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Laboratory Support Staff The work of the dedicated laboratory staff has been essential to enable the institution's success and to provide support to the scientific researchers. Please share recollections about your life and work as part of the staff at CSHL.

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Old 11-29-2004, 12:10 PM
Jan Eisenman Jan Eisenman is offline
Location: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 0
Default Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory's Ski Slope and Rope Tow

In the late Sixties there was often plenty of snowfall in the winters, and we did some cross-country skiing around the Lab. Jim Eisenman decided we should get into something more like down-hill skiing. For starters we found a slope behind the Marx building that went down into the parking lot near the pond. It was a logical first choice as there were only two or three trees on it, and no bushes or general undergrowth to be removed. But it was short and very steep, and even those few trees often seemed to get in our way. Jim named the slope Death Wall.

A couple of years later Jim, and John Cairns (then Director of the Lab, and with his family, our ski buddies) were eyeing the much longer slope uphill and behind where Beckman and Dolan now stand. It was covered with low bushes and vines, but the two families got out there on weekends and cleared a fairly wide run down the slope.

There were a couple of trees which weren't really in the way, but one very big old one definitely was. John had a friend visiting from Australia, who was an experienced woodsman. The guys somehow managed to cut down this tree and Ray Margules, the friend, knew how to get rid of the enormous stump. You dig around and underneath the stump and start a fire with wood chips and charcoal. This small fire burns for many days to do its job. It also burns many nights and from across the harbor as one drove along 25A. you could see this eerie red glow, flickering a bit, half way up this otherwise cleared slope. It took well over a week of keeping that fire stoked, to finally do away with the stump. A lot of people were somewhat baffled, if not worried, over what this somewhat surreal glow was all about. It never got bigger
but didn't go away either, for quite a long time.

The next step was for Jim, the engineer, to figure out how to construct a rope tow.
We donated our ancient Plymouth station wagon and put it at the top of the slope. Jim and John then fastened 4 or 5 car wheels (without their tires) on a line of trees along the left edge of the slope. Sam Parkinson, our sailing friend, got us the rope and knew how to splice its ends together. The rope was installed on the series of car wheels, including the right rear wheel of the old Plymouth.

All set to go. Jim put the Plymouth in low gear (stick shift stuff) and up we went. Perfect. Well, almost. Occasionally the car engine would slip into second gear and the person on the rope was suddenly speeding up the slope at a breakneck rate.

So Jim invented a wire system next to the rope just below the car, and as the skier got to that point on his way up the slope, he'd brush against the wire and this would either put the car back into low gear or turn the engine off. (some engineer will have to straighten me out on that one).

We skied there a lot in those snowy years, even once or twice at night when there was a full moon.

In the foreground of this photo is Hugh Cairns. On the extreme right one can see the ski lift in action. Behind the skiers is the old Page Motel and in the distance is Cold Spring Harbor, frozen over.

This photo, from left to right, features Sam Parkinson, Jim Eisenman and his daughter Nancy Eisenman.
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Last edited by Angela Cornwell : 02-28-2014 at 11:05 AM.
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