More than 50 inches of snow have fallen in Philadelphia this season, causing tons of headaches including power outages, car crashes and other travel woes. But at least 140 people are smiling every time the flurries fall.
"We are the Park City of Conshohocken," said 42-year-old Jeff Branagh, who is on the Wissahickon Ski Club's board of directors. "It has been an incredible season for the club.”
The Wissahickon Ski Club was founded in 1945 by several residents of Delaware County and the city's Logan, Mount Airy, Germantown and Chestnut Hill neighborhoods.
The local organization began as a group of ski enthusiasts who headed to the Poconos, New York and Vermont to enjoy the winter sport.
But after a few years of traveling elsewhere to get their ski fix, the club found some slopes closer to home.
In the 1950s, the group – comprised of about 70 members at the time – acquired approximately 10 acres of farmland in Conshohocken. They cleared brush and stumps from the hilly terrain at 265 Barren Hill Road and added a makeshift lift that used a motor from a model-T Ford.
"A lot of the club now," Branagh said, "is made up of sons and daughters and grandchildren of founding members."
About 140 members – both individual and family plans -- constitute the current group.
Today a T-bar lift hauls skiers to the top of the hill, which reaches an elevation of 540-feet at its highest point.
While some might scoff at the hill’s size, Branagh says there is no place like it.
“No lift lines, no lift tickets, and I know everybody there,” he said. As a private club, members get a chance to do many more runs than they would at a resort.
At the base of the hill, members enjoy a chalet, which has with a custom-built indoor fireplace and an outdoor fireplace on its deck.
They have some minor snow-making capabilities, but, with storms dropping several inches regularly this season, everyone is enjoying the natural snow, Branagh said.
In the off-season or during a particularly warm winter, members use the facilities for movie nights, charity events and other social engagements, he added.
Guests are welcome, but they are not permitted to use the hill or the lift, Branagh said.
Anyone interested in joining the club must be sponsored by a current member in good standing and meet several other requirements, including attending a minimum of five monthly meetings, helping maintain the grounds during at least one work day and participating in at least one club sponsored trip.
Branagh says interest in the Ski Club has increased dramatically in recent years. When he became recording secretary five years ago, no more than two people requested using their facilities each season, he said.
But this year, Branagh says, he receives nearly five emails a day asking for details on how to join the club.
“It is our slice of heaven in Conshohocken,” he said.