Pete Davis (Mobbs Farm Committee)
Peter Miller Davis: A Career of Skis and Trees
The third burglary at Peter Miller Davis’s home in the North End of Burlington was the final affront. “They stole the hose off the front of our house,” he recalled. His wife Karen was pregnant with their first child, and she saw an ad for property that abutted the UVM Research Forest which was where Davis had studied forestry. “As soon as I got here, I knew that they’d be taking me out in a casket,” he said. “I knew it was where I wanted to spend my life. I just felt a connection to the land.”
When Jericho formed a committee to oversee the Mobbs Farm in 2008, Davis immediately applied. He took five years off when he worked at Stratton Mountain School but got back on the committee as soon as that job ended, and he’s been a member ever since. The property is near his house, and he spends time skiing, biking, and running on the trails.
Davis’s career has been a fascinating series of twists and turns. He was on the UVM ski team and after graduation, he decided to focus on downhill in the hope of making the national team. On a whim, he offered to be a forerunner at a race at Pico and ended up joining the Peugeot Grand Prix ski circuit which he described as the B tour. That year, the primary circuit folded, so the faster racers ended up joining the B tour, upping the level of competition. Davis spent three years racing on the tour and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to travel the world.
After retiring from racing, Davis started a business doing tree work in the summer while coaching several different ski clubs in the winter. He began doing some event announcing and had a local radio show called Friday Morning Funway on WRUV from 1980 to 1986. Davis enjoyed announcing ski races but since there were very few spectators, he launched an experiment to bring the mountain to the people instead of vice versa.
In Burlington, snow was trucked in from the airport for an event that became the annual Burlington Winter Festival. The first year was so popular that race registration had to be capped at 250 people. Davis called the local television stations and got so much publicity that Anheuser Busch signed on as a sponsor and Busch City Ski was born. The group hosted 26 events a year across the country and found that the ones at beach resorts were the most popular. One event was held in front of the US Capitol.
The ski events were on weekends and Davis continued to do tree work during the week but in 1991 he opted for more steady employment, signing on with Canstar Sports which was based out of Swanton. When Nike bought the company and moved it to New Hampshire, Davis balked at relocating so they allowed him to work out of his home for the last six years of his 11 years with the firm. From there he went to Rossignol where he managed a snowboard brand.
Davis spent five years at Stratton Mountain School when his son, a Nordic racer, attended. From there, it was three years as the Executive Director of the USA Snowboard Association and a couple of years building the adventure center at Stowe. In 2008, looking to return to his forestry roots, Davis posted on Jericho Front Porch Forum about his desire to get back into tree work and immediately got 37 calls. These days, his work life is a combination of forestry work and event announcing.
Davis chairs the Mobbs Committee and one of the things he loves about it is that everyone contributes. “It took the whole team to get Mobbs conserved,” he said, of the work which involved the Jericho Underhill and Vermont Land Trusts. “It was a three-year long process, and everyone was part of it.” Davis was gratified that when the question of conservation was put to the town for a vote, 91% were in favor.
Now that he’s no longer racing, Davis enjoys having a quiet ski at Mobbs and credits Dan and Chris Smith for their work grooming the trails with a Snowdog. This winter he was also thrilled to see the use of the sliding trails by local kids. The Mobbs Committee is now focusing on grant opportunities and has just submitted a request for $20,000 in trail maintenance funds to improve the condition of the property’s bridges.
Davis is hoping to establish a subcommittee to look into the feasibility of a community garden at Mobbs. A test patch close to the Brown’s Trace parking area showed that the soil was suitable for agriculture. Davis is also working on the Mobbs Farm orchard which currently has a dozen trees. He is hoping to add more apple, pear, plum, and northern climate peach, in addition to blueberry and raspberry bushes. He envisions a picnic area where people can relax, and wildlife can flourish. I call those my “big, hairy, audacious goals,” he said with a smile.