Skiing Cannon Mountain, Franconia Notch Park, NH

This past weekend I headed up to Cannon Mountain to ski with my husband and a few friends. It was a cold day, mid 20s for the temp, but there was some serious wind too. The sky was gray, snow guns were going on quite a few trails, the world looked sepia. The only color was from bright ski jackets, and the two tramway cars, Mustard and Ketchup. The tramway? Oh man, I could write a whole post on the history of the tramway. Alexander Bright saw tramways in at ski areas in Europe as a member of the US Olympic Ski Team. North America’s first aerial tramway was built in 1938…..Alexander Bright’s vision came to life thanks to L.R. Bateman and his American Steel and Wire, E.J Loyd and Roland Peabody of Franconia, and the NH government at the time. Peabody was the first manager of the tramway. One of the chairlifts is named after Peabody.

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Heading up to the top on the Cannonball Quad, loving the beautiful rime ice on the chairlift!
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Mountain Station, tramway side! There’s Mustard ready to head back down the mountain.
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Other side of the Mountain Station, the 4080′ Cafe and restrooms are inside. Selling point? Highest Beer Tap in NH!
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Looking back at the view on the Peabody quad I believe
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Racing shack on Lower Ravine (my favorite trail)….but lets just pretend its my quaint warming cabin k?
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Check out all the snow making action! It was so windy we wondered if any snow made it to the ground!

I am pretty sure we did every blue trail besides the Tuckerbrook family area. There aren’t a ton of green trails, but loads of blues thankfully! A couple of us took a break and my husband and some others headed over to the Mittersill ski area. Mittersill is a sub peak of Cannon Mountain. The Taft Trail on Mittersill had been used for skiing/racing since 1931-32. Baron Hubert von Pantz (I know, what a name) opened lift service to the Taft Trail in 1942 with a rope tow. The Baron built what he called the Franconia Mittersill at the base of Mittersill after his Austrian Mittersill Castle. After WWII, Mittersill was quite the resort- a restaurant and ice bar along with the inn, and besides skiing there was skating, dancing, tennis, and car races on frozen Echo Lake! In the late 50s, Mittersill started to make snow, and the resort flourished in the 60s. Competition with its neighbor, Cannon Mountain, started to heat up in the late 60s and by 1984, Mittersill was done. The inn is still there though, see their website here. When the inn opened in 1945, it was a society hot spot. The Baron was already back in Austria working on his Mittersill Castle there when the ski area in NH closed.

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Looking back at the summit of Cannon from Mittersill! See the Mountain Station up there?
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View of the Cannonballs and the Kinsmans are in the background in the clouds.

Before Mittersill even closed, Cannon was trying to figure out how to incorporate the Mittersill ski area. See the history here or here. Finally in 2009, the rope cutting took place! In between time, many backcountry skiers utilized the Mittersill trails by skinning up, and skiing down. That is now not allowed! In those early couple years, you had to take the tramway or the lift up to the summit of Cannon and ski/hike over to the Mittersill trails. It was still very much backcountry status. A double chairlift started up in 2011 over there so now you can ski Mittersill without using lifts at Cannon. On Saturday when we were there, my husband said big training/racing was going on over at Mittersill, very exciting. Part of the deal for Cannon getting Mittersill was that the Mittersill trails were going to be a racing complex. The money needed to construct and expand the trails for that were contributed by the Franconia Ski Club and the state of NH. That means that the racing facility does not just belong to Cannon….it belongs to the Franconia Ski Club and NH…which is pretty cool. See all the drama of the racing expansion here.

So I need to go back many more times. There was just too much. There’s a ski museum at Cannon that I didn’t even get to go to. There is so much history at Cannon/Mittersill. I just can’t help but think about how glamorous it all must have been. The Cannonball Pub at the base of Cannon is terrific, but to see the ice bar or restaurant at Mittersill back in the 50s? That would be something.

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Birthday Hike up Mt. Cabot

As part of our MLK weekend away in Jackson NH, we hiked up Mt Cabot on my birthday! Mt. Cabot is the 4000 footer that is farthest north, so having the opportunity to start the drive a couple hours closer was a huge reason to do that one. The hike itself is a gradual easier hike; the hardest thing about hiking Cabot is getting there.

