Influential Vermont ski instructor

Passing Date: 
Monday, May 25, 2015

Bill Jenkins died on May 25, 2015 at age 90. He taught at six Vermont areas — from Snow Valley to Pico —and also co-founded Birdseye Mountain, managed five areas, and invented several ski lifts. He is best-known for his long career at Green Mountain College in Vermont, where he founded a ski-instruction program and coached the alpine racing team.

Born in 1924 in Keene, New Hampshire, Jenkins grew up in Bellows Falls, Vermont, where he graduated from high school in 1941 and was a ski jumper. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II and graduated from Rutland Junior College in 1948.

After graduation, Jenkins and his friend Bob Daniels started a ski school for Green Mountain College at the nearby Marcy Farm in Hampton, New York, which moved to the campus in Poultney in 1951. Over 28 years of continuous operation—on a rope-tow hill with less than 32 vertical feet—it grew to be the largest college ski-school instruction program in the country, reaching 350 students per season at its peak and more than 5,000 students in all. In fall, students skied on grass or plastic mats, often using Turfskis with wide rollers affixed to the bottom; in winter, they made turns on the tiny campus slope or grabbed tow lines hooked up to an Army jeep that motored slowly around a snow-covered pasture.

While running the GMC ski school on weekdays during the 1950s, Jenkins and Stan Whitney operated the new High Pond Ski Area on weekends. He also taught at other areas, including Pico and Okemo. He continued to teach adaptive students at Pico into his 80s.

An inventor, Jenkins developed a unique cable tow, which was used at the college, Burrington Hill (Whitingham, Vermont) and Temple Mountain (New Hampshire). A combination of a handle tow and Platterpull, it ran just a few feet off the ground and consisted of a disc-type seat that extended away from the cable, enabling skiers to have an easier ride up the mountain. He would later improve on it to develop the Stabil Disc Lift (non-detachable), which utilized flexible tubing to allow for a more comfortable ride up the mountain. It was installed at nearby Birdseye Mountain Ski Area and at the Underhill Ski Bowl in northern Vermont. Jenkins also helped to develop Birdseye, and later managed the Roundtop Ski Area in Plymouth, Vermont.

He is survived by his wife Nancy (a 1948 Green Mountain College graduate), daughters Deborah and Betsey (Jeffrey), and two grandchildren, Jessica and Lindsey. He was predeceased by his son Christopher. —Jeremy Davis and Karen D. Lorentz

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