,” declared the personable Mr. Nekervis.

He will be managing the facility, renamed Peek ‘n Mountain by the new owners, in a play on the name of their parent operation, Peek ‘n Peak, near Erie. Peek ‘n Mountain was originally the Youngsville Skiway, developed by local resident Elmer Hill and associates, who later changed the name to York Mountain. But area residents still call the land York Hill, for pioneer settler Nehemiah York who spent his first winter there in a rough rock shelter, some 150 years ago.

Aspen has a permanent population of 2,500 (Youngsville’s is similar). In the winter Aspen draws 18,000 which breaks down to a year-around average of 5,000, said Nekervis. Boyne City normally has only 1,500 residents but in the four months of winter it swells to something in the neighborhood of 4,000 or 5,000 per week, he went on.

In fifteen years, Boyne Mountain has developed from a single rope tow to nine chair lifts, some of them 4-place types, which move as many as 9,000 people an hour up the slopes.

“Boyne Mountain has a drop of 430 feet. Here at Youngsville we have a vertical drop in excess of 500 feet. People travel ten hours from Ohio to get to Boyne Mountain. They can come here – their closest big slope now – in only three or four hours. We had 135,000 at Peek ‘n Peak last year and turned away as many as five busloads at weekends. Now we can send those busloads here,” Nekervis predicted.

The Michigan resort draws largely on distant Chicago for its support, he said, and pointed out that Youngsville has several cities within a much shorter range.

Nekervis exhibited a photostat facsimile of one of two large Scotchlite signs which he said his company wants to erect at each of the three entrances to Youngsville. The exhibit read ‘Welcome to Youngsville. Home of Peek ‘n Mountain,’ with the word ‘Ski’ dominating the sign at the left. He said the second sign, alongside the first at each site, would, they anticipated, replace the present sign, listing local churches, service clubs and other facilities and be much more effective.

Mayor Ernest McGraw: ‘Youngsville’ is the biggest word on our present signs. It is one of the smallest on yours.’

Nekervis: There would be another sign. That would be the one promoting your community.

McGraw: There is something else on our sign – our motto, ‘The Biggest Little Town on the Map.’ What about that?

Nekervis said he had not thought about it, but added “We would want to work with you and the 3-M people on your community sign. We are going to be here for twenty years and we want to be good neighbors.”

It was pointed out that the present signs were bought with friends from the 1963 Sesquicentennial observance, and their installation had involved the removal of individual church and organizational signs. “We have to be satisfied that the other people concerned in these signs are satisfied with what is proposed,” said McGraw.

Borough Solicitor William Bevevino: Have you looked into the county zoning regulations regarding your signs? The zoning board is very interested in the size of signs. There is also the non-conforming use regulation. You would be expanding the present use of sign locations and would need to show a need.

Borough manager George Probst said he had talked with 3-M company representatives who would be working on the signs, and he believed they were aware of the zoning situation.

Nekervis: We have laid 12,000 feet of pipe over there (at the skiway) and have not taken in a dollar yet. A lot of us have gambled part of our future here and we would hope the town will gable a little with us. You are on the map. We think we can put ourselves on the map here, too, and do something big here, for all of us.

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