We wore snowshoes for the entire hike, all 9 miles of it. The trail was so nice and tracked out, it would have been a shame to ruin it with post holes. The trail begins at the trout hatchery in Berlin on York Pond Road, which was nicely maintained for this time of year. You start out on the York Pond Trail, and then turn onto the Bunnell Notch Trail, and then finally the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the summit. In the interest of time, we did an in and out hike, you can do a loop from the summit down over the bulge and horn from the Kilkenny Ridge Trail to the Unknown Pond Trail, but its a longer hike.

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Mountain Views
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Another gorgeous view!

Some features as you get up near the summit include an outlook with a beautiful view, a cabin, a false summit where a fire tower used to be, and then finally the wooded summit which is past a Mt. Cabot sign which again looks like the summit. The fire warden cabin is available for public use. It’s free, first come first serve, and it sleeps 8. There used to be a wood stove in it that has been removed, and there is a picnic table inside. They keep a drum outside that collects rainwater in the summer. It’s a very primitive cabin that I believe is still maintained by the Jefferson boy scouts. Not a bad place to have a snack away from the wind, but I would only stay in there overnight if it was an emergency! The first firetower was built up there in 1911, it was rebuilt in 1924, and then taken down in 1965. It was a cold hike, the wind chill was down between -9 and -18. The sun was out though, and I had my warmest gear, so we made a great day out of it. On the way up to Jackson we actually stopped at IME in North Conway and I purchased some Black Diamond mercury mitts for myself and honestly, it made my hike so much more pleasant. They were $109.95 and worth every cent.

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The Cabot Cabin
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Had to take a pic of this fat little gray jay that followed us from the cabin to the summit!

Mt. Cabot was my 14th winter peak, and it really is one of my favorite mountains. It was a great way to spend my birthday. On the way back to the Eagle Mountain House we grabbed sandwiches at my favorite deli, J-Town. Then that night we did dinner at The Red Fox and drinks at Wildcat Tavern. All my favorites 🙂

Other posts from our MLK weekend trip up to Jackson:

Winter Weekend at The Eagle Mountain House, Jackson NH

Mountain Town Charm- Jackson, NH

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Mountain Town Charm- Jackson, NH

The first time I went to Jackson NH was back in college. I went cross country skiing around Jackson Village and immediately fell in love. For a New England girl that loves the White Mountains Region in all seasons, Jackson is where its at. First of all, one of the entrances into the village is through a red covered bridge. It’s called the Honeymoon Bridge. Through the bridge, the first inn on your right will be Nestlenook Farm. They have sleigh rides and ice skating there, and it is beautiful all lit up at night. There are so many cute inns with much history in Jackson. Someday I want to stay at the Wentworth Inn in one of the rooms with its own little hot tub on a little balcony. The complete list for lodging in Jackson can be seen here.

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Ski Culture in Jackson

No matter where you stay or where you eat in Jackson, the ski culture is ever present. There are two downhill ski areas close by: Black Mountain and Wildcat Mountain. They are very different. Black Mountain is a smaller, family oriented mountain. They do horseback riding and other activities in the summer. This is where you take your family of five to get all the kids skiing, or maybe go with multiple families and the kids can’t get into too much trouble because the mountain isn’t THAT challenging. Wildcat is a different story.  There is certainly beginner terrain on Wildcat, but it is a huge mountain compared to Black Mountain. The lift ticket is more expensive too ($79 vs $55 on a weekend), so probably better for skiers that will enjoy more of the mountain.

Cross country skiing is huge in Jackson as well. The Jackson Ski Touring Center is a nonprofit organization where you can rent cross country skis (skate or classic), snowshoes, and take lessons. (Side note: snowshoeing has gotten really popular lately!) The trail system is expansive. Most of the inns in Jackson are on the trail system which makes it fun skiing from one inn to another. The golf courses for the Wentworth and Eagle Mountain House becomes gentle sloping ski loops, and the trail that goes along the Ellis River is beautiful. There is a cocoa cabin on the Ellis River Trail that has come a long way since I started skiing there. To cross the river from the Wentworth golf course to the Ellis River Trail, you ski through another red covered bridge. So perfect.

