OHIO'S FIRST SKI RESORT: A Short History of Skiing in Ohio

Snow Trails 60th Anniversary Logo Mansfield Ohio

Skiing in Ohio really got its start in 1961 when Snow Trails opened its slopes to enthusiastic skiers. Mansfielder's themselves were unprepared for the throngs of visitors on the snowy weekends that followed. Cars with ski racks soon became a familiar sight on the highways around the North Central Ohio area. Many thousands of Ohioans, as well as skiers from neighboring states such as Kentucky, Indiana, and West Virginia, have come to know Mansfield as the "Ski Capital of Ohio."

Before 1961, the State had several hundred skiers and even a make-shift rope tow or two operated by private individuals or ski clubs, not for the general public. Ohio winters, up to this time, were not considered favorable for commercial skiing enterprise.

There were hundreds of ski areas operating in the northern states, but no one had developed one as far south as Ohio. Those interested in the sport had to travel to Canada, Michigan, Upper New York, or northern Pennsylvania to find the nearest ski hill.

It wasn't just luck that made Snow Trails a resounding success. Before a tree was removed or a spade full of earth turned, climatological data and geological survey maps were closely scrutinized. The task was to select the best possible location for developing a ski slope that could be maintained by the use of snowmaking technology.

For man-made snow, average temperatures need to be in the freezing range and sufficient temperatures in the low twenties had to be available in order to make adequate snow to cover the acres of slopes. Natural snow in Ohio is neither sufficient nor dependable for winter sports.

What is man-made snow? It is simply the product of water and air combined in a special machine at the proper temperatures. The machine creates a fine mist which, in cold dry air, crystallizes as it falls to the ground and forms a snow-like granular cover.

The first ski area to try snowmaking was the Concord Hotel Resort in New York's Catskill Mountains. It was 1951 when they first turned on their new equipment set up on a slope on their golf course. Today, all eastern and mid-western ski resorts, and even those in the Sierra's and the Rocky Mountains, depend on machine-made snow.

One of Snow Trails Pisten Bully Snow Cat Groomer Fleet

Snowmaking is expensive. Over a million dollars is required for the necessary equipment; a larger sized ski development requires several million dollars for snowmaking outlay alone. Special high-powered snow machines and millions of gallons of water are required to provide enough capacity to cover an average hill.

The art of snow making and grooming the slopes for skiing is constantly improving and Snow Trails has historically been at the forefront in adapting to the latest and best technology. 

Snow Trails is known for superior skiing conditions and for being open longer than other ski areas in the region.

Snow Trails Annual Ski Carnival 2020

Before Snow Trails could be converted from a dream into reality, other problems had to be solved too. In 1960, skiing was a relatively new sport to Ohio. What would the skiers want in the way of rental equipment, food, skiing instruction, ski lifts and lodge facilities? All these questions were taken into consideration when Snow Trails developers laid out Ohio's first ski area near Mansfield.

There have been a number of ventures that were not successful in Ohio such as Sugarcreek in Bellbrook near Dayton.  Echo Hills near Lancaster closed in 1991 after about ten off and on years. The latest was Spicy Run in southern Ohio that opened in 1997 and, after three disappointing seasons, closed in 2001.

Additional slopes were opened at Snow Trails and a double chair lift was installed and operated, for the first time in Ohio, on December 8, 1962. This represented another innovation for the Ohio ski scene. There were relatively few chair lifts in operation in the United States and it was almost unheard of for a ski resort the size of Snow Trails. Skiers began arriving from Louisville, Kentucky; Indianapolis, Indiana; Wheeling, West Virginia; and other distant points to ski at Snow Trails. One of Ohio's coldest and whitest winters added to the growing interest in the sport.

Where will it all end? According to Dave Carto, the skier/snowboarding population is still growing. "Man-made snow has brought skiing to major metropolitan areas and, with its obvious combination of healthful outdoor recreation, improved safety, and style, it has become a prominent wintertime leisure activity."

In 2006 a tubing park was opened to meet the growing success of these facilities at ski areas throughout the country. The importance of being able to provide reliable snow is the key to success for tubing as well as skiing operations.

