In 1962 a small group of people embarked on a venture that would eventually change the lives of tens of thousands of people. These people, all skiing enthusiasts, loved skiing at Holiday Valley but were growing tired of waiting in line at the increasingly popular ski area. They began to envision an area that provided a family-friendly atmosphere that was void of the lift lines that they were becoming more and more prevalent at the Valley.
Originally the thinking was that if they could get 300 people to buy a membership to the club at $1,000 a piece it would provide enough funds to be able to build a lift and pay for the land. They then planned to cover operating costs by a controlled sale of individual guest lift tickets. And while this original plan isn’t exactly what ended up happening during the beginning years of HoliMont, it did create the foundation of the infrastructure that is HoliMont today.
In the early years there was no ski lift. Prior to the 1963-64 season a snowcat doubled as transportation to the top of the area where skiers had access to eight different trails to make their way back down to the bottom. Members and their guests would ski down at roughly the same pace and then take their skis off, load them onto a sled attached to the snowcat and then sit on the same sled in order to get pulled back to the top of the hill. On very cold days the occasional lucky woman and children were allowed to ride in the snowcat. There is a saying that goes something along the lines of, “those who wish for the past weren’t really there to experience it.” Can you imagine essentially cat-skiing at an area with approximately 700 feet of elevation in this day and age? Instead, 50 years later HoliMont is proud to be celebrating the addition of its first high-speed detachable quad. The Exhibition Express will help increase traffic to the top of the area and allow people to disperse throughout the area even easier than ever.
HoliMont’s monthly newsletter, the HoliLeaf (originally The Holly Leaf), was first published in 1964. In it, the Membership Report states that the Club had 117 members. Today the Club has over 4,000 Members.
Just as HoliMont has evolved, so to has the town of Ellicottville. In fact, Ellicottville as we now know and love it is astronomically different from the early days of skiing in this area. At one point this quite town didn’t even have a restaurant and every Saturday night one of the local churches would host a potluck dinner where families who were in town to ski could congregate and eat after a fun day out on the slopes. The price: about $2 for adults and $1 for kids.
Naturally, as Ellicottville grew so to did HoliMont. What started out as a small club of friends was, by 1972, transforming into a full-fledged ski area. The addition of the Plum Creek Chair in 1972 attracted an entirely new demographic of skiing families due to the increased amount of skiable terrain. By the end of the season HoliMont even had a wait list of people who were hoping to become Members.
As you can imagine a major reason for the Club’s growth during that time period was due to the number of Canadians who were becoming Members. There were already a decent number of private ski clubs north of Toronto and once word started to spread that there was a club just south of the boarder that offered skiing equal to, if not better, than the Canadian clubs and at a more affordable price it didn’t take long for HoliMont to develop a Canadian vibe that has only grown stronger over the years.
On the topic of things that have grown stronger over the years, the HoliMont Racing Program once started out as a very laid back, no frills gathering of Members. Originally, adults with racing experience would teach kids about the art of racing on a pretty informal basis. However, as time went on and more technology was incorporated into the area, the program began to grow in popularity. One example of this growth is that when the program first started racers were restricted to racing on slopes the officials could see both the start and end point of the race because the race official at the top of the hill used a flag on a pole to signal the start of the race, which told the official at the bottom of the hill to start his or her stopwatch. Eventually walkie-talkies were incorporated into the process and this allowed for longer races as officials at the top and bottom of the hill now had a more effective way of communicating. The program really took off when a Member, using a kit, put together the Club’s first electric timing system. Having the technology of an electric eye was a true game changer and was probably the catalyst for building the program up to what it is today. Today HoliMont racers compete all over the east coast and some even compete on a national level.
One thing that has been a HoliMont fixture from the beginning is the social foundation of the Club. Members have a long history of pulling together and planning various après ski activities. Lately, annual favorites include the New Year’s Eve Celebration, Men’s Day, Ladies Day, and the always-festive Jimmy Buffet Party. On weekends where there are no large parties on the calendar, Member’s and their guests can usually expect to see a local band in the Chalet entertaining everyone who isn’t out on the slopes. Being in the Chalet on a busy January Saturday afternoon after spending all morning out tearing it up on pristine corduroy is a part of what the HoliMont Membership experience is all about. Families and friends come together to talk about their powder run through the Sunset Glades or jibbing the new dinosaur funbox or cruising down Greer and are able to escape from the rest of the outside world. And at the end of the day that is what HoliMont is here for, to be a safe place for Members and guests to congregate, have fun and make a lifetime of memories.
For more information on HoliMont please call 716-699-2320 or visit us online at www.holimont.com.