The Ski Wing Murders

I learned about the Ski Wing Murders in a roundabout way. This summer we’ve been working on the NYSkiBlog Guide, our directory of all kinds of historical data. One goal is to make progress on our Western NY Ski Areas section during this offseason.

In the process, we’ve come across information about some great looking NY ski areas that are now gone. Places with Holiday Valley vertical and more than 100 inches of snow in an average year. This peaked our curiosity.

This story is about a NY ski area that was best known as Ski Wing, even though the area had three different names from 1958 to 1993. The story is both tragic and incredible.

Grosstal Ski Area

The now defunct ski area in Allegany, N.Y. began as the Grosstal Ski Area.  Grosstal is German for “big valley” —  an 813-foot vertical drop with a challenging headwall, an enticing trail map, one chairlift, two T-bars, a rope tow, night skiing and snowmaking. The complete package in Western NY.

The ski area operated as Grosstal from 1958 to 1968. The owners claimed the mountain was “designed to rival the famed ski centers of the Alps.” Grosstal took on Holiday Valley promoting their vertical by comparing it to Holiday’s 750-foot number.

Grosstal trail map
Grosstal trail map courtesy

Mathias Hefti, a ski racer, played a big role in developing the Grosstal Ski School. Before coming to the US, he was a professional skier with the Swiss team.  He immigrated to the US in 1962, coming to help coach the US Olympic team and to teach skiing at Magic Mountain. In 1963 he was offered the opportunity to head the new Grosstal Ski School in Allegany NY. With experienced skiers from Europe in charge, the ski school was highly regarded.

The resort was one of the first to make snow. In those days Grosstal would coordinate snowmaking schedules with local industries to avoid damaging the regional power grid.

In 1968, there was a tragic accident, when many were hurt and a young boy died as a result of a chairlift slipping backward. The ski area was closed and then sold to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stein.

Ski Wing

The Wing Ski Club, was a separate private ski club with its own building, located adjacent to Grosstal.  The popular social venue was known for it’s youth ski racing team, the Wing Cup and après ski parties.

When the Steins revived the ski area, they re-named it Ski Wing.

Wing Hollow

In 1975, the Steins divorced and Henry Stein took full ownership of the resort. He changed the name to Wing Hollow. Winters were generally exuberant and fun until 1978, when Cattaraugus County’s most infamous murder dominated the headlines.

Tragedy at Wing Hollow

One cold night in February of that year, two young men were working overnight, grooming. Sometime after midnight, the groomer broke down and they came off the hill to look for a part to repair it. Unfortunately when they went back into the lodge, they interrupted a burglary in progress.

According to the sister of one of the victims: “A couple of weeks before this happened, there had been another break-in. Some teenagers were caught and when he saw someone had broken in again, he may have thought it was the teenagers again.”

Murderer's Bootprint
Ski Wing Murderer’s Bootprint — photo NY State Police

There was a struggle and both employees were killed, shot from behind with a revolver that was never recovered. A janitor who came to work at 3am found the bodies of the two young men.

The circumstances of the burglary led police to believe that the crimes were committed by someone with knowledge of the location. The target of the robbery — a heavily fortified safe, hidden under the floor — was chipped out of the cement it was cast in. The safe was eventually recovered from the river, but had been cut open and $18,000 was gone.

The murderers were never captured.

Even though this tragedy took place at Wing Hollow, the incident seems to live on as the Ski Wing Murders. There were actually more good years of skiing before Wing Hollow finally closed in the early 1980s.


• map provided by / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

24 comments on “The Ski Wing Murders

  1. Very interesting article. Never knew about this resort, but must have been great!

  2. So many stories come out of our ski areas …unfortunately some are tragic like this one.

  3. Skied Wing several times a year with my Dad in the early to mid 70’s. Noticed the runs this summer as I was driving the back way to a family reunion at Holliday Valley. Many happy memories.

  4. I often refer to the lost ski areas as ghosts. This one fits the bill. Gone but not forgotten. History stays alive through stories. Thank you for telling them.

  5. I was working at Wing then. I was 20 years old and worked in the ski shop. When I reported to work the next day, the access road was blocked by New York State Troopers. Of course I had no idea what happened. I was questioned and told to go home.
    I currently live across the valley from Wing and I can see it as I type this.

