Ropes helped to get youth to the top of local ski hills

By Tom Hintgen

Contributed photo
Paul Street at Old Smokey ski hill in Fergus Falls during the 1950s, with a fellow skier using a tow rope in the background.

Otter Tail County Correspondent

In the years following World War II, a rope tow was one of the main methods of transporting skiers to the top of hills in Otter Tail County. For many baby boomers, in the 1950s, it was a bit intimidating when first watching other skiers grasp onto the rope, and then following in their paths.

Many boomers recall their parents taking them up the slow rope tows between legs until kids were big enough to make it up by themselves. Kids, when they were big enough, could take the fast tows up which, for the first time, could be really scary.

In 1957 the Fergus Falls city park department installed new electric tows at Old Smokey ski hill on the south side of town. Others recall fun days at Hallaway Hill east of Pelican Rapids and at other ski hills in Otter Tail County.

A skier, when using a tow rope, needed to put his or her left arm away from the rope, behind one’s back and with the palm open and straps of the ski poles hanging loosely from the back wrists. As the skier did this, he or she placed the right arm, next to the rope, forward on the rope. This allowed the rope to slide through one’s gloves. 

The back hand also grasped the tow rope. When arriving at the top of the hill, the skier released the back grip first and let the front hand continue holding for a short distance. This allowed the skier to glide away from the lift.