January 08. 2017 8:10PM

400 acres, alpine training center added to Franconia Notch State Park

By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent


A skier makes his way down the new slalom training course at Cannon Mountain's Mittersill area. In March, Mittersill will host the 2017 NCAA Alpine championships. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

FRANCONIA — Among the most popular and profitable of New Hampshire’s 92 state parks, Franconia Notch State Park recently celebrated two milestones — it grew by 400 acres and added a world-class alpine training-and-racing venue.

The Division of Parks and Recreation received permission in December from the Executive Council to spend $575,000 from the Parks Fund and to accept an additional $578,395 from the Department of the Interior’s Land and Water Conservation Fund for the purchase of a 396.4-acre parcel abutting the park.

Known as the Lafayette Brook Tract, the property on Profile Road had been owned by the J and T Land Trust; Thomas G. Nonis was its trustee. The tract is directly adjacent to both the park and the White Mountain National Forest.

The acquisition increases the park’s total area by about six percent, to some 7,200 acres, said John DeVivo, the general manager of Cannon Mountain and Franconia Notch State Park.

DeVivo said the flat land might be used for non-motorized activities such as snow shoeing, hiking, mountain biking and possibly even an equestrian facility. He said a series of public hearings will be scheduled in the coming 18 to 24 months.

The tract “goes right down to the Gale River,” said DeVivo, and includes a maple-sugaring operation that will probably remain.

According to the state Division of Parks and Recreation, the tract will protect vistas from the Cannon Mountain and Mittersill ridges; maintain and potentially expand existing trails and connect them to the state park and White Mountain National Forest; and protect the forested area on the lower slopes of Lafayette Brook.

DeVivo pointed out that the tract was bought with money from the state Parks Fund, to which Cannon Mountain is a regular contributor.

Since 2008, “Cannon has put back nearly $2 million into the Parks Fund,” said DeVivo, who credited Phil Bryce, the director of the Division of Parks and Recreation, and Bill Carpenter of the Department of Resources and Economic Development’s Land Management Bureau, for putting together the Lafayette Brook Tract deal.

DeVivo also thanked the Franconia Ski Club, which he described as Cannon Mountain’s “oldest and most historic and trusted partner,” for privately raising nearly all of the money for the Mittersill project.

“A lot of folks don’t know, but without the Franconia Ski Club there might not be a Cannon Mountain,” said DeVivo.

He said in 1933, club members joined with the Civilian Conservation Corps to cut the Taft Trail, which ran from the top of Cannon Mountain and down to the saddle with Mt. Jackson, up over Mt. Jackson, then down the north slope.

Mittersill operated for many years as an alpine ski resort next to Cannon, but was acquired by the state and incorporated into Cannon in 2009.

Since then, the ski club has raised and donated money for a new double chair lift, a T-bar, snowmaking, and trails, both for competition and training at Mittersill, which is a U.S. Ski Team designated training site. In March it will host the 2017 NCAA Alpine championships.

DeVivo said the Mittersill public-private partnership represents “a huge win-win-win for the North Country” and for all Cannon users.

Cumulatively, the completion of the Mittersill project means “we’ve added 68 percent more terrain to Cannon since 2008 and nearly doubled our snowmaking,” said DeVivo.

jkoziol@newstote.com