The Enchanting History of Beamish Hill: Chelsea's Forgotten Ski Haven

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by The Local
July 2, 2024
The Enchanting History of Beamish Hill: Chelsea's Forgotten Ski Haven
Photo credits:
Canadian Ski Museum, Ottawa, ON, photo 2003.14.03.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Beamish Hill in West Hull, now Chelsea, Quebec, was a beloved ski destination. Among the many ski hills accessible from Ottawa by public transport, Beamish Hill stood out. The Hull Bus Line, owned by the Bisson family, provided convenient bus services from Ottawa to Beamish Hill and other ski areas, making it a popular choice for weekend skiing.

A Ski Hill with a Unique Charm

Beamish Hill's location was ideal for skiers, situated right at the base of Lariault's Hill. Upon arrival, skiers were greeted by a large open area, a cozy chalet, and two runs. The lower hill featured a rope tow, while the steeper Lariault's Hill offered a more challenging descent. Despite the occasional malfunction of the ski tow, the skiers, especially the children, relished the uphill trek, enjoying the camaraderie and the opportunity to impress their peers.

The Glow of Night Skiing

Beamish Hill was the first ski hill in the Ottawa-Hull region to offer night skiing, thanks to a few 200-watt light bulbs strung along the slope. This innovation created a magical atmosphere, drawing skiers from nearby Camp Fortune and beyond. The hill also hosted various races and competitions, including the prestigious Alexander Cup, a combined Alpine downhill and slalom race. The event attracted skiers of all ages, and notable figures like Viscount Alexander of Tunis, the Governor-General, graced the slopes.

The Legacy of Robert Lyle Beamish

Robert Lyle Beamish, the namesake of Beamish Hill, began acquiring land for the ski hill in 1938. His family, known for their small clothing stores in Ottawa and Aylmer, expanded their holdings to include several tracts in the Township of West Hull. Beamish Hill operated successfully until the 1960s, managed by dedicated individuals like the Scobie family and later Bill and Margaret Richards. Margaret also ran a family group home, adding a touch of community spirit to the hill.

The Decline and Rediscovery

By the early 1960s, newer and more modern ski facilities like Camp Fortune and Vorlage Ski Hill emerged, offering better amenities and drawing skiers away from Beamish Hill. As a result, Beamish Hill closed down around 1965. Despite its closure, the memories of Beamish Hill remained vivid for those who skied there. A visit to the area in 2007 revealed subtle remnants of the ski hill, evoking nostalgia for the winter days spent on its slopes.

Beamish Hill and Beyond
Note Beamish Hill, at left of map.

Beamish Hill may no longer be an active ski hill, but its legacy endures in the hearts of those who experienced its charm. The story of Beamish Hill is a testament to the vibrant ski culture of the mid-20th century and the community spirit that defined it. As we look back, we celebrate the history of this forgotten ski haven and the joy it brought to countless skiers.

Fun Fact: The First Night Skiing Experience in the Ottawa-Hull Region

Did you know that Beamish Hill was the very first ski hill in the Ottawa-Hull region to offer night skiing? Back in the 1940s and 1950s, the hill was illuminated by just a few 200-watt light bulbs strung along the slope. This simple yet innovative setup created a magical atmosphere that drew skiers from all around, eager to experience the thrill of skiing under the stars. This pioneering effort made Beamish Hill a beloved winter destination and a fond memory for many ski enthusiasts of that era.

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