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History of New Hampshire Skiing

Scroll down and read the topics below to learn some of NH's skiing history!

For more great ski history information: check out a brand-new story on the history of skiing in New Hampshire at the New England Ski Museum website. Also be sure to check out the New England Lost Ski Areas Project website or do a Google search for "History of Skiing in NH"

Fred Harris & the Dartmouth Outing Club [1909]

The other major New Hampshire area for skiing was Hanover, home to Dartmouth College. An undergraduate named Fred Harris of the class of 1911 proposed to the college community in 1909 that a ski & snowshoe club be formed that and skiing become a sport.

Fred Harris Ski Club

The Purpose of Harris' Ski Club:

  1. To stimulate interest in out of door sports
  2. To have short cross country runs weekly & one long excursion each session
  3. To build a ski jump & hold ski jumping contests
  4. To hold a meet or field day during February at which a program of events similar to the following may be contested: 100 yard dash on snowshoes, cross country run on snowshoes, obstacle race on snowshoes, 100 yard dash on skis, ski jumping contests, and other events that may be suggested.
Fred Harris Ski Club

Harris' suggestion came from being impressed with other winter carnivals like Montreal's & ski jumping contests held in northern & mid west cities. The outcome of Fred Harris's proposal was the creation of the Dartmouth Outing Club formed in 1911. By 1920 two-thirds of the students were members of DOC. Winter carnivals have been held every year since the clubs founding, except in 1918 when coal & food were in short supply & the event was forced to cancel. This February 2000 will mark the 90th Dartmouth Winter Carnival.

In 1922 Dartmouth Outing Club founder Fred Harris once again suggested the club hire a "ski expert" to give lessons. Over a year later Dartmouth hired the first ski instructor who was available to the ski team & Hanover residents. Other instructors followed and in the winter of 1929-1930 a new ski instruction arrived in Hanover with a new coach Otto Schniebs.

A student of the famous Hannes Schneider, Schneibs brought the Arlberg method to Hanover were it received preference over the traditional nordic method. The Arlberg came from a region of Austria where the crouched style with lift & swing methods helped in getting down the steep hills. Schneibs also became the first spokesperson for ski racing and the joys of skiing in New Hampshire and in general.

Trails, Tow Ropes & T Bars [1920-1930's]

Mt. Gunstock Ski Tow

Ski races back in the 1920's & 30's were held primarily on trails cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The first in New Hampshire was cut on Cannon Mountain in 1933, the Richard Taft Trail. With this trail came the development of the "up-ski" device and a new era in snow sliding was beginning.

The first tow rope is recorded to have begun operation in Quebec in 1932. The following year a copy was opened in Woodstock, VT. In 1934, Ted Cooke ox-hauled his rope tow into position for a February 1935 opening at Gunstock with the worlds longest rope-tow. Rope tows dotted the NH landscape almost immediately, it was said by winter enthusiasts of the time that riding a tow rope was as much a thrill to go up as it was to come down. Temple Mountain in Temple, was know to offer its guests resin so their gloves would not stick to the wet rope. At Black Mountain in Jackson, Bill Whitney hung shovel handles from an overhead rope, and "He-and-She-Sticks" (later t-bar) was born! Original shovel handles can be seen today in Whitneys Pub in Jackson.

Peckett's Inn

Snow and winter sports which were only being enjoyed by the hardy & adventurous few, were now a favorite winter past time. The winter of 1929-30 the first recognized ski school opened at Peckett's Inn at Sugar Hill.

The Snow Trains [1931]

As more winter enthusiasts headed for the outdoors more rope tows opened & in 1935 North Conway's Carroll Reed brought over Benno Rybizka, another Hannes Schneider protégé & opened the Eastern Slopes Ski School in North Conway - six thousand lessons were given that first year.

As the sport grew so did the interest. The Snow Trains started in January, 1931 and transported from Boston the first of 197 passengers, mainly ski club members, to visit New Hampshire that winter. In 1934 one train alone was recorded to have carried 2933 passengers to North Woodstock for snow play. By the end of the season in 1934, B&M Railroad claimed to have carried more than 41,000 skiers to various parts of New Hampshire and New England since it began operation in 1931. It is said that winter enthusiasts watched the Friday Boston evening papers to see if they were off to Lincoln, North Conway or another New England ski destination.