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All of the restaurants and inns have maps, signs, and memorabilia from the ski areas. Jackson is extremely proud of their ski heritage, and in a few places, you might even see photos of Benno Rybizka who might be the reason for it all. Rybizka was the second in command to Hannes Schneider, who was one of the most prestigious ski instructors in Austria/Switzerland. Carrol Reed had the vision of having a ski school like the ones in Europe here in New Hampshire. At the time, there were no ski resorts in New Hampshire. There were vertical areas that you would climb up and ski down….as many times as the sunlight and your body allowed. Reed raised the money to bring Rybizka over in 1936 and the Eastern Slope Ski School in Jackson began. It ran out of what is now the Wildcat Tavern and lessons were given on a slope on Moody’s Farm. Eventually Rybizka moved on to North Conway and started his ski school there where Cranmore Resort is now, and one is his trained instructors, Arthur Doucette, kept the ski school in Jackson going. He ran his ski school at Black Mountain for 25 years, and also founded the Jackson Fire Dept. The lessons, and money, and excitement that grew from the ski schools led to ski shops and eventually J bar/T bar lifts and now here we are. Downhill skiing is a huge part of the economy in New England, and as this article that chronicled this beautiful history says, it all started here. The article was written in 1965 so many of these historic ski heroes were still alive. Benno’s wife was model turned ski instructor Blanche Rybizka. Check out her photoshoot for Life Magazine in 1945 here. She was/is the epitome of winter slope style. This was in the days when Benno was up at Mont-Tremblant. The couple later divorced and Blanche married Dick Hauserman, one of the founders of Vail. They opened the first business in Vail, a ski shop called Vail Blanche. Her third husband was Cortland Hill, who was a Mammoth Mountain pioneer. The last name that she went by was Christie Hill, not sure if Christie was maybe a nickname due to her middle name or maiden name, Christainsen. She was a pretty remarkable woman, quite the skier- here is an article Vail Daily wrote about her when she passed in 2015 at the age of 100!

The Eating & Drinking Culture in Jackson

Jackson is the type of place that likes to work hard and play hard. Most of the inns have their own restaurant and taverns with nightly dinner and apres ski specials. There are really too many places to name here but I will cover a few of them!

Breakfast

For breakfast, definitely check out one of the inns!! The inns are ready for the folks that want to eat a little something before hitting the trails or have a nice big country breakfast. We have stayed at Christmas Farm Inn in the past and they have a really great breakfast. If you are like me and don’t like to eat a huge breakfast before skiing, get a little something to go from J-Town Deli! They have delicious breakfast sandwiches and burritos. They also have the best variety of Ritter Sport chocolate I have ever seen and stroopwafels!

Lunch and Apres-Ski

So when I am out skiing or hiking for the day, lunch is the forgotten meal. We usually eat snacks or just have sandwiches. J-Town Deli is obviously my favorite sandwich joint in town, but I will also say there is a grocery store called Grant’s Shop n Save in Glen which is not far from Jackson to get sandwich stuff and cheap snacks. For me, if there is a meal to save money on during ski/hike days, it’s lunch

Favorite Apres-Ski spots are the Shovel Handle Pub and Wildcat Tavern.  The Shovel Handle Pub is really ski club rustic inside in a good way right next to Black Mountain. They have a great menu if you want to stay for dinner, good drinks, and live entertainment. Wildcat Tavern is my favorite. The vintage ski posters, booths made with double ski lift chairs, great menu, live entertainment, or great bar…..you pick, its all good. Parking can be a little dicey on the street, but it is a great spot. When its busy, settle in because the service can be a little slow, but the atmosphere is so great, I have never minded.

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Dinner

Now, as I have mentioned, most of the inns have dining rooms and taverns where you can get a great dinner. We ate at the Highfields Restaurant at the Eagle Mountain House and it was delicious. Both the Shovel Handle Pub and Wildcat Tavern do a great dinner. For me though, probably my favorite place for dinner is the Red Fox Bar and Grille. Here’s why: they have woodfire grilling and pizzas! This is the Wentworth Golf Course Club restaurant in the summer months, named after a fox that was known for stealing golf balls! It is probably the largest stand alone restaurant in Jackson, and it has TVs which made it a popular destination for playoff football this past weekend. I love the brick oven woodfire pizza there, and they woodfire grill meats and vegetables, so I know this sounds random, but the woodfire broccoli is amazing. There are definitely some cute ski decor type stuff around, but this restaurant is a little more on the modern side of life.

