I suppose, just suppose, that Speculator's Oak Mountain was once the site of giant oak trees. Strong, sturdy oak trees make great hand-hewn beams for building homes and barns. Those who settled in Speculator probably made good use of the oak trees that grew on the mountain.
Today, good use is being made of Speculator's Oak Mountain; it has become the site of a year-round recreational center, bringing joy to Adirondack residents and visitors, alike.
Oak Mountain has a well-established history as one of New York's premier small ski centers. In 1958, when I was serving as the Speculator correspondent for The Leader-Herald, I wrote an article on the "modernization" of the Oak Mountain Ski Center. At that time, it was owned by the town of Lake Pleasant, was operated by Novosel Enterprises, and managed by Gerald Buyce.
Winter sports had been formalized in the early 1900s in Speculator with the organizing of the Winter Sports Club. Burt Richmond was president with John Buyce, Stanley Schoonmaker, Bill Wilber, Henry Gallup and Robert Osbourne were on the committee. Around 1927, the town toboggan slide with its 7-second ride was in full use along with the town skating rink. For skiing, they established the Page Street Ski Lift with a Model-A Ford serving as the first tow. In 1934, a new lift was purchased, which in 1947, was moved to the new Oak Mountain Center.
The 1750-foot elevation and geographic location gave Speculator the slogan, "The Snow Bowl of the East." In the 1950s, with the passage of a bond issue and trail widening, extensive rock removal took place at the ski center. Improved drainage was developed and the parking lot was expanded. A fireplace and toilets were added to the warming hut. Extra T-bars increased capacity by 25 percent. The T-bar and one of the two rope tows became electrically operated. Every effort was made to make the Oak Mountain Ski Center a "modern skier's delight!"
The Oak Mountain Ski Center has had its "ups and downs" (no pun intended) over the years. In the last four years, it has come full circle, now back to public ownership of the center. The village of Speculator and the Friends of Oak Mountain are working together to keep Oak Mountain operating year-round. They recently received a $40,000 sustainable slopes grant from the National Ski Areas Association for a new snow-making system. Now owned by the Industrial Development Agency, the center is for sale with some restrictions on use.
Oak Mountain Ski Center, now Recreational Center, has once again "modernized." Converting to year-round use, a new zipline has been installed that is in use for the public from Friday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Chairlift rides to the top operate at the same time during the summer season with a picnic area and four-wheeler park at the top. The cafeteria and bar are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Special events are rounding out the regular offerings.
Oak Mountain has benefitted from wide-spread community support over the years. Fund-raisers and other events are continuing to this day to assure that Speculator's Oak Mountain will always be "put to good use!"