Snow Trails, as Ohio's first commercial ski resort, has maintained its reputation for leadership. Being "first" has become a tradition as well as a challenge. Here is a list of the most significant "firsts:"

First ski school in Ohio.
First ski patrol in Ohio.
First area ski shop in Ohio.
First snowmaking system operated below 41st parallel.
First night skiing in southern Great Lakes region.
First ski carnival in Ohio.
First alpine ski racing event in Ohio.
First chair lift in Ohio.
First junior alpine ski racing in Ohio.
First "air-less" snowmaking in Ohio.
First triple chair lift operated in Ohio.
First all-electric airless snowmaking system.
First all "bull-wheel loading" chair lifts in central region.
First application of "snowcat" with power-driven rotary tiller for snow grooming in Ohio.
First in Midwest to build modern area ski shop with over 5,000 square feet of display space.
First coin-operated racing system in central region.
First 800 wats line for snow conditions reporting.
First integrated children's ski school and care facility in Ohio.
First in nation to "guarantee" skiing conditions.
First to offer snowboarding and instruction, including certification, in Ohio.
First to allow all-slopes snowboarding in Ohio.
First snowboard rental facility in Ohio.
First to install computerized weather tracking equipment in the Midwest.
First to use computerized ski ticketing system in Ohio.
First ski resort to use energy management technology in the Midwest.
First ski resort to build modern maintenance facility with over 7,500 square feet of work space in the Midwest.
First in the midwest to use geothermal technology to heat facilities with snowmaking water.
First to install energy saving Variable Frequency Drive controller on snowmaking pumps in Ohio.
First Terrain Park in Ohio.
First "Park Bully" specialized snowcat to prepare and groom terrain park in Midwest.
First Ski Carpet conveyor lift used in Ohio.
First and Only Commercial Grade Cooling Tower used for Snowmaking in Midwest.


New Trails – Ridgeline and DC Drop off of reconfigured Mt. Mansfield Double Chairlift
Rustic Daylodge – with two Restaurants and two Bars, plus large deck with outdoor seating overlooking Mt. Mansfield Slope
Additional Base Lodge – “The Valley Lodge” – 3,000 sq.ft. Indoor Seating with beautiful views slope-side. Restrooms. Outdoor Patio.
Ski Shop- Full service ski/snowboard shop on location
Four Terrain Parks: The Woods, Alpine, Progression Park, and Terrain Based Learning Park
100% Lighted Slopes & Parks for night skiing, snowboarding, and snow tubing
Beginners Area – User Friendly, Gradual Grade Slopes and Surface Conveyor Lifts
Experience Rental Center- 9,000 sq. ft. with Self Service System, conveniently adjacent to Beginners Area
Snow Sports Learning Center
Children’s Learning Center - Children’s Programs for your 4- 9 year olds
The Adaptive Sports Connection - Snow Sports for those with disabilities
Ski Check and All-Day Lockers available
Entertainment in The Snowflake Loft- select Saturday Nights
Vertical Descent Snow Tubing Park- Longest Tubing Lanes in Ohio
Vertical Descent Tubing Park Lodge- Complete with snack bar, seating area, and restrooms

Our family owned and operated Resort has a unique advantage in the Possum Run Valley, home to Snow Trails, with some of the coldest temperatures in Ohio, a massive state-of-the-art snowmaking system with Cooling Tower, and a loyal Crew stacking not just snow, but years of experience producing what many guests have come to expect as the best snow and machine groomed snow conditions in Ohio for Skiing and Snowboarding.

Vertical Drop: 301 feet
Longest Run: 2,200 feet - Timberline trail - the "Longest Trail in Ohio"
Base Elevation: 1,174
Peak Elevation: 1,475
Number of Lifts: 9 - 4 Triple Chairlifts, 2 Double Chairlifts, 2 Ski Conveyor Carpet Lifts, and 1 Tubing Conveyor Carpet Lift
Trails: 21 - All 100% lighted for night Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snow Tubing
Terrain Parks: 5 - Terrain Based Learning Park, Progression Park, Alpine Terrain Park, Rustler Jump Line, and The Woods Terrain Park
Tubing Park: Up to seven 1,100' long snowy lanes - the "Longest Tubing Lanes in Ohio”

Comfortable Capacity: 2,600
This is the number of skiers that can be accommodated comfortably at one time without crowding or long lift lines.

Length of Season:
87 day average based on past five seasons.

Longest Seasons:
2000-01: 107 days
2002-03: 106 days
1976-77: 104 days
1977-78: 102 days
2014-15: 101 days

Slope Difficulty:
Beginner 20%
Intermediate 60%
Advanced: 20%

Average Annual Snowfall: 52 inches (No worries. Ski areas in the Midwest rely more on snowmaking machines to provide consistent coverage.)

Snowmaking Capacity: 5,500GPM (gallons per minute), which equates to 330,000 gallons of water per hour delivered through 3+ miles of 4" to 16" welded steel underground pipe. The water is sourced from our 5 water wells up through 16" casings and delivered to our Snowmaking Pond and Cooling Tower. Our massive Snowmaking System is capable of covering almost three average slopes (6 acres) with 5" of man-made snow base in 24 hours at full capacity with an average temperature of 25 degrees and less than 65% relative humidity.

In 12 hours @ 28 degrees F we can cover over 6 acres with 1" of snow
In 12 hours @ 26 degrees F we can cover over 13 acres with 1" of snow
In 12 hours @ 24 degrees F we can cover over 18 acres with 1" of snow

Snow Trails Quality Snow Standard

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