- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
He set out to get all three. It was not easy. That first winter Sepp and the ski club put up a rope tow on pasture land rented from the Mt. Mansfield Hotel Co., owners of the Summit House. From Christmas through mid-April, the rope grossed $1,000 at 256 a ride. The Sepp Ruschp Ski School, made up entirely of Sepp Ruschp, gave 1,100 lessons at one dollar apiece, the ski club picked up another $1,500 through the sale of hot drinks and ski equipment. The Lodge, a rustic inn about 300 yards from the tollhouse, took in about $6,000 from visiting skiers. Total income for the entire Mt. Mansfield ski operation during the winter of 1936-37: $9,600. Sepp netted about $1,100, plus a degree of ill will from some locals who did not care for the notion that a foreigner was making money by running skiers up and down the sacred face of Mt. Mansfield.
That summer Sepp went home to Austria, fetched himself a bride, Her-mine, and came back to Stowe. In spite of the presence of a new wife, the winter was gloomy. Business improved slightly, but skiers were scarce, money was scarce, relations with some of the natives deteriorated and, to top it off, Sepp broke his leg in a spring race. By summer he was ready to abandon Stowe to take an offer from Yellowstone National Park, but the Mt. Mansfield Hotel Co. came to the rescue with a proposition that kept him in Stowe and, hence, probably saved the future of skiing in the Mt. Mansfield area. Under the new agreement, the hotel opened up another rope tow, widened the slope, built a small restaurant, enlarged the ski shop and made Sepp for all practical purposes the manager of the Mt. Mansfield winter operation with a contract that awarded him 20% of the profits. Furthermore, all profits from the ski school, now expanded to three men giving group lessons at $3 a day, private lessons at $5 an hour, went to Sepp Ruschp. This was a little more like it.
The next fall, in 1939, the operation really began to roll. The Lodge was bought for $35,000 by George Morell of Morristown, N.J., and guest capacity was doubled. Two new trails, the Lord and the S-53, were cut. But most important, a group of New York businessmen, headed by Radiobroadcaster Lowell Thomas and Roland Palmedo—an investment banker who had made some of the pioneer ski trips to Stowe—began to negotiate with the state for permission to build a chair lift to the top of Mt. Mansfield.
There were howls of protest from the same villagers who had been against Sepp and his ski operation from the beginning and some angry mutterings from a few hunters and nature lovers who hated to see trees cut down for a lift. But the protests were overridden. A company was formed, the Mt. Mansfield Lift, Inc., capitalized through the sale of stock to $90,000.
"I know," said Sepp. "I bought $400—magnificent." The lift went up—6,330 feet long, the biggest in the country at that time. A warming hut called the Octagon was built at the top. At the bottom the state of Vermont put up a warming shelter and restaurant and cleared a parking lot.
The new lift opened Nov. 17, 1940. "I remember that very clearly," said Sepp. "It was my birthday. The lift got stuck. There was 49 newspapermen dangling in the air for over an hour. Blinding snowstorm. Finally we had to pull them down with ropes, like the Wolga-schiffer."
MAN WITH THE MONEY
In spite of this unhappy beginning, the new lift successfully carried 57,266 passengers at 60� a head in the winter of 1940-41. The ski school had grown to a strength of 10. The Toll House Inn, now rebuilt as a ski lodge, did a gross business of $48,000, and the rest of the development prospered accordingly. That was the condition of Stowe when the war broke out; and it was still the condition of Stowe at the end of the war when C. V. Starr arrived in town and asked for a private skiing lesson from Sepp Ruschp.
Sepp took the new pupil over to the mountain. This being a normal weekend in Stowe, they waited an hour and a half for a ride on the chair lift. Starr asked why the lack of uphill facilities? Sepp had a ready answer: lack of money. Starr had a ready solution: his money; and after a decent interval he loaned Sepp $38,000. Sepp threw in $8,000 of his own, got another $34,000 from the local stockholders of the Mt. Mansfield Hotel Co. By the winter of 1947 there was a 3,000-foot T-bar lift since lengthened to 4,000 feet on Mt. Mansfield. There were also five separate companies running the ski business—the hotel company, the chair-lift company, the T-bar company, the Lodge and the ski school.
Such a chaotic arrangement sat poorly in the mind of C. V. Starr. Forthwith he produced $75,000 and bought 3,500 acres of skiing ground—practically everything not owned by the state or by the hotel. He moved into the Mt. Mansfield Hotel Co., increasing its capitalization from $50,000 to $325,000 (majority stockholder: C. V. Starr). The hotel company then bought out the chair lift for $300,000; absorbed the ski school and the T-bar; and the whole was reincorporated as the Mt. Mansfield Co., Inc., Sepp Ruschp, Vice-Pres. and Gen. Mgr.