April 21, 2018

Places I’ve Played

Cambridge ski tow (1935-1938)

By Bill Skiff


Cambridge’s first rope tow, built by Wesley Pope and located on the Skiff’s family farm (circa 1937). (Photo courtesy of Bill Skiff)

Wesley Pope was Cambridge’s go-to guy, a jack-of-all-trades and a master of all. He was the town’s undertaker, baker, tin roofer and lumber mill operator, just to name a few. Besides that, he was a wonderful man and everyone’s friend.

In 1935, Wesley built the area’s first rope tow. The lift was located on my dad’s farm along Vermont 15 between the villages of Cambridge and Jeffersonville. Wooden poles were placed into the ground at even intervals. At the top of each pole, Wesley hung a rim from a car wheel. One continuous rope ran over the rims and around a drive wheel, attached to a 1927 Cadillac motor. Skiers grabbed the rope and hung on for dear life as it pulled them up the hill. It was a mechanical success but Wesley made one mistake: The tow was located on a slope that faced south. Between the wind blowing and the sun shining, snow never had a chance.

According to “Cambridge, Vermont: Special Places, Special People” by Roberta Marsh, Wesley “sold the tow (after three years) to Craig Burt, head of the Mountain Company in Stowe Vermont. The tow was set up by the toll road and became the first tow installed in the booming state ski area.”

Dad taught me to ski on that hill.  His skis were made of hickory. The binding was a leather strap that ran through the middle of the ski and over the top. On the day of my first lesson, Dad placed his toe in the loop and headed down. At the bottom of the hill, he bent his knees and, by placing one ski behind the other, executed a wonderful left-hand telemark turn. He climbed back up the hill, handed me the skis and said, “That’s how you do it.” I never saw Dad ski again.

My first ski bindings were rubber rings from two Ball canning jars, the round rubber pieces that go between the jar and the top to seal in the contents. I put the jar rubbers over my snow boots and pushed them up to my ankles. Then, I slid my toes into the leather loops. When my toes were securely in the loops, I slid each rubber down around my heels, and then stretched them over my toes and the leather loops. They helped keep the skis from coming off, but you needed to carry a pocket full of rings because they broke so easily under the stress.

Over the years, I have enjoyed advancements in ski technology. I went from wooden skis to metal skis, and now use today’s shaped skis. I refused to wear a helmet for a long time — until I found out how warm they are. Now, those earlobes I exposed to frost bite so many times are much happier. Besides, I have to set an example for the grandkids.

Most skiers have a role model. Mine is 70-year-old Ken, who decided a couple years ago to be a snowboard instructor. When he applied for a job at Smugglers Notch Ski School, the head of the school said, ‘’Man, I have been looking for you for 10 years.” Kids do a double take when he flies by them with his gray locks flowing out from under his helmet.

As skis continue to go uphill in technology, I find that I have to work harder to keep my physical abilities from going downhill. But it’s worth the effort. Just the other day, while riding up the mountain at Bolton Valley, the sun came out and began shining on trees covered with frozen snow. Diamonds sparkled everywhere and I thought, “How lucky can I get?”


Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at vtcowcal@yahoo.com.

PHOTOS: CVU boys hockey

Courtesy photos by David Yandell

The Champlain Valley Union boys hockey team topped Spaulding 3-0 on Feb. 11.

PHOTOS: CVU wrestling

Courtesy photos by Jennifer Olson

At the NVAC duals wrestling tournament in Vergennes on Feb. 11, Champlain Valley Union finished third among 13 teams. The Redhawks’ Connor Brown capturing four triumphs in his 152-pound class.



PHOTOS: Brick Church Music Series

Courtesy photos by Luke Baynes and David Yandell

The Tom Cleary Trio — with Cleary on piano, John Rivers on double bass and Jeff Salisbury on drums — performed its “Grooves of Great Cities” jazz program in Williston on Feb. 10 as part of the Brick Church Music Series. Opening for Cleary was Queen City Bossa, a bossa nova jazz band featuring lead vocals by Jessica Andreoletti — better known to Willistonians as a senior planner in the town’s planning and zoning department.


PHOTOS: CVU boys basketball

Observer photos by Shane Bufano (www.shanebufano.com)

The Champlain Valley Union boys basketball team lost to Mount Mansfield Union 53-47 on Feb. 13.

This Week’s Popcorn


Feb. 16, 2012

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer

A little Prometheus, a smidgen of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and a sociologically keen helping of teen angst mark “Chronicle,” Josh Trank’s auspicious entrée into the ranks of feature film directors. A script co-written with Max Landis, son of John Landis (“Trading Places,” 1983), doesn’t hurt, while also proving that the wit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Lest curmudgeonly detractors of the current movie scene doubt the baton of artistic cinema is being properly passed, this breakout flourish by the young filmmaker and his primarily ingénue cast attests otherwise. A blend of the tried and true, a good feeling for where goest the art and a variation on the found footage ploy imbues a refreshing vibe.