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Jackson NH definitely has my heart. Jon and I hope to someday have a little place up in that area and retire up there. I think that North Conway which is a little south might be a little more family friendly- think more hotels with indoor pools instead of the cute inns, bigger restaurants, larger main street, playground- but I love the quiet in Jackson.

We stayed at the Eagle Mountain House this past weekend! Check out my post on the Eagle Mountain House here: Winter Weekend at The Eagle Mountain House, Jackson NH

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Winter Weekend at The Eagle Mountain House, Jackson NH

Many years ago, back when I was in college, Jackson Ski Touring did a Hearts across Jackson Tour for heart health month. We cross country skied between all the inns, and each inn had a treat, some heart healthy, some not so much ha. It was really fun because you got to go in and see all the inns. I remember the first time I saw the Eagle Mountain House sitting up on its hill. Its a pretty big hotel for Jackson. I remember walking in and just wanting to stay. The lobby was cozy with a vintage telephone booth, and the elevator from 1930s still worked. This past weekend, my husband and I finally stayed at the hotel that I fell in love with so many years ago.

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The Eagle Mountain House was first built in 1879 and was run basically as a guest house by Cyrus Gale. Cyrus was an avid fisher and outdoorsman, and like many farm houses in the area, he opened his doors to guests as more and more people were flocking to mountains of NH for that curative air and activity over the summer. In 1915, the original inn was destroyed by a fire. The carriage house is the only thing that survived. The carriage house was originally used for horses and carriages, then became the garage for automobiles, and is now a ballroom for functions. The inn came back bigger and better in 1916. The new sign boasted 125 rooms with 100 bathrooms. The wrap around veranda lined with rocking chairs was 280 feet around. Arthur Gale, Cyrus’s son turned the pasture farmland in front of the hotel into a golfcourse in 1931. For many years, the hotel was only open in the summer months. They would collect guests from the train stops in Glen or Intervale to stay for a couple months typically. When cars became the preferred mode of transport, it still could take upwards of 5 hours to drive from Boston.

We arrived in Jackson Saturday around noon and did some cross country skiing until we could check in. The trails over by the Eagle Mountain House were in great shape actually, so we did some skiing in the village, and then headed to our hotel so we could go right in from skiing. After checking in, we brought our bags up the antique elevator that won’t budge until the doors are closed by hand. Our room had a queen bed with a mountain view. There was even the antique telephone still in the wall.

The lobby still had some holiday decorations up and a few sitting areas. One of the sitting areas was around a Christmas tree, and another was around a warm crackling fireplace. A library beyond the lobby had a second fireplace with more comfy seats, a piano, historic photographs, and of course books. In the summer there is an outdoor pool, and there is a hot tub inside that wasn’t working sadly this past weekend. There is also a game room which was popular with the kids, and a small gift shop with mugs and tshirts. In the morning they had tea, coffee, and hot cocoa set up in the lobby, and then in the afternoon they added cookies to the to-go spread! The Eagle Landing Tavern was packed in the afternoons into the evenings. We ate dinner at the Highfields Restaurant on Saturday night and Monday morning.  I got the beef tips, Jon got the duck, and both were delicious. Monday morning they had a delicious breakfast buffet. The french toast had the perfect amount of cinnamon and crispiness and then eggs benedict is made fresh that morning.

In the summer, they serve food and drinks out on the veranda, so we will have to go back sometime to do that. The views from the hotel are really beautiful. In 2012, the hotel was bought by George Heaton of Heaton Companies. They have really committed themselves to being caretakers of this historic hotel by gently making upgrades and maintaining the historic charm. An example of this? I believe the Eagle Mountain House was one of the last hotels up there to finally get air conditioning!

This hotel, as well as many other historic hotels up there were built for the guest that had to forced to finally come inside at night. Staying at the Eagle Mountain House in the summers of its hey day was about being outside away from the noise and pollution of the cities. The rooms were really meant to be for sleeping only, with the windows open in the summer! We really enjoyed our stay. Between cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and hiking, there is so much to do outside in the White Mountains!

I wrote a little bit more about the lovely town of Jackson here: Mountain Town Charm- Jackson, NH – Check it out!

