“Tyrol wasn’t the biggest, but it had the greatest spirit. It seems everyone worked here at some point. It’s a place that had many events and races, where the original Red Parka Challenge Cup started in 1973 when it was known as the Tuborg Classic.”- Jim Progin, the current owner of Tyrol.
If you’ve got more than five million dollars to spend, and also have elite bushwhacking skills, we may have found the lost ski area for you. The Conway Daily Sun spoke with the current owners of the former Tyrol Ski Area: Jim Progin and Judy Holmes. They are selling their 207-acre property for a price point between $5-$10 million. While the former trails have mostly been reclaimed by nature, there are still some hiking trails on the mountain and three buildings. There is the old base lodge that was gutted and renovated into a stunning 4000-square-foot Swiss chalet-themed home, a guest house that used to be the ski school, and the ski area’s old maintenance building. The zoning regulations that blocked it from becoming a commercial ski area again have gone away, so rebuilding a skiing operation is possible.
A few factors influenced the current owner’s decision. They are moving to Hanover, New Hampshire, which is home to Dartmouth College. Progin and Holmes are alumni of the Ivy League college, and many of their friends from their time there now live in the quaint town. Frequent trespassers may have also influenced their decision. A 2020 article from the Conway Daily Sun had the property owners plead for people to stop trespassing onto their private property. Unauthorized visitors committed “vandalism, unauthorized campfires, misuse of the trails and littering.”
The history of the ski area was short yet eventful. The ski area sat above Thorn Mountain, which was another former ski area that operated from 1947 to 1957. The first year of operation of Tyrol was in early 1965, as they opened with a Mueller T-Bar. For the 1965-66 season, a Poma lift was added in close proximity to the t-bar. A double chairlift was added for the 1968-69 season, which expanded its vertical drop to 1000 feet. A gondola to the town of Jackson was once considered, but it sadly never happened. There were multiple unique aspects to their lift ticket operations: they offered free midweek tickets to Vietnam Veterans, experimented with hourly skiing rates, and had an interchangeable day ticket package with other Mount Washington Valley ski resorts (Attitash, Black Mt., Cranmore, and Wildcat) that was named The Big One. In the 1970s, the financial troubles began to mount for the ski area, and its last season of operations was 1980-81. Some of the reasons it closed included minimal snowmaking, significant local competition, and a difficult-to-drive-on access road.
The story of how Judy and Jim got the property is pretty hilarious. After the mountain closed in 1981, it eventually got sold to Walter Preble III. Walter had no interest in reopening the ski area and used the land to hide his drug empire. He bragged to associates and locals that he bought the land to leverage his cannabis dealings. In 1988, Barlett police chief Robert Snow completed his two-year investigation of the property and arrested Walter Preble III for importing 12.5 tons of marijuana from Jamaica, Colombia, and South Carolina. Retired real estate developer James Progin bought it from an auction in 1988 and announced that he had no intention of reopening the ski area. For a more detailed history of Tyrol, check out NELSAP and New England Ski History.
There are various options if a skier were to buy the site. You could try to reopen it as a ski area with lifts like how it used to be, but this would cost millions upon millions of dollars. Another concern would be the enormous competition among ski resorts around the Mount Washington Valley. A backcountry ski area is a more reasonable option, as the only thing you would need to do is clear the trails. Another option is making a network of hiking trails. An example of a former ski area that successfully did this was Mt. Agamenticus in York, Maine. Or you could keep the property as is, but the issue is that trespassers would likely remain an issue.