In September 1953, as Ben returns to Princeton University for his senior year, he is approached by Ralph Nader. Ralph convinces Ben to run for President of the Outing Club and proceeded to help him win the election by a landslide. As his first act as their leader, he proposed a horseback ride to the summit of Bearpen Mountain with Vassar College. The group loved the idea and Ben made arrangements for the second weekend of the month. Not far from Johnson's Hollow in Downsville, Round Up Ranch agreed to supply forty horses for the trip.


Both groups arrived at Round Up Ranch to a problem. The owner, Gean Mulvihill, who later created Vernon Valley Ski Area, Vernon, New Jersey, explained to the groups what had transpired. He had to make a difficult decision regarding the horses. Facing a high insurance premium and an eager buyer for the horses, he decided to sell most of them the weekend before.

As an alternative, the group decided to hike to the summit and pitch two tents. The men's tent was set-up at The Panorama, which Ben named because of its incredible view. Ironically, the lodge would later be built only a few feet away.

The club members were very impressed with Bearpen Mountain and the work Ben had accomplished.


The Mountaineering Club approached Ben on a co-sponsor idea. They ask Ben to do the leg work for the first American showing of the film THE ASCENT OF EVEREST. For this event, Ben arranged for the largest lecture hall on campus, Macosh 50. The night of the event the hall was filled and the evening was a success. There was a very special man in attendance sitting next to President of the University... Albert Einstein.



He enlisted the Princeton Architect Department to design a lodge for the ski area. They developed plans and the location of a solar-heated building on a southeastern escarpment. This would catch the winds from the west that would provide electricity powered by a windmill.


Outside of time needed for exams, Ben spent every weekend with Bob Johnson refining the road from the southwest. They also worked in Lots 66 and 67 clearing the road on the summit ridge to the New York State Forest land.


For Christmas break, the Outing Club piled into an often used 1934 Henny Hearse and headed to Mount Tremblant. The group traveled north through the Hudson Valley and Adirondacks reaching Canada by nightfall. Shortly after crossing the border, the hearse developed an electrical problem. They determined it would run as long as the lights were off. They proceeded to Montreal with the moonlight above and snow banks to either side.

Ben recalls, as oncoming cars approached, he would turn on the lights, the engine would die and the hearse would roll. As the vehicles passed, he turned off the lights and popped the clutch which started the engine again.

As they entered Montreal, one can only imagine this scenario happening over and over again until an exasperated  Benjamin Clarence Lane finally gave up and left the lights off! In the morning, they were lucky and found an open repair shop. As the group ate breakfast and laughed about the events associated with the drive, the shop found the right parts and made repairs to the hearse.


In February 1954, The Outing Club and Vassar College skied Belleayre. Same as the year before, they stayed in Pine Hill and enjoyed one of their best ski weekends ever. Although they often spent close to an hour in the chairlift line, the snow conditions and weather were pristine. Both groups viewed Bearpen Mountain displaying a ridiculous blanket of white.

On the way back, the hearse developed three flat tires before reaching the New York/New Jersey line. Since the hearse had three spares, they made the tire changes and moved on. Just outside Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a fourth flat stranded the group. A trooper stopped and located a towing company which amazingly had a tire that would fit. At 2:45 AM, they headed for home only hours before classes began.    


In May, Ben climbed to the summit of Bearpen Mountain via the road from Johnson's Hollow. On its northeastern exposure, he found the mountain holding snow. He became excited by the idea of skiing in May when he found several feet of snow in various locations of the woods. This day led Ben to develop the ski area's motto... HIGH ALTITUDE SNOWS IN A LAND OF ARCTIC SPLENDORS.

Ben met with Sanford Hinkley, who would later develop Plattekill Ski Center. They discussed his involvement to build the lodge according to the plans drawn by the Princeton Architect Department. Although he had expressed an interest to work on the project, after several weeks he declined citing numerous concerns about the many unseen variables associated with its location.

In a consultation with Ernest T. Johnson, Chief Meteorologist for New York State, Ben was made aware because Bearpen Mountain had such cloud cover, the design for solar heating would not work. With this thought in mind, Ben decided to build the summit lodge near the Panorama area.