The schuss of the fisherman: bringing Mass to skiers in upstate New York

Photo: Robert Kirkham / Buffalo News

From The Buffalo News: 

It’s Sunday morning and, beneath a fluffy blanket of snow, the slopes are beckoning.

What’s a good Catholic to do?

Attend morning Mass at your hometown parish and sacrifice the heavenly thrill of carving first tracks?

Or head straight for the hills, promising yourself that you’ll get to church later?

Kissing Bridge in Glenwood offers another option.

You can hit the slopes early, then glide down one of the North Area trails – “Crazy 8s” is a popular route – to attend the 12:15 p.m. Mass in Crone Memorial Chapel.

“It’s nice to be able to have a Mass to come to when you’re spending a full day on the slopes,” said Paul O’Rourke of St. Catharines, Ont., who visits Kissing Bridge several times each season with a ski club.

“It’s a nice respite and it’s a beautifully situated chapel,” O’Rourke said after last week’s Mass. “Even though it may be cold outside, it’s very warm inside with the spirit of Christ.”

Some worshippers glide right up to the chapel on their skis or snowboards, which are stored on a rack a few steps from the door. Inside, a muffled crunching sound can be heard as people walk on the loose stone floor that drains melting snow and ice.

The chapel is named after the late Robert J. Crone, founder of the former Glenwood Acres Ski Area – which is now Kissing Bridge’s North Area – and the Glenwood Acres Ski Club. The chapel is located between the club’s chalet and the North Area service buildings.

Crone was regarded as a local pioneer in the sport of skiing. He was credited with introducing man-made snowmaking to the Eastern United States and with organizing this region’s first ski school and first ski patrol.

Club members built the chapel following Crone’s death in 1969, fulfilling his desire to have Mass celebrated slopeside.

“He tried doing an outdoor Mass at the bottom of the hill. That didn’t work,” recalled 87-year-old Paul Henderson. “When he passed away, some of us said, ‘Well, why don’t we build a chapel in Bob’s memory?’ ”

And that’s exactly what they did, during the fall of 1971.

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