Retrospective: Snowstorms and Sledding in The Somerset Hills

Snowstorm and Sledding Somerset Hills - Mr Local History Project

Snow is an interesting thing. Some love it. Some hate it. But when there’s a major storm in the area there’s the battle between getting a snow day, and whether to play in it or dread dread removing it.

Update: 2/1/2020 – The record books had a close call Monday the First of February. Official totals: Basking Ridge 19.5 inches, Bedminster: 19.7 inches. 10th largest snowfall on record.

Snowstorm Slideshow

  • Bedminster 1925 snowstorm - NJDH
    Bedminster 1925 snowstorm - NJDH

If you live in the area and would like to share an image, or story, feel free to post your memory at the end of the story.

The Mr. Local History Project went digging (figuratively) to shovel thru past records to see when the area experienced heavy snowfall in our local history. Then we added the most historic sledding spots.

How Do They Measure Snowfall

One of the interesting things we learned about recording snowfall totals is that it’s a bit arbitrary. Watch and learn how the National Weather Service measures snowfall.

How snowfall is measured officially.

1956, 1888 and 2016 Rule

The largest snow EVER actually occured back on March 18, 1956 dumping a whopping 30 inches on the area. In the Somerset Hills area, the Somerset Hills Regional School District, which serves Bernardsville, Peapack-Gladstone and Far Hills, the Bernards Township school district and Bedminster Elementary School were all closed as a result.

March 19-20,1956 was the area’s largest recorded snowstorm in our area dropped 30 inches in the area.

Jonas Storm of 2016 Challenges 1956

The largest snow accumulation in recent memory was the 26 inches on January 23, 2016. That storm was the 3rd largest dumping recorded in the area.

Snowfall totals in Central Park were upped from 26.8 inches to 27.5 inches, making the 2016 storm on Jan. 22-23 the biggest blizzard to hit the city since recordkeeping began in 1869, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The record smashes the previous all-time mark of 26.9 inches set in February of 2006. 

In Somerset County, the biggest one-day snowfall was on Jan. 23, 2016 when Basking Ridge got nearly three full feet or 30 inches of snow. That is tied for the state’s biggest one-day snowfall of 30 inches in Sussex on Jan. 26, 1905.

Basking Ridge Patch – January 24, 2016

Official Snow Totals/Measurements

Below are the NWS recorded snowstorm totals for our area:

Officially recorded snowfall totals for recorded storms.
What was called “Winter Storm Jonas” hit the area from January 24-26,2016 where snow totals may have tied the great snowstorm of 1956 based on various accounts. Ranges estimated from 24-30 inches.

Epic Local Sledding Venues

In the 1880s, Samuel Leeds Allen reinvented winter with the Flexible Flyer, a sled on red steel runners that riders could steer with their hands or feet. A self-taught inventor, Allen knew he’d hit it big when the kids told him so.
Posted by Denise Pecoraro Turner and the Bernardsville News.

Somerset Hills & Surrounding Area Historic Sledding Venues

We put the question to the public to highlight historic sledding, tubing, and tobogganing venues in the area. Here’s what we came up with. Tell us if you have a favorite.

  • Basking Ridge – Oak Street School
  • Bernardsville – Pill Hill Road (private property) aka “Dead Man’s Hill”
  • Peapack – Sheeps Hill
  • Basking Ridge – Cedar Hill School
  • Basking Ridge Country Club (private property)
  • Basking Ridge – St. James School
  • Harding Twp – by the pond across from Christ the King church on Lee’s Hill Rd.
  • Morristown – Simon’s Hill behind Hilltop Stables
  • Lyons – the hill behind the VA by the water tower
  • Peapack – Natirar Estate (part public/part private)
  • Morristown – Villa Walsh
  • Warren – Greenwood Meadows Park Drive
  • Warren – Mount Horeb Elementary School
  • Bridgewater – Hillside Intermediate School
  • Basking Ridge – Skating – Shady’s Pond – Galloping Hill Road
c.1909 – Sledding down S. Finley near Cedar Street in Basking Ridge. Just to the north of St. James Church.
A friend shared this great video of an iconic nearby sledding experience. Sharing because many locals traveled to this spot. I know I got my mom to take us there in the 60s!

If you live in the area and would like to share a story, feel free to post your memory below. The Mr. Local History Project is also looking for where the “official snow gathering sites” are in the area. If you know, we’d love to share. Click the Contact Us to upload a photo or two to send in.

We leave you with a little snow humor……..

Run - It's going to snow
Run – It’s going to snow

2 Thoughts to “Retrospective: Snowstorms and Sledding in The Somerset Hills”

  1. Helen Walton

    I often went sledding at Dead Man’s Hill in Bernardsville but being it is private property and we had to ask permission sometimes it was easier to take the path of least resistance and go to the high school. There was a perfect sledding venue behind the cafeteria of Bernard’s High that landed you on the lower playing field- not sure how much of it is left now that the additions have been built. It was fab because you went down a really steep hill and zoomed all the way across the field depending on the snow quality. We used to get in trouble for stealing the lunch trays and using them as make shift sleds when school was in session…

  2. Betsy Carswell Richards

    My grandfather, Samuel Allen (160 S. Finley Ave.), owned a pasture that went all the way downhill to S. Maple Ave. Anyone could come and enjoy sledding there. If a thick layer of ice covered the snow, a neighbor supplied a 4×8′ piece of plywood, which we piled onto, and
    slid down the hill, sometimes in circles. Fortunately there were no trees to run into!
    WHO REMEMBERS THE ICE STORM OF NEW YEARs DAY, 1948, on top of the big snow a few days earlier. Power lines & trees fell everywhere. No power for almost 2 weeks. No school either!
    The firehouse couldn’t use the siren, so the Presbyterian Church bell was used to call volunteer firemen. It was very cold weather.

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