The story of the Manville/Asbestos Ski Club has two parts. The original ski club, under the name of the Manville Ski Club, and then the Asbestos Ski Club. A few years before the formation of the Manville Ski Club, local skiers were using was the slopes of a local cemetery in town.
The ski club was founded in the fall of 1945, and its operation was under the Club de Ski Manville, the name taken from the company that operated the asbestos mine, Johns-Manville. For the ones who skied in Asbestos before the formation of the club, they understood the importance of having a club house to keep warm. Money was scarce, and the club was offered a $1000 loan to build one from a local businessman. Plans were drawn up, and a club house of 24’ x 30’ in size was constructed.
By that time, they had about 150 members of all ages. Popularity of the club was catching on with people from the region. Soon after the Bois-Francs ski zone was established, and the club entered their membership. By 1947 the club house was moved on to St. Georges Road to make it more easily accessible by automobile, and by the 1948-49 ski season, a tow was installed along with a jump at the site.
However, by 1952 times were getting tough for the club as expenses were climbing. The number of members were falling off, and by the fall of 1953 there was discussion on whether to continue operating the club or not. The decision was to put the club house, and its assets up for sale. Due to difficult conditions of a couple of years, winter arriving later than usual, and the recruitment of members not going as well as it should, it was practically impossible to operate without increasing its debt. The Club was sold to a couple of local brothers for the sum of $1020. They kept the name of the group in hopes that they would reorganize in the future. There was no reformation of the Manville Ski Club, and Asbestos went without any ski club from 1954 to 1960.
In 1960, the Asbestos Ski Club was started with a new location just outside of the town of Asbestos near Nicolet Falls. Three trails, and a new chalet were under construction. Two of the trails were lit to offer night skiing. A rope tow was installed to serve the three trails. One could purchase a membership with card, or purchase daily tickets. The club opened its area December 24, 1960. Memberships for a family was set at $25 for the season. Single memberships were available for gentlemen at $15 and for ladies, $10. Children’s memberships ranged from $3 to $5. Daily tickets were available for adults at $1.50, and 75 cents for children.
The club ran until 1980 when the membership was dwindling, and the decision was made to fold the club. Another club, the Club de Ski Appalaches was formed, however this club did not take over the former Asbestos Club’s site, and Club de Ski Appalaches skied at different mountains during their season. The former site of the Asbestos Ski Club is totally lost. Since its closure in 1980, the site has been buried under mounds of tailings from the asbestos mine. It is on private property and access is not recommended. This is the perfect example of a lost ski hill. Lost but not forgotten.
Sources: The late John Millen (1931-2019) with site visits, and interview Ed Day email information, and Le Citoyen Newspaper (Asbestos, QC). Photos: Paul Giddings, and Le Citoyen Newspaper.