It’s the ultimate teen fantasy, to gain superpowers and rise high above any concerns of peer pressure. The phenomenon, which visits a trio of boys who just happen to stumble upon an eerie cave in the woods, becomes especially significant and steeped in allegorical premonition as it affects sad Andrew Detmer, beaten at home and bullied at school.

Andrew, emotively portrayed by Dane DeHaan, can’t even find solace in his own room. The cries from his hopelessly ill mother trying to catch her breath only underscore his powerlessness. Adding terror to injury, his drunken lout of a miserable father (Michael Kelly) invades his space to smack and rebuke him with the regularity of Old Faithful.

Well, at least he has one friend, cousin Matt (Alex Russell), his BMOC antithesis who tries to get the introvert to join the human race. And thus it comes to pass that, at a party, he sways Andrew to attend. The très popular Steve Montgomery, played by Michael B. Jordan, also shares in their life-changing discovery and a troika of camaraderie is formed.

Adding to the compendium of ways our superheroes have attained their extraordinary powers, this introduces a rather realistic touch. The realization of newfound facility, acumen and strength is done with about as much credibility as can be expected, as are the collective and individual reactions. “Whoa, careful now,” we say. But hey, they’re kids.

Matt, quickly aware of what potentially dangerous clout they possess, especially after Andrew deals quite injudiciously with a brazen road hog, is big on rules. Steve’s OK with that. But Andrew, perhaps because of all his pent up anxiety, rails against it a tad. In the meantime, it’s a whole lot of fun. Andrew at the school talent show is a genuine hoot.

P.S. — They learn they can fly, and because, again, they’re kids, they play football in the sky. No one’s thinking maybe they can cure cancer or at least figure out a way to get the more reactionary members of Congress to give a darn about the commonweal. So, for the time being, it’s stunts, magic tricks and just plain mirth. Alas, we know what must come.

The storytelling style is established at the outset, when the relentlessly put-upon Andrew buys a camera and announces he will henceforth film everything. We figure it’s a form of self-preservation. Yet, through it, Trank creates a faux-unsentimental rawness to convey his ultimately benevolent saga, astutely synthesizing several voguish modes of narration.

The cinematic witness to the persecution soon becomes the so-called objective, 21st century minstrel and chronicler of the desperate truth. By mixing the handheld footage with traditional picture gathering, and deciding when and when not to turn off Andrew’s emotionless spectator, director Trank realizes an engaging modus operandi for his fable.

Watching, in time quite breathlessly, we hope that this isn’t going to turn into a morality play — that the boys will, in the eleventh hour of their discovery and experimentation, slyly avoid the hubris just waiting in the wings to have its way. The drama is soon joined by an action component, and woven together with a mini-treatise on teen mores and folkways.

Alex Russell is smartly evocative as cool guy Matt Garetty, who, recognizing that popularity is overrated, and perhaps partly in atonement for past indiscretions, opts to play guardian angel to his cousin Andrew. Mr. Jordan is solid as Steve Montgomery, a very likeable chap who sees a career in politics as the logical culmination of his talents.

But the performance that wins a gold star is Dane DeHaan’s poster boy for the bullied masses (those poor kids just trying to have a normal life, if only society’s dysfunctional predators would let them). By dressing the searing injustice Andrew embodies in fantasy’s clothing, Mr. Trank’s “Chronicle” does a super job of imparting its humanistic message.


“Chronicle,” rated PG-13, is a Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation release directed by Josh Trank and stars Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael Jordan, and Ashley Hinshaw. Running time: 84 minutes 

CVU Sports Schedule

Feb. 16, 2012



Thursday: at Colchester, 7:15 p.m.

Monday: at Essex, 7:45 p.m.



Friday: at Burlington, 7:45 p.m.

Tuesday: at North Country, 6:45 p.m.



No meets scheduled



Saturday: ESSEX, 8:45 p.m.

Wednesday: at Rice Memorial, 7:30 p.m.



Friday: SOUTH BURLINGTON, 5:20 p.m.

Wednesday: HARTFORD, 5:15 p.m.



Thursday: Giant Slalom at Middlebury, 10 a.m.

Monday: NVAC District Meet at Stowe, 10 a.m.



Saturday: at St. Albans, 10:30 a.m.



No scheduled competition



Schedules subject to change

Sports Shorts

Feb. 16, 2012



CVU’s John Keen goes in for a layup during the ‘Hawks 53-47 boys basketball loss to Mount Mansfield Union on Monday. (Observer photo by Shane Bufano)

A quick end to its four-game losing steak will have to happen on the road for the Champlain Valley Union boys basketball team.

