Ski Venture started in 1937. In the mid thirties, a whole bunch of Eastern European engineers and craftspeople came into the area with General Electric and started to rebuild the alpine culture.
“My dad's name was Donald Wayne Brightman. He was a GE engineer. My dad bought the motor here at the service center. My mother's name was Carolyn Anita Lewis Brightman. My mom at the age of 17 was invited to come here with a friend of hers. She joined as the first female member in a time when it really wasn't what you did. I was born in 1958, and started skiing here since ‘62. I was four. I just thrived in this place. I'd get my gear out and I'd get it out to the car and I'd throw it in the trunk and we all get all ready, and Dad would still be saying, 'Well, I gotta wax my skis.'” — Fletch Brightman
Ski Venture been continuously operating ever since and has never had an employee. Located in West Glenville, Ski Venture has a full nine and a half acres, 110 vertical feet. There's about six trails and a hundred ways down.
Who Runs Ski Venture?
Ski Venture ski area is owned by its members. It always has been. At $100-$150 for the family for the season, it’s a bargain. If you join for any particular year, you're an owner of a ski area; there's a real sense of responsibility that is absolutely required.
We train people to turn the lights and lifts on whenever they want, and they can stay as long as they want and no one will tell them when they have to leave. It sounds too good to be true. It doesn't matter when it's snowing. People have been here at midnight, or even at four in the morning.
It's really nice to see a large group of people all come together for a common goal and share something that they really appreciate. It's run by the time that the members donate and the work that they put in.
Each year, there are multiple work parties throughout to help maintain the trails. This includes maintenance like mowing, clearing brush, splitting wood, servicing lifts, placing ropes, putting in lights, and fixing things that are broken.
It’s Open 24/7… But How Is the Snow?
Ski Venture is located on a ridge high above the Mohawk Valley. It's a north facing aspect, which keeps it out of the sun and keeps your snowpack high.
If there is snow anywhere in Schenectady County, if there are even snowbanks anywhere in Schenectady County, there is probably snow on this hill. We've had hard-pack, heinous ice, loose granular, deep powder, boilerplate ice, Eastern heart attack powder, fresh powder, spring corn, breakable crust, and really nice pack powder.
At Ski Venture, you're making laps on a 20 mile per hour rope tow, and it gets to the top in 42 seconds. If you grab that rope tow, you better be waxed up. If you grab it hard and you're not waxed up, you might get pulled right out of your boots.
Words from Ski Venture Members
Take Me to Ski Venture is told through interviews with Ski Venture’s members, capturing the diverse community that calls the hill home. From welders to plow drivers, from engineers to kids clearing brush, many hands have left their mark on Ski Venture, which runs on the time that members give and the work that they put in. Lots of people with diverse talents all come together to leave the world better than they found it in some small way through Ski Venture.
“To me, it's freedom and it's the love of the sport. It's the feel of the turn. The shape of the hill is so embedded into my mind that I don't have to see where I'm going. It's dancing. You get to do the same, same turn each time. You get to blow it, you get to get better at it. You get really good at it and then you figure out more stuff about that. Turn right there on that piece of geometry. I’ve been skiing now for 60 years. 60. That's hard for a 29 year old to say.” — Fletch Brightman
“One of my earliest memories of Ski Venture [was] getting dragged in a sled by my parents just sitting in all my snow gear, watching everybody ski. And then when I got old enough to stand on skis and start going up the little hill, it was awesome to not just be sitting there and watching everyone else have fun.” — Annie Bednarek
“Our house is a mile away from the road up from Ski Venture and we would go up there after school under the lights and we would just be kind of starting out on the little tow rope. We would just do endless laps. If we did a certain amount of turns, we would get that many Skittles. So we’d want to do more turns because we would get more Skittles.” — John Bednarek
“People who really love skiing and snowboarding don't necessarily need a fancy bar and a hotel and a hot tub next to the snowboarding or the skiing. They just wanna ski well, and we happen to have a warm place as well. I think that's what people show up for. They show up for the skiing.” — Bill Paley
“We were very adamant, whatever we need to do to help keep this place going, we will do.” — Bill Paley
Once a Ski Venturer, Always a Ski Venturer
Donald Brightman was a Ski Venture president from 1960 to 1975. His son, Fletch has been an institution here. He was the president for many years when there wasn't anybody helping us.
Fletch was mountain biking with Frank, and they talked about the end of his father's life when it was near. They visited him in the nursing home after he hadn't communicated for a couple of days, telling him stories about Ski Venture.
Donald abruptly tapped Fletch on his, on his leg and said, “Take me to Ski Venture.” The only thing they heard him say. He died that night and those were his last words. He died with thoughts of gratitude from the Ski Venture community in his head. Who doesn't wanna go out doing the thing they love?
Ski Venture is a community of people bound around a common purpose. This place teaches people about the value of a good solid day's work. It shows that if you want the world a certain way, you can find people with that same common purpose, get involved and put energy into making it.
And that's just the magic of what's going on here. Otherwise, there's nothing here. Without the people, there is no Ski Venture, it’s just a hill.
“I've seen the lives changed in places like this. You know, it's changed my life, I'll tell you that. Yeah. I love it.” — Fletch Brightman
Based in Upstate New York, Wildline is a media production company exploring the world through film, photography, writing, and other creative mediums. We feel most alive when we are outdoors and seek to find and tell the many stories that are found there. We believe storytelling can bring people together and serve as a catalyst for change and this belief drives the work we do. Samples of our work can be found at wearewildline.com.