Snow Trains

By 1937 New Hampshire businesses started to capitalize on the growing industry. First came lodging in isolated farmhouses, then the opening up of large & small inns that would normally cater only to summer visitors. Inns regularly hired resident ski experts to assist their new winter clientele. Skiing & winter sports were here to stay & in turned helped to develop a whole new tourism market.

Development of resorts & resort towns continued through the 30's & 40's. In 1935, house bill 131 provided for the construction & operation of New Hampshire's first aerial tram. The Tram opened for service in 1938 at Cannon Mountain, and carried 36,589 passengers to its summit in one year. An original tram car can be seen outside the New England Ski Museum, located at the tram base station at Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch State Park. The cost to ride the tram this first year was $.60 per ride.

Of Lifts and Trams [1938]

Lifts and Trams

At Cranmore in North Conway the unique skimobile lift was premiered in 1938. Financed by logging tycoon Harvey Dow Gibson, the original skimobile had 131 cars & cost $.25 per ride. The following year saw the skimobile's length extended so it would reach the summit. The cost for a bottom to top ride was $.50. The skimobile was used until 1989 when it was dismantled & replaced with a newer more efficient high speed quad chairlift.

Lifts and Trams

An original car from the skimobile can be seen at the New England Ski Museum as well as several establishments in North Conway.

Lifts and Trams

Mt. Sunapee also has an extensive skiing history. The Newport Ski Club was started in the 1890's by a Finnish community located in Newport. The club was active through the 1920's & 30's. In the early 1940's residents took notice of the financial success Cannon was enjoying & persuaded their political representatives to push for legislation which eventually became the Mt. Sunapee Tramway Bill in 1941. The Sunapee Tram was initially going to be used as a summer attraction but the war delayed construction and by 1946 the amount allotted for construction was judged to be not enough to purchase an aerial tram, but was enough to purchase a chairlift. Mt. Sunapee opened for skiing in 1948.

Lifets and Trams

By 1940 New Hampshire skiing had all the ingredients for a mass market. It had been seventy + years since the skiing Scandinavians saw their sport turned from cross country trekking to the fast paced downhillers with their Alpine techniques.

In 1952 Waterville Valley added a 2000 ft. T-Bar. In the 1960's Ragged Mountain put in a double chair and a T-Bar, Gunstock & Tenney both added chairlifts, King Pine added an all new J-Bar.

By the mid-sixties skiers were coming with such a rush that Attitash is reported to have sold tickets by reservation and limited sales to keep the lift lines down. In 1967 the average cost for a five-day midweek ticket was $25!

Tuckerman's Ravine & Mt Moosilauke [1926-1933]

Tuckerman Ravine

Tuckerman's Ravine

First skied in 1926 only the experienced dared to hike & ski its slopes. Famous for its steep snow filled ravine, the spring ritual lives on to this day. Ski clubs throughout the northeast started the tradition & in 1939 as many as a thousand skiers were found in the bowl with a few daredevils on the headwall.

Tuckerman's Ravine

When racing began in Tuckerman Ravine contestants wore red avalanche strings from their trousers in case they had to be dug out. The most famous of all ski races held in 1934 in Tuckerman's was called the Inferno. The Inferno started in at the top of Mt. Washington with the course winding its way down the mountain, over the famous headwall down into the bowl to the Sherburne Trail ending at the AMC hut at the bottom. In 1934 Hollis Phillips won the race in just over twelve minutes. This record remained unchanged until 1939, the year of the last Inferno & the year when international skier Toni Matt plummeted into the ravine & disappeared into the Sherburne Trail at a speed witnesses said they had never seen before. Toni won the race in a time just under 6 & one half minutes, a record that still stands today!

Moosilauke

Moosilauke

Another location in NH offering skiing was Mt. Moosilauke. In the 1920's the Dartmouth Outing Club was instrumental in constructing a series of mountain high huts making ski touring possible. These huts were built throughout the White Mountains & each about a days hike/ski apart. The cabins built on Moosilauke and the Ravine Camp at the base of the mountain were instrumental in the first major down mountain races.

Moosilauke hosted the first downhill race in the United States on March 12, 1933. The Carriage Trail was used for the race trail for the first US National Downhill Championships. Eighty contestants were entered, only sixty nine finished. Henry Woods ran the 2.8 mile course without a fall in just over eight minutes. No woman's class was offered but was suggested for the next year's race.

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