Bretton Woods 12-21-14

Reconnecting the downhill and cross-country modes of skiing is one of the goals of Bretton Woods’ new director of nordic skiing.

And Bretton Woods’ Mount Stickney Cabin, located on a New Hampshire mountainside at the intersection of both alpine and nordic trails, is one spot for that reconnection to happen.

With about 100 km of cross-country trails spread across a vast swath of privately owned property and National Forest lands, Bretton Woods nordic ski center is one of New England’s largest.

Ellen Chandler was named Bretton Woods’ nordic director last summer. In recent years she had taught at the center and she helped organize the annual cross-country marathon, which benefits the New England Ski Museum. (Ellen is also on the board of directors of the museum which is located in nearby Franconia.)

Nowadays we glibly toss around the terms “nordic,”cross-country,” “alpine” and “downhill” with the full assurance that reader understand the distinctions.

Eighty years ago that wasn’t the case. “Skiing was skiing” back then, with little or no distinction between styles or ethnic/geographic traditions.

It was only in the 1930s that alpine and nordic began to go their separate ways, with the former coming to totally dominate the latter by the end of the 1960s.

The nordic revival of the 1970s helped to restore some of the former balance, but nowadays there’s no going back to the old one-style-fits-all equipment.

Ellen Chandler at Mount Stickney Cabin

Ellen Chandler at Mount Stickney Cabin

I had a chance to reconnect with Ellen when I visited Bretton Woods yesterday. I was skiing in alpine mode and Ellen was on nordic equipment. (In the photo above, Ellen is on cross-country gear, but the skis are much heavier and have metal edges.)

We met for a chat in the cabin and talked about her new role at Bretton Woods.

Ellen is a longtime friend and professional associate who has extensive experience in the ski industry — both alpine and nordic. I first met her in the 1980s, when she landed her first job after graduating from Williams College — where she had been a standout on the cross-country ski team.

The Mount Stickney Cabin is constructed of logs and heated with a woodstove. Light refreshments are served.

Ellen Chandler points out the intersections of the alpine and nordic trails

Ellen Chandler points out the intersections of the alpine and nordic trails

The cabin is located at the top of the T-bar. Nordic skiers can reach the cabin via Mountain Road, a cross-country trail that sinuously meanders from the touring center up the northern flank of Mount Stickney.

Here’s a pdf copy of the 2014-2015 nordic trail map. Please click the upper right corner to “pop-out” to full size.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Downhill skiers can reach it by taking Two Miles Home, a trail off the top of the Rosebrook Summit quad

Janice Musacchio, from Westbrook, Maine, points to the sign for Two Miles Home

Janice Musacchio, from Westbrook, Maine, points to the sign for Two Miles Home

After skiing Two Miles Home for about one mile, the Telegraph T-bar will be signed on the right. Take it, and the Mount Stickney Cabin will be at the top of the lift.

Most of the day I spent skiing with Janice Musacchio, whom I know through the Maine Outdoor Adventure Club. Yesterday was Janice’s first time at Bretton Woods in about a decade.

Janice is a big fan of packed powder that’s been groomed to a corduroy finish. We found plenty of it at the Woods yesterday.

Loon Mountain 12-19-14

When a friend and I visited Loon Mountain, in Lincoln, N.H. yesterday, I pointed out that many of the trail names hark back to logging times.

Blue Ox is one of those, named for “Babe,” the immense bovine companion of Paul Bunyan, the legendary logger.

Greg Titherington points out the Blue Ox trail sign at Loon Mountain yesterday

Greg Titherington points out the Blue Ox trail sign at Loon Mountain yesterday

The Blue Ox trail connects the summit of the Kancamagus Quad to the Governor Adams base area.

Sign for Babe's Lounge in the Governor Adams base lodge

Sign for Babe’s Lounge in the Governor Adams base lodge

The name Babe itself is preserved as the moniker of the upstairs restaurant/lounge in the Governor Adams lodge.

Trail sign for the Bucksaw glade, located on Loon Mountain's North Peak area

Trail sign for the Bucksaw glade, located on Loon Mountain’s North Peak area

Bucksaw glade, located in between Flume and Walking Boss on Loon’s North Peak area, recycles another old logging term.

Fifty years ago, the slopes of Loon Mountain were densely forested. Transforming the mountain into New Hampshire’s busiest ski resort was the culmination of the long life of Sherman Adams, a native of northern New England who worked as a forester after graduating from Dartmouth College.

Among his many honors in life, Adams was governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff for President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

I’ve been skiing with my friend Greg Titherington for close to 20 years. This year he’s teaching skiing at King Pine, in Madison, N.H.

