Survivors Honored at New England Ski Museum

Located at the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway in Franconia Notch State Park, the New England Ski Museum is dedicated to preserving the history of recreational and commercial alpine and cross-country skiing in the northeastern United States. With ski resorts across the country celebrating the 75th anniversary of snow skiing this year, the new exhibit at the museum is very appropriate. Under the banner of Ski Area Survivors: Prewar American Ski Centers with a History, the exhibit will highlight ski areas that have continued to promote the sport through some very tough times.

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway is one of the survivors featured on the exhibit, having opened on June 28, 1938, and still going strong. The ten main ski areas dating back to prewar years set the standard for defining what constitutes a ski resort, as opposed to a ski area. These standards include groomed and maintained ski slopes or trails; modern ski tows or aerial lifts; on-site or easily accessible lodging; and an active ski patrol.

Opened in the winter of 1937, Sun Valley in Idaho was the first and most developed ski area, becoming the benchmark for ski centers that followed, and directly influencing the developments that took place at Belknap Recreation Area (now known as Gunstock) in Gilford, and North Conway’s Cranmore Mountain, both in New Hampshire.

Previously known as Whitney, Black Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire, was one of the new resorts to open in the eastern areas, followed by Cannon Mountain in Franconia. Resorts in Vermont included Pico in Mendon and Mount Mansfield in Stowe. The western area’s main resorts were Mount Hood in Oregon, Alta, Utah, California, Sugar Bowl and Sun Valley. In addition to the leading ski resorts mentioned here, up to forty areas featuring T-bars and rope tows made skiing available to the growing number of enthusiasts. Some of these informal ski areas developed into prime ski resorts counted among the biggest and best in the country today. Among them are Aspen, Steamboat and Winter Park in Colorado, and Deer Valley and Snow Basin in Utah.