December 29, 1936 – Raymond Torrey to George W. Murray

  • December 29, 1936 – Raymond Torrey to Mr. George Welwood Murray (NYC)

Dear Mr. Murray:

An indication of what the Lake Placid Club and probably other interests in the Lake Placid area want the Conservation Department to do in the way of more winter sports facilities on state forest land is given in a bulletin of the Adirondak Loj Club, signed by H. W. Hicks, dated December 13, which I have received, under the sub-head “Mountain of wilderness skiing,” is the following:

H.E. Burton, one of our most devoted summer and winter vacation enthusiasts, has prepared a list of projects for future development by the conservation Department, in the Loj area. His survey, if accepted by the Department, would improve foot trails suited to skiing re-condition old log roads suited by slope and course to skiing, and gradually link all skiable routes so to create a complete ski trails system for the area It includes the Indian Pass region, with a spur to Scott and Wallface ponds; MacIntyre and its abandoned log road down to Rocky Falls, Avalanche Pass, Caribou Pass, Lake Arnold, the Van Hoevenburg Trail, Klondyke to Johns Brook Lodge, and South (Meadows?) to Flowed Lands. Mr. Burton believes in wilderness skiing. Let all of us who are members of the Loj chapter talk up this type of skiing, and thus help to educate the public to an understanding of the conditions confronting those in New York State who believe in a broad program not confined merely to downhill of competitive skiing. The Loj can lead in this discussion for it possesses a wealth of negotiable ski trails suited to wilderness skiing not excelled by any other area East of the Rockies.

In general, this program does not seem to me to be objectionable, for all of the trails listed, with one exception that I know of, are now maintained by the Conservation Department as summer foot trails, and if no more reconditioning is sought than has already been done by the Department on state roads in the Lake Placid region, with CCC labor, under an opinion of the Attorney General, and without material objections by conservationists, including our Association, it seems to me that no serious objection could be made, as some widening as would be required for safety in ski cruising would scarcely mar these trails for summer use. The only exception I can think of is the abandoned log road to Rocky Falls, which is not maintained as a trail, and which may be grown in with much young timber, clearing of which would be relatively large. If this is all the Lake Placid interests want, I do not see why they could not have most of it, on the basis of the interpretation by the Attorney General of Section 7 of Article VII, under which the Conservation Department has improved state roads as ski trails already. I do not see why their spokesmen, such as Frederick T. Kelsey, President of the Adirondack Mountain Club, need to talk of Section 7 as preventing adequate winter sports facilities in the forest preserve. Mr. Kelsey is also connected with the Lake Placid Club, and with the “Adirondack Loj Club,” or “Chapter” whatever it is. This group has been supposed to be a chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club, but it restricts use of its facilities at Heart Lake to its members and to those of the public generally who are accepted on reservations and provides an automobile camping space, outside the restricted area, for others. The spelling “Loj” indicates sufficiently a close connection with the Lake Placid Club. The lines which I have underlined, referring to “conditions confronting those… who believe in a broad program not confined merely to downhill or competitive skiing,” indicate, to me, something ii reserve in the minds of Mr. Hicks and Mr. Burton If they want no more than the programs listed by Mr. Burton, evidently to be proposed to the Conservation Department, it seems to me they can have it under the Attorney General’s opinion, and without objection by conservationists, if the reconditioning is done with the restraint shown by the Conservation Department in previous ski cruising trail work. If such is the case, I do not see why they need to talk, as Mr. Kelsey was quoted as saying, at Albany, Dec. 7, that Section 7 prevents adequate development of winter sports facilities; not why they give such impressions to newspaper men (witness, the New York Times article of Dec. 18); nor way they talk now, as in this bulletin, of “conditions confronting those who believe in a broad program.” It seems to me that they are not quite frank; that they are holding in reserve, after they have gotten the moderate program now proposed, some artificial, competitive facility to be constructed by the Conservation Department on state forest land in the Lake Placid area. Of course the Conservation Commissioner can put a quietus on that if he chooses. I note, in a recent bulletin by the National Park Services, that it proposes, in winter sports facilities in national parks, to limit them to such as are afforded by natural conditions, and to exclude artificial facilities, which gives support to keeping wilderness preserve wild.

Sincerely yours,

Raymond H. Torrey

Footnote, written at top of letter –

Dear Apperson: For your information. Will be glad to have your ideas on this. I am doing all I can, more or less under cover. To meet Hicks and Kelsey and their schemes…R.H.T