Ski-racing traditions run deep on NH mountains
Alpine ski racing in New Hampshire is rich in history. The Franconia Ski Club started in 1933; there are 23 statewide racing teams today.
During the 1920s and 1930s, ski races were held on trails cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The first trail in New Hampshire was cut on Cannon Mountain in 1933 and named the Richard Taft Trail. Franconia Ski Club was founded by Roland Peabody to provide ski recreation and training for local schoolchildren. Neighboring Peckett's Hill is known for its early ski training.
"FSC is the oldest ski club in New Hampshire," said Dan Marshall, president of the New Hampshire Alpine Racing Association (NHARA). "The Black and Blue Trail Smashers (BBTS) pre-dates Waterville Valley, which is across the street from the mountain. They would hike up and ski the few trails that were cut up there."
Other northern mountains with well-established clubs are Cranmore, Wildcat and Gunstock.
Most of New Hampshire's ski clubs are weekend programs, with the exception of Waterville Valley, which is the only ski academy in the state. Cannon and Gunstock just introduced winter term programs.
At the high school level, the mountain ski clubs compete against a few private school teams.
"We have prep schools which now have extremely strong ski teams, but it was not always that way. Holderness has a strong program and Proctor is now strong," Marshall said. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, coaches were building high school programs at Kimball Union Academy, which trains at Whaleback, and Ford Sayer Academy, which trains at Dartmouth Skiway. The Cardigan Mountain School goes up to 9th grade.
There is also college racing.
"Dartmouth, UNH, Colby-Sawyer and Plymouth all play into the history of skiing in New Hampshire," Marshall said.
NHARA has 725 registered ski racers. They host an average of 125-150 racers per season, from non-scored races for the younger athletes to scored events for the older athletes.
Besides being president of NHARA, Dan Marshall is also a U18 (Under 18) Ski Coach at Franconia Ski Club and the Holderness School, which have a joint partnership and share facilities, coaches and training at Cannon Mountain.
"The relations with Holderness help kids who want to ski more frequently," Marshall said.
"Cannon is a great hill and has so much to offer in terms of terrain, trails, the woods and glades, plus Mittersill, which is fantastic for the kids," he said. "I watch the U8s (Under 8 skiers) whipping down Avalanche and I think, 'What are they going to be doing in 10 to 12 years?' What a place to grow up."
Ski racer Dylan Rivard, 12, of Goffstown has been a member of the Franconia Ski Club for two seasons.
"I like ski racing because I love the feeling of going fast," he said. "I also love being outside all weekend practicing and racing with my coaches and friends. The best part of ski racing is race day. When I get in the gate, I feel I need to crush that run."
Marshall added: "I still bump into people I used to coach. Some have gone out west and live in ski towns, and I think, 'Ski racing did what it was supposed to do — build a lifelong passion and love for skiing.'"
Slopeside runs every Friday during the ski season. Kathleen Humphreys can be reached at email@example.com.