January 11, 2006
Pottsville, PA (Release)—It was a tiny ski area built in the mid-1960's in the heart of the anthracite coal region in Pottsville, Pennsylvania. The land and the ski area was owned and built by the President Judge of the county, Judge Curren, his Chief Developer John Cullen, and General Mountain Manager Charles Marquette. Lou Paparazo directed the ski school. It operated for some years giving thrill-seeking locals a winter time playground, and played host to plenty of local youngsters for after-school skiing. Not a tourist destination by any means, but for the few skiers in Pottsville, and Schuylkill County, it was perfect. Because of the ski area, the city of Pottsville created a Winter Carnival that has outlived the life of the ski area and continues today as one of the city's most anticipated festivals.
Curren and Cullen were in the coal business, as many were at that time. Curren owned the Reading Coal and Iron Company located within the city, and the mountain where he built his ski area, Sharp Mountain, was also rich in hard coal. Being in that business Curren and Cullen had plenty of heavy equipment. Generators, compressors, and hoses that were used in the mines to pump water out were matched up with some snowmaking machines, but the capacity wasn't enough. Because the mountain was located within the city, the snowmaking crew used the city's water supply, which lingered in the 50 degree range. Many ski areas today can pump water out of lakes or reservoirs that contain near freezing water. So these snowmakers were operating at a disadvantage to start, they needed some very cold temperatures. Without some much needed help from Mother Nature, the ski area could not continue much longer. The resort hung on into the early 70's and then closed.
It lay dormant for one full year with no eager buyers. In September 1973 the ski area was sold to an out-of-town physician named Dr. Petrillo. In late October he asked Ian Lipton, a Pottsville native and avid skier to get the mountain up and running for the coming winter, a task no small effort could achieve in such a short amount of time. Lipton hired the needed staff and he led the mountain crew, who was responsible for snowmaking, trail maintenance, lift operations, grooming, etc. His brother, Robert, another expert skier, to run the ski school and give lessons.
The mountain didn't flourish, but barely hung on throughout that fast approaching winter season, but with the unpredictability of snowfall and temperatures, it couldn't last. After the season it was clear to Petrillo that this financial venture was far less than successful, and that ski resort closed its doors for good. The land was sold again and this time, the equipment too; It was dispersed to ski resorts 60-200 miles away all through the northeast corridor. Sharp Mountain Resort would never open again. [NEXT ""]The old ski lodge is now a private restaurant called the Pottsville Club whose deck overlooks the old trails.
This February 2006, the city of Pottsville will celebrate its 200th Birthday, and events and happenings are indeed scheduled throughout the year. The Bicentennial Committee, a group of volunteers brought together to plan the celebrations, has taken an interest in reliving and sharing with today's young citizens of Pottsville the wonderful memories of Sharp Mountain Ski Area in the 1960's and 70's.
On February 4, 2006, as part of this yearlong celebration, and the "crown jewel" of the Winter Carnival the city will host ski races on Sharp Mountain. Trees and grass has grown on the mountain since, and there's no longer much semblance of a former ski area. With a small team of volunteers, and a monumental effort, that mountain will be open for skiing on February 4.