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In early 1940’s, Gould Academy received land that was part of the Locke-Swan farm from the Swan family (probably Bion Swan?).  Ruel Swain who graduated from Gould in 1944 said that a lot of wheel barrow and shovel work was needed to turn the slope into a ski jump, landing  and giant slalom course for high school competition.   Incidentally, the terrain where it was located is still known locally as “the Alps”.  The “First Sunday River Ski Area” continued in use until the “Second” Sunday River ski area on the side of Barker Mountain was opened to Gould ski teams for practice and competition. Gould ski team members skied at the Sunday River/Swan’s Corner ski area for at least 15 years until the academy’s ski team found a new home with lifts at the Second Sunday River Ski Area.  Yet,  as late as the 1980’s recreational skiers used the jump slope and landing. 

Four Gould Academy graduates have contributed to this article:  Ruel Swain, 1944 and a member of the academy ski team; Donald Brooks, 1946; Lee Carver, 1949 and Roger Adams 1952) also a Gould ski team member from 1950-1952.  I have added things that I remember about this area from the my perspective as a childhood summer vacationer in Sunday River and also as a Gould student and ski meet spectator.



Ski jump competition at Gould Academy’s ski alpine and jump property in Sunday River, circa 1950.

Rectangular Callout: Ski jump and landing site
Rectangular Callout: Slalom and downhill racing.
Rectangular Callout: Riverbend Condos
Rectangular Callout: Sunday River
Rectangular Callout: Swan Farm

Above: Google Earth image of the former Gould Academy alpine ski trails and ski jump area at Swan’s Corner.

November 2008 view of the former landing area of  Gould’s ski jump facility.  Owners of Locke Summit Estates purchased the former Gould property in 2006 for inclusion in subdivision plan.

Swans Corner ski jumping—in the early 1950’s

When Gould first moved its competition, training and recreational skiing to Swan’s Corner, there was an old, large, two and one-half story house next to the ski jump landing. At the time the Lester Inman family lived there.  Much earlier, this house may have been the homestead of James Locke (1803-1862), son of the original settler, Samuel Locke. James had inherited the north half of the Locke Farm.  His house is shown there on the 1858 map of Bethel.  During the heyday of the Locke Mountain House as a summer boarding farm, this house was the home of a Horatio R. Godwin (1835-1900) who also took summer boarders along with farming.

Skiing over the downhill/giant slalom at Swan’s Corner course could be quite tricky. A skier coming down the upper stage of the run would have built up a very good speed. As he approached the lower area, there was a sharp right turn. This was where the trail led to  a slalom course gates on the way to the finish  line.  But if a skier missed that ninety degree  turn, and quite a few did, the skier would suddenly be airborne and faced with landing in the tops of a small grove of fire trees.  When that happened it would raise a hoot and a holler from the race watchers lining the trail.

 As a ski area, it had advantages over the academy’s earlier ski trails and jump.—the most important factors were length and angle of the slope’s fall-line.  It was easily reached by cars and buses, had good spectator parking along the road and only three miles from the academy campus.  But, skiers or other volunteers had to “groom” the trails by side-step packing them plus the take-off and landing of the jump.  At first, there was no tow or lift.  Skiers had to hike to the starting point.  But as Roger Adams pointed out, later a rope tow lift gave new life to jumping.

One source credits Wilbur Myers with organizing the first team skiing at Gould Academy in 1939.  However, the ski coach most contributors remember was Howard Chivers.  Chivers left Gould for a while for military service but returned to coach through the middle and later 1940’s. 

Before the Swan ski property was available, Gould had established a ski area for downhill/slalom/giant slalom and jumping at the “Anderson hill” located on the side of Robertson Hill just behind what is now (2009) the property of Bethel Auto Sales on Route 2 not far from the Swain Farm.  Gould’s cross country ski trails started behind the girls’ dormitory (Marion True Gehring House) and followed a course up into Grover Hill.  Cross country skiing for the academy still uses basically the same course today.

In talking about his experience on the Gould ski team, Ruel Swain said that the Anderson ski jump was about a sixty foot length jump whereas the Swan’s Corner ski jump was probably 80 to 100 feet.

Lee Carver writes, “It seems to me that it must have been later than ‘ 45 because I only remember skiing there one or two seasons and my last season there would have been spring of '49.  I was not on the Gould ski team but did some packing of the runs (a bunch of people side-stepping up the hill to ‘groom’ the run, so to speak), and monitoring flags during slalom meets.  I watched the jumping, but never jumped there.  Usually the Gould bus would take a bunch out there, or we'd line up someone with a car.  It was a great hill for getting in shape because you had to climb up in order to come down.  It was great for you leg muscles once you got into it.  I thought it was a better fall-line than Mt Vernon, but it lacked a tow.  Mt Vernon was a lot of fun but had less pitch. “

Roger Adams who was on the ski team in the 1950-1952 periods tells this story about the jump’s ski tow:

“The Gould Academy ski jump, to my knowledge and recollection was the only ski jump to have its own rope tow.  The rope tow was built around 1950 when I was a member of the Gould jumping team.  It paralleled the jump's landing hill which made the lift line extremely steep.  It was powered by a brand new Ford V-8 engine. When the engine ran at a slow speed it was very difficult to hang onto the rope as it would pull on your arms severely.  The alternative was to run it at a fast speed or about 25 to 30 mph.  At that speed you would get a nice fast ride up the hill!  Frequently, when you reached the top you release the rope and become airborne!  One of the problems with the high speed was getting on because the rope was zipping so fast it would burn your mittens.  It became very necessary to wear leather mitts or gloves and even then they would wear out from the rope zipping through your hands.

The ski jump rope tow was a great concept as we could get in many jumps which would ultimately improve our skills.  This also gave us a competitive advantage over other school's jumping teams. During the early fifties Gould's competing jumping teams were  Edward Little from Auburn, Maine, Stephens High from Rumford, Berlin High, N.H., Lebanon High, N.H, and Hanover High, Hanover, N.H.

 Paul Kailey was the Gould ski coach when I was on the team in 1950-51-52.  The jumping team in 51-52 consisted of Les Streeter, Ray Chase, Jerry Emery, Norm Ferguson, Roger Adams, Herb Adams, Gerry Fortin, Melvin Olson and Bucky Burnham. The Gould ski jumping squad benefitted greatly from the use of the Gould ski jump rope tow.”

Lee Carver also wrote about a practice jump on the west side of the Gould athletic field:  “They built a jump on the west side of the athletic field, with a small tower -- maybe 6 or 8 feet.  I would guess that it was about a 10 meter hill.  Don Lord and I were out there jumping one late afternoon, and Coach Chivers was giving us pointers”.  

Steve Wight added this about recreational skiing at the Gould slopes and jump:

In the 1990’s while William Clough III was  Gould’s headmaster, John Wight and Clough together convinced the Gould trustees to install lights at the Swan’s Corner jump for night events.  After Clough left the school, jumping continued for a while but then competitive jumping was dropped from ski team events.

Text Box: A Brief History of Sunday River
The “First” Sunday River Ski Area
February 13, 2009