By Dave Mongillo
(March 2015) And then there was only one. Until the mid- 80’s there were five ski areas in Rhode Island and now Yawgoo Valley is the last of the breed. In a State not known for its mountain peaks, Ocean State ski hills prospered – for a while – due to their proximity to a large skiing population. The four that are gone: Diamond Hill, Neutaconkanut, Pine Top and Ski Valley are discernable today only by the scars left on some hill sides.
Yawgoo opened in 62/63 with one rope tow. “It was so successful that the guys who originally opened Yawgoo decided that a chairlift was in order”, says Pati deWardener, general manager and owner, along with her husband, Max, of the ski area. This season Yawgoo had over 80 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. That’s probably more than any other small ski hill in New England.
When the previous owners decided to sell the area, the deWardaners made an offer and purchased Yawgoo in 1980. When asked why they made the offer thirty-five years ago, Pati deWardener said, “I will never forget Max telling me that he wanted to keep skiing alive in Rhode Island.”
On their 250 feet hill Yawgoo has 12 trails, two double chairs and two rope tows. They can haul about 3000 skiers an hour up hill. When asked about this year’s weather, deWardener said, “There is never a problem with too much snow at a ski area. Thanks to our snowmaking, we had a good base when the first blizzard arrived, the natural snow stayed put because it was insulated and our groomers did a great job moving the white stuff around. We had great ski conditions all season long.
“When we had to plow the parking lot it was a challenge to find a place to put the snow, but on the mountain – the more, the better”, said deWardener. “There were however, the situations of the Governor or the State Police closing the roads on a few occasions. Skiers and boarders with AWD or 4WD were up in arms because they were geared up and ready to ski.”
When Yawgoo Valley, which is about 25 miles from New London, Connecticut and less from the center of Providence, Rhode Island closed for the season on March 23rd, they still had a 30 to 40 inch base. “We are losing a lot of our staff who are going on to Spring- break or Summer jobs – lots of fishermen and landscapers work here in the winter – but after some repairs and maintenance work,” says deWardener, “we’ll be back for another winter, hoping for more big storms. Thanks to Max’s dream, Skiing is alive and well in the Ocean State.”
For more information: www.yawgoo.com