The 8-9 Redhawks head to Colchester Thursday night hoping to avenge a 56-48 defeat the Lakers hung on them at Bremner Gymnasium last month. The ‘Hawks then visit Monday.

Coach Scott Bliss’ combine was in Jericho Center Monday and gave 16-1 Mount Mansfield Union some Maalox moments before bowing 53-47 to the powerhouse that crunched the ‘Hawks 56-30 at Hinesburg in late-December.

The Redhawks were down by a mere two points at intermission and stayed close throughout the second half.

John Keen led the determined CVU squad with 14 points and Brad Bissonette added 11.

Veteran senior Tom Lacy paced the winners with 19 points. Eric Suder, the Cougars’ 6-7 center, contributed 11 points and 13 rebounds.

CVU was coming off last Thursday’s (Feb. 9) 54-49 loss at home to 5-10 St. Johnsbury Academy, which blew off the gym doors by grabbing a 27-10 lead by halftime.

The Redhawks got things together in the second half with a 26-15 run in the fourth period, perhaps their best eight minutes of the season.

With Scott Bisonnette coming off the bench to bury 14 fourth-quarter points, brother Brad adding eight, Joe Chevalier swishing six points and grabbing five rebounds, and guard Tucker Kohlasch passing off for three assists, the ‘Hawks twice got to within three points of the Hilltoppers before time expired.



Champlain Valley Union senior goaltender Jason O’Brien is about to make one of his 15 saves during the Redhawks’ 3-0 victory over Spaulding on Feb. 11. (Courtesy photo by David Yandell)

A resurging Champlain Valley Union boys hockey team took a three-game winning streak into Middlebury Wednesday (after Observer deadline) for an important piece of business before Saturday night’s home contest against mighty Essex (14-0-1 as of Feb. 13).

Middlebury edged the Redhawks 4-3 early in the season. This will be CVU’s lone regular season faceoff with the Hornets.

CVU is coming off a slick, 3-0 triumph over Spaulding Saturday (Feb. 11) at Cairns Arena. The win boosted the ‘Hawks season mark to 7-9.

“It was our first 45-minute game of the season,” said smiling Redhawks coach Mike Murray shortly after the final buzzer.

Senior goaltender Jason O’Brien made 15 saves in compiling his first shutout of the campaign. He has allowed just one puck past him in the last two contests.

Forward Chris Bulla popped home a pair of scores for the winners while freshman Hoyt McCuin nailed the other.

The game went scoreless until late in the second period when rushing CVU forward Jeremy Lerner cleverly back-passed to the following Bulla, who launched a hard 15-foot drive past Spaulding netminder Ben Ferland (17 stops).

McCuin scored with nine minutes and 31 seconds left in the final reel. Max Hopper sped into Spaulding territory and passed to McCuin, who deposited the puck past Ferland.

Bulla got the final tally with 3:47 remaining, taking control of a loose puck at his blue line, racing in on Ferland and launching into an upper corner of the net.

CVU defenders – led by co-captain Wilson Yarnell, Alex Bulla, Adam Kaminsky and others – kept Spaulding from any sustained offense in front of O’Brien.



State competition is next for all Champlain Valley Union wrestlers.

This Saturday, the jayvee guys grapple with their counterparts in the Vermont Junior Varsity Tournament at Spaulding High School in Barre.

St. Johnsbury Academy will host the annual varsity state tournament the following weekend.

In last weekend’s tune up NVAC duals tournament in Vergennes, coach Rahn Fleming’s wrestlers came in third among 13 teams: whipping Spaulding, Colchester and host Vergennes, and bowing to Mount Mansfield Union, the tournament’s runner-up. St. Johnsbury was the team victor.

CVU had entries in 11 of the 14 weight divisions with Connor Brown capturing four triumphs in his 152-pound class.



Last weekend’s Nordic Elite Qualifiers at Grafton Pond proved fruitful for the six Champlain Valley Union skiers who finished among the 20 Vermonters who made the field for the J2 Championships next month in Rumford, Maine.

CVU boys making the trip include Cooper Willsey, Parker Francis and Thomas Clayton. The Redhawks’ Kate Burke, Cally Braun and Autumn Eastman will represent the girls.



