DCSki reader Matthew Kavlick writes:
- “I uncovered a lost ski area south of Beckley, West Virginia. Bald Knob Ski Slopes operated from the winter of 1958 to 1969 and was located on Bald Knob, the ‘second highest mountain in the area and about 100 feet less in elevation that its twin, Huff’s Knob’ (today’s Winterplace Ski Resort), in the Flat Top mountain range. Founded by John McKay, the resort included 4 rope tows, a network of trails, a restaurant, a ski shop, and an ice skating rink. Using the north face of Bald Knob Mountain, the slopes included a 2,100-foot long slope for intermediate and expert skiers and an 800-foot slope for beginners.”
“Plans for a ski resort which would use artificial snow when the weather fails to provide it were outlined here Thursday.
“Back of the plan are Hulett C. Smith, Beckley businessman and state Democratic chairman, and John S. McKay, operator of a drive-in on the U.S. 19-21 bypass…
“THe location will be on Bald Knob, second highest mountain in this area and about 100 feet less in elevation than its twin, Huff’s Knob, at Flat Top. The Huff Knob rises 3,566 feet above sea level.
“McKay said his group holds options on three parcels of land which would afford use of practically all of the north face of Bald Knob Mountain.
“He added that bids were being taken on snow-making machines, construction of a ski lodge, tows and other installations. The initial outlay was estimated at $250,000.
“The promoters said it was planned to open the slope before the Christmas holidays this year. The season would extend to mid-March, or about 12 weeks.
“The artificial snow area, available for use at all times, would include one slope 2,100 feet long for intermediate and expert skiers, and an 800-foot slope for beginners.
“West Virginia already has one popular ski resort, near Davis in Tucker County.”
On October 23, 1958, the Charleston Daily Mail ran a story indicating that Bald Knob Ski Slopes was expected to open on December 15, 1958. The story described plans to open with tows, a network of trails, a restaurant, ski shop, and other facilities.
“It will be open to skiers seven days a week during daylight to dark hours, and several nights a week the areas will be open for skiing under lights,” the story said.
“Four rope tows will be used during the first season, and after the first season’s experience indicates the most favorable location, a double chair lift will be installed in the summer of 1959,” the story said. The story said that rope tow fees would be $3.50 a day on weekdays and $3 a day on weekends, with children under 14 admitted at half price.
The January 12, 1959 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail profiled Robert K. Potter, a 41-year-old Army Lieutenant Colonel who was hired by Bald Knob Ski Slopes to serve as an instructor and plan the original layout of the area’s slopes. Previously, in 1952, Potter had served as the commanding officer of the Mountain School for Army special force troops in Austria.
By 1961, Bald Knob was being marketed as the East’s most southern ski resort. The March 15, 1961 edition of the Charleston Gazette described plans for a winter carnival at Bald Knob February 25-26, 1961. The story quotes Thomas D. Minter, Bald Knob Manager, saying “crowds have been attracted to the ski slopes this winter by the favorable weather.” The winter carnival included competitions, ice sculptures, and other social events such as a Bohemian Buffet dinner at the Beckley Hotel.
We have not yet determined the exact closing date of Bald Knob Ski Slopes, but Matthew Kavlick uncovered an article in the March 1, 1999 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail that looks back at the history of skiing in West Virginia. “The state’s second commercial ski slope opened in 1958 at Bald Knob, near today’s Winterplace Ski Resort,” the story states. “Developer John McKay sold stock and invested $250,000 in the resort. It closed three winters later.”
“There just weren’t enough people then who knew how to ski,” McKay is quoted as saying in the article. “We were probably 15 to 20 years premature.”
This appears to contradict other stories that indicate Bald Knob was still operating in 1961, but Matthew believes that could be a result of typos in the news articles. It is probably safe to say that Bald Knob closed in the early 1960’s.