Musings 11-16-14

This morning as I prepared the Fireside Chat that I’m giving at UMaine Farmington on Tuesday, I thought about the small town and its big role in Maine’s skiing history.

The Farmington Ski Club is one of Maine’s oldest, dating from 1939.

The twin anchors of the town’s claim to fame are the Titcomb Memorial Ski Slope, founded by the club shortly after World War II, and UMF itself, which fielded a topnotch ski team in the 1970s.

Below is a vintage pic of Titcomb ca. 1948. Its first lift was a rope tow that ran up the face of the slope. Note the lack of trees!

Rope tow at Titcomb ca. 1948

Rope tow at Titcomb ca. 1948

The second photo, below, depicts some people who have been intimately connected to Titcomb over the years.

Prof. Gwilym Roberts at Titcomb with three of his daughters ca. 1960: Beth, Janet and Megan

Prof. Gwilym Roberts at Titcomb with three of his daughters ca. 1960: Beth, Janet and Megan

Gwilym Roberts was a long-time professor at UMaine Farmington as well as a very active member of the ski club. He was the director of the children’s programs and then secretary of the FSC for more than 20 years.

I think he exemplifies the grassroots values that underpin our state’s skiing culture. Being deeply involved in a small-town ski club and running its hometown mountain can be a mighty big and mighty frustrating chore.

And there’s no pay and little glory. Why did he endure the hassle? I think that the answer is clear from the photo: Gwilym Roberts wanted to make a better world for his little girls. They are, from left to right: Beth, Janet and Megan.

Megan is pictured above on her first day on skis. Nowadays she’s Titcomb’s manager. She’s also a director of the Ski Museum of Maine and served as the consulting curator during a key period of its growth.

The grassroots theme is repeated in two articles from the Snow Trail (newsletter/journal of the Ski Museum of Maine) that can be read by clicking the links below.

Click here to view the Ski Museum of Maine’s two issues of Snow Trail devoted to Farmington’s ski team and Tom Reynolds, its legendary coach: First of twosecond of two.

Both articles were written by Leigh Breidenbach, a long-time professor at UMaine Farmington and director of its Ski Industries Program. She’s also a Ski Museum director.

BTW: I’m giving the Fireside Chat, which is free and open to the public, at 7 p.m. Nov. 18. The venue, one of the larger buildings on the campus, was named for Prof. Roberts: The Gwilym Roberts Learning Center, Room 023.

[Both photos are courtesy of Farmington Ski Club, obtained through Megan Roberts.]

Boston Ski Show 11-13-2014

There’s nothing like the Boston Ski Show to psych me up for the upcoming season.

Yesterday I drove down to The Hub for the 2014 edition. From my personal perspective, this season’s highlight will be a visit to Steamboat, a major ski resort in north central Colorado. The resort will host the 2015 International Skiing History Week in April. So one of the first places I visited in Boston was the Steamboat booth, where I picked up a copy of the trail map.

Skiers stop by the Steamboat booth

Skiers stop by the Steamboat booth

To be sure, I’ve got a digital copy, but I’m an old-fashioned guy who likes the look and feel of a real paper map.

The skiing will be the main attraction, but I’m also psyched about visiting “Ski Town U.S.A.,” which is how the mountain and surrounding community market themselves to the world.

It’s a trademark or brand that’s so valuable that Steamboat recently sicced its legal hounds on Visit Salt Lake (a tourist bureau-like marketing organization) over its “Ski City USA” promotion. The dispute was recently resolved, as reported in Ski Area Management magazine, an industry publication.

Click here to link to a wonderful synopsis of Steamboat’s story from its beginnings on

As detailed in the article above, getting the resort off the ground was a protracted affair. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on July 6, 1958 but the resort didn’t official open until January 12, 1963.

When ISHA picks a site to host its annual Skiing History Week, the high muckamucks like to honor major anniversaries. So what’s Steamboat’s anniversary?

It’s not the mountain itself. Instead it’s the centennial of Howelsen Hill, a small ski area that’s owned by the town of Steamboat Springs. In the early days of the 20th century, Carl Howelsen, a Norwegian immigrant, set the town on its path toward becoming a center for winter sports.

In those days, ski lifts were unknown and jumping was the marquee attraction of the sport. Howelsen Hill boasts lift-served alpine skiing, but it’s especially noted for its ski jumps.

By the way, there’s another important connection between skiing history and the Boston Ski Show. Chief impresario is Bernie Weichsel, who’s also an ISHA past president and a major fund-raiser for the organization.