  6. Hello anyone know if the building and lifts are still there ? I’ve been there in 2000 4 wheeling and it well preserved haven’t been there since but very cool place !!!!!

  7. A great, informative story! Thanks for passing some interesting ski history on to appreciative skiers!

  8. I always thought it was strange that Holiday Valley never looked at the facility as a satellite location. The terrain at Ski Wing was good with a wide variety of slopes. There were some extremely challenging headwalls, a good amount of intermediate slopes, and some long, easy runs if you just wanted to chill out. I learned to ski there and loved it. Many great memories as a teenager.

    Sad that they never solved it. I had a passing acquaintance with a New York State Trooper who worked the case very hard. I know it bothered him that he never found the people who committed this awful crime.

  9. My step dad owned Ski Wing… we lived there. We also lived at the base in Glass Works log cabin bar and the huge brick house at the bottom of the road…the 5 mile. Interesting to still read about this place. My brother went back years ago. We had planted saplings all over the area and the forest there…

    I actually lived there when The Potters lived there… I remember the guys in the ski shop. I’d love to hear history from the early 70’s. Trying to find info from when we lived there with Joe Herger.

  10. I actually lived there when The Potters lived there… I remember the guys in the ski shop. I’d love to hear history from the early 70’s. Trying to find info from when we lived there with Joe Herger.

  11. I used to work there in the early 80s and running the chair lifts we’d work all day and party all night with the groomers, grooming the slopes putting on our skis hi to I’m and skiing half the night with the groomers grooming the slopes as we skied what a beautiful place it was.

  12. Never heard of this before but interesting. I can’t believe they never caught anyone. Had to be a past employee or someone who knew where it was and was prepared with tools. Where is this place located? How horrible for the people that were killed.

  13. I skied there many times, not when this crime was committed. But I grew up in the area and knew all local NYS troopers and Cattaraugus County deputies. One person of interest has passed away. For $18,000 in cash what a waste of life. All locals thought it was a local responsible. With few leads and no proof it will never be solved.

  14. Wonder if any evidence or DNA was ever saved from the scene to see who could have been involved. Many other old cases are being solved.

  15. There were several suspects. A local family, the son of a wealthy Olean businessman and others. The Cattaraugus County Police did a poor job. The Lodge at the resort burned several years later.

  16. I learned to ski there and was on the race team. One of the younger Potters was a coach, as were the Nenos (who now coach/work at Holiday Valley) and the Shaffers who lived next door. Mr. Shaffer taught me how to wax and tune a ski. Wing closed when it was 12 or 13. It was a magical place for a kid. We were free to roam all over the mountain. I have many great memories from there as a kid. 40 years later, I can say I have never had a day skiing where I wished I had done something else. It started my love for skiing that I passed on to my kids and my daughter is now a PSIA instructor at our local mountain.

    I can also vaguely remember the murders. I was probably 7 or so and we were supposed to go up to ski that day and my mom said we couldn’t. She didn’t say why but was upset. Being kids, one of us overheard the talk about it next time we were there. It is very strange that in such a small community, nobody was ever caught. You think someone would know and it would get out about who did it.

  17. I knew Shaffers when Mike and Mark were kids ..we were add all kids then…
    I know Potters and remember Nenos…my brother went back years ago to look at the area we lived @Glassworks also. We planted over 5000 saplings up there back then….

  18. @Kelly Hardin. I have a vague recollection of the glassworks bar. I think it might have been closed when I was a kid up there. I know my parents used to go there. We knew the owner lived down the access road and there was cool looking log cabin there. I believe a group currently owns the old ski club building and uses it as a hunting camp. Since Ski Wing closed, I’ve wondered why it never got re-developed into something like Holimont. Ski Wing is probably to small to be profitable as a public resort, but semi-private with real estate opportunities for owners like Holimont would be interesting. Maybe WNY doesn’t have the economic base anymore to support that kind of semi-private resort and development.

  19. Thanks for that info in your mind! We came there as children…i was about 8. But I remember everything. We had the brick house and barn at the bottom of the road.Livedcthere and then moved up to the Glassworks. Jack Horde was the the man that built the cabin..large cabin at that…and did all the hunting of the animals in the Glassworks..its been many years… now 60….

  20. Used to ski there a lot while at St. Bonaventure. The school would run a bus up there and the conditions were always good! Lots of snow, cheap lift tickets, and cheap drinks in the bar. Good memories of knee-deep powder!

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