Peter Hines

by Peter Hines

Gunstock's History Shines Through

There is just something about skiing or riding first tracks! For those who have the initiative to get up and out is it a delight. Just to think that the groomers have worked all night just for you and your gang it really neat.

We recently had such an opportunity to be among the first ones up and then down at Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, New Hampshire.

Up to the top we went on the Panorama Quad and were greeted by the Ski Patrol. After a quick briefing we took a right and then dove down Gunsmoke. The miles of unmarked corduroy which were only mildly christened by patrollers, if at all, were stellar. The groomers had performed their nightly ritual to a tee.


Waiting for the Panorama Lift to Open

Waiting for the Panorama Lift to Open

We hit the Panorama lift again taking advantage to the nonexistent lift line. At the top we went left this time down Flintlock. Stopping for a short breather, we spied Flintlock Chute and tucked down to Middle trigger. Success and exhilaration!

First tracks are different. The light is lower. You essential just hear yourself. The trails are wide open. My kids, now in their twenties, haven’t seen this in years. While I like to start early, my two are different. They like to sleep in. Gunstock is the place for them because the lifts are open until 10:00 PM on Friday and Saturday. They can arrive at noon and still ski on the 21 lighted trails until they are exhausted.

Ski Patrol Briefing
Ski Patrol Briefing

Gunstock is a short drive from Concord and Manchester and less than two hours from Boston. It has come a long way since it installed the first chairlift in the East.

Steeped in history - The main lodge at Gunstock is truly unique. I like these old beauties. Completed in 1937 by the Works Progress Administration it boasts the stone and timber construction of the day. The beams and boards were cut and milled in the area. Much of the steel and iron bolts and fasteners were made by the hands of local New Hampshirite. The granite was quarried from nearby Cobble Mountain. Architect Mitchell Dirsa designed the main lodge to reflect the spirit of the mountain with its rugged and traditional character.

At the same time the lodge was being built, WPA workers constructed a 60-meter ski jump. It was this ski jump, and the overall development of Gunstock, that changed the social scene and local economy of the area. The first ski jump meet ever held at the brand new recreation facility was in February 1937. Year after year, championship meets were held with up to 10,000 spectators attending from all over the country.

These meets attracted national and international ski jumping stars including the young jumping sensation, Torger Tokle. Tokle, breaking hill records across the country, held the Gilford hill record at for 35 years. He was quoted as saying that the 60-meter jump was “his hill”. In March 1946, the jump was named in honor of this young athlete after he was killed in battle during WWII.

In 1960, Penny Pitora, a young Gilford resident burst into the international arena of downhill skiing and became a decorated Olympian. It was her celebrity that helped shine the spotlight on Gunstock. She won two Silver Medals at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, CA. She returned to Gilford, after the Olympics and married fellow Olympian, Egon Zimmermann. The couple ran the Penny Pitou Ski School at Gunstock during the 1960's. The attraction of an Olympian teaching skiing boosted the sport and participation.

Today, Gunstock is known as a Family Entertainment Center, or FEC. It offers a full compliment of winter activities including downhill on 227 acres and 55 trails, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and the longest tubing run in New Hampshire at 1,068 feet with four chutes to the bottom.

Gunstock also offers a peak to peak, and peak to base, zipline experience which travels over 1.5 miles on the longest zip line canopy tour in the continental United States! The entire tour takes over two hours to complete. Thrill seekers can control their speed and even make a stop to enjoy the spectacular views.Top speeds in excess of 55 mph are possible on the 3/4 mile traverse between Gunstock and Pistol peaks. From the top of Pistol it’s another 3/4 mile to the Aerial Treetop Course Start.

Free Storage at the Yurt
Free Storage at the Yurt

Gunstock is home of the Gunstock Ski Club which is run separately from Gunstock Mountain Resort. Established in 1918 it is the oldest ski club in New Hampshire and one of the oldest in the country. It is a US Ski Association and NH Alpine Racing Association sanctioned race-training program for athletes from age 7 to 18. Training takes place on weekends and evenings. The Gunstock Ski Club is a 501(c)3 non-profit, which gets its operating funds from training fees charged to families participating as well as some major fundraising events. The club is parent managed and all families can expect to pitch in and help. Many parents stay on after the kids age out and many alumna return to assist with operations and events.

Gunstock is a great place to ski and ride. It’s not the biggest mountain in the east but it offers a mix of activities and adventures that are fun, accessible and close to major population centers in New England.

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