Wednesday, Feb. 8

Missisquoi Valley Union 8, CVU 4

Saturday, Feb. 11

Spaulding 8, CVU 0



Thursday, Feb. 9

CVU 136.9, U-32 98.45


—Mal Boright


CVU girls hoops rebound after first loss

14-1 ‘Hawks top St. J, three-game road trip next

Feb. 16, 2012

By Mal Boright

Observer correspondent


The Champlain Valley Union girls basketball bench reacts after a successful free throw narrows BFA-St. Albans’ lead to 31-28 with 18 seconds left on Feb. 10. The Redhawks lost 32-30, their first defeat of the season. (Courtesy photo by Josh Kaufmann)

After a confidence rebuilding 42-23 home victory over St. Johnsbury Academy (8-7) Tuesday night, coach Ute Otley and her 14-1 Champlain Valley Union girls basketball team take to the road for their next three contests. The swing begins Friday night at 4-11 Burlington. The ‘Hawks then travel to North Country in Newport next Tuesday.

Tuesday’s win was a significant bounce-back for the Redhawks, who came off their first loss of the season last Friday (Feb. 10) — a 32-30 ouch at BFA-St. Albans. CVU hit only 9 of 45 shots from the field, an icy 20 percent.

There was no ice on their shooting hands Tuesday as the Hawks found nothing but net on their first three tries against a decent Hilltopper team and rolled to a 24-8 lead by halftime. For the game, the Hawks nailed 18 of 30 flips from the field, an astounding 60 percent.

CVU’s lady-to-lady defense, with its occasional pressing and traps, produced 11 first-half turnovers and limited the Hilltoppers to just 13 shots.

Leading the way for the victors was the Mighty Minis, 5-1 senior Sofia Lozon and 5-0 (and a half) junior Alex Krupp.

“Sofia is taller than me,” Krupp said.

Lozon, with quick open looks, snapped home 5 of 6 shots (including a trey) for a game-high 12 points. Krupp slashed her way inside the St. J. defense, hitting 4 of 5 buckets for a season-high nine points.

“I was feeling it,” said Lozon, after the game.

Elana Bayer-Pacht with seven rebounds, three assists and five points was big for the ‘Hawks; so was Emily Kinneston with five rebounds, five assists and four points. Center Remi Donnelly had five points and three assists. All 12 CVU players got into the game with eight scoring.

Junior forward Isabelle Meinhart led St. Johnsbury with eight points and four rebounds.

In the loss to 10-5 BFA, Donnelly paced the Hawks with seven points.

The Junior Redhawks hiked their record to 13-2 Tuesday with a 31-20 triumph over the Little Hilltoppers.




CVU 42, St. Johnsbury 23 (Tuesday)


St. Johnsbury Academy (8-7)

Driscoll, 0 0-0 0; Meinhart, 3 1-2 8; J. Brown, 0 0-2 0; Bruckner, 3 0-0 6; Brigette, 2 0-0 5; Carbone, 2 0-0 4; Thomas, 0 0-0 0; A. Brown, 0 0-0 0; Roberts, 0 0-0 0.

Totals: 10 1-4 23


CVU (14-1)

Lozon, 5 1-2 12; Bayer-Pacht, 2 0-0 4; Donnelly, 2 1-2 5; Kohlasch, 0 0-0 0; Kinneston, 2 0-0 4; Limaneck, 1 1-2 3; Schenck, 1 0-0 3; Krupp, 4 1-2 9; Grasso, 0 0-0 0; Leach, 0 0-0 0; Beatty, 1 0-0 2; Whiteside, 0 0-0 0.

Totals: 18 4-8 42


St Johnsbury   3   5   6   9  – 23

CVU             10  14   9   9  – 42


Around Town

Feb. 16, 2012



The Williston Community Food Shelf will hold its annual meeting and election of officers on Thursday, Feb. 16, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., in the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library community room. The public is invited and encouraged to attend. Anyone wishing to run for a position as an officer or board member should attend. For more information, contact Johanna Masse at 355-3312 or johannamasse@comcast.net.



Pre-registration for fall kindergarten begins Friday, Feb. 17. If your child will be 5 years old by Sept. 1, 2012, visit the Williston School District’s website (wsdvt.org) or call 879-5806 to start the process. Kindergarten registration will be held April 4-6. Appointments can be scheduled via phone or online beginning March 12.



The deadline to register to vote for the Town Meeting and Presidential Preference Primary on March 6 is 5 p.m. on Feb. 29. Requests for additions to the checklist can be picked up at the Williston Town Clerk’s Office (7900 Williston Road) during regular office hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). You may also call 878-5121 for a mailed application.

A constitutional amendment was passed by a statewide vote in 2010 allowing 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the General Election in November to vote in the Presidential Preference Primary. In order to vote, you still must register by 5 p.m. on Feb 29 at the Town Clerk’s Office.

Absentee/early ballots are now available at the Town Clerk’s Office. For anyone wishing to cast his or her ballot prior to March 6, stop by the Town Clerk’s Office and vote in person or call 878-5121 to have a ballot mailed to you. All ballots must be received  by the close of the polls on March 6 in order to be counted.