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Reflecting on horses in 2016

I started riding horses back in January 2007, so it has been 9 years this year. Crazy. I graduated college in 2006 and thought about staying in crew. I almost joined Riverside Boat Club in Cambridge but got scared off by the cost and time. I was working in Cambridge and my cubicle neighbor owned a couple horses. I started riding at Harmony Horse Stables in Littleton MA. I still remember my first lesson on a chestnut thoroughbred named Penny Lane. There have been quite a few horses since, Flora & Squirt, Jolie & Ivy, Gemma, Acoya, Sterling, Sofie, Derby…..etc etc 🙂

When I was reflecting on my year, I couldn’t help thinking about horses. I moved this year up to NH and had to leave my barn, Orchard Hill Equestrian Center, where I had been riding since 2010. I started riding at OHEC for a mare named Cheval, Chevie for short. She was a huge white percheron/TB cross that I leased for about a year. She was sold and then I basically have just been riding school horses ever since. This past May, a very special horse became a school horse named Beau. He was/is my dream horse. Forward with a big floaty trot, rhythmic rocking horse canter. He’s a big Oldenburg, early teens. Ground manners and manners on the cross ties aren’t great but he is perfect under saddle. I actually just heard on Friday night that two instructors have sadly labeled him as an unsafe liability because of his ground manners. The real issue is that becoming a school horse has led to some bad habits. He has learned that because of his size, his beginner/inexperienced riders are scared off when he makes a big fuss on the cross ties. It is unfortunate because what I see is a horse that would really benefit from a consistent, confident rider…not a rider who shows up for their one ride a week that doesn’t want to deal with a problem horse. The life of a school horse.

When I moved, I was so sad to leave my barn and all the amazing friends I had made there and become accustomed to seeing every week. The family that owns that barn is very near and dear to my heart. I love going down to MA to see them. When I was going through my divorce, I actually lived in one of the apartments on the property while we sorted out housing. These people are seriously solid people. I was also sad to leave Beau, wondering what the next horse I would find to ride would be like.

I ended up hitting the jackpot. I found a small quiet farm near the new house and the horse I have been riding since September is named Chandraki. He is a Georgian Grande; an interesting breed that is half friesian, a quarter saddlebred, and a quarter draft, in Draki’s case his grandfather was a percheron. He is safe, likes the ring and the trails, and is a beautiful mover. The catch is he can be lazy, and he can be a bully. He has really forced me to be an assertive rider that uses spurs and a dressage whip when he isn’t listening. This assertiveness has been tough for me, a person who usually shies away from confrontation. Not surprisingly, this new attitude while riding has bled in my life a little, making me a more confident and assertive person. When faced with adversity, I can’t help but think, hey, I pay someone to fight with a 1000+ lb animal….what do you got!?

I have learned so much about riding, and really myself from riding Chandraki. This weekend we took a lesson with Adam Cropper, a dressage trainer who helped Chandraki’s owner when she first got him. It was a really great ride for us, and a great confidence booster for me. Oh and of course Chandraki is so handsome and extremely respectful yet affectionate on the ground…so there’s that 🙂 His owner has used him for eventing as well as fox hunting, and he has a real talent for dressage. I am hoping he will be one of the best parts of 2017. We’ll see!

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A New Hampshire New Year’s Weekend

I am back to work today feeling refreshed after a week off. I would like to think that my students also feel refreshed and ready to learn annnnnd so I am going to continue to think that haha! I absolutely loved my New Year’s weekend this year. My husband got out of work early on Friday and we headed up to Gunstock Mountain for some night skiing. We had just gotten all that snow on Thursday so the conditions were great! Some areas were a little icy/bumpy because the snow gets pushed into piles in steep parts, but my skis are pretty new still, nice and sharp!

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Lake Winnipesaukee view from summit of Gunstock!
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View from the summit, we got one summit run in before the lift closed at 4!
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View from the Pistol lift, the light made it all look strangely purple

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View of the Stockade and the night skiing trails all lit up!

Saturday night we went to a friend’s house for a get together that included multiple bonfires, fireworks (because those are legal in NH, whaaaaaa?), and snowmobiling! It was such a fun night. We were all together in the living room for the ball dropping and champagne toasts.

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Welp, I don’t have any resolutions. Trying to eat better and exercise, be kind to the people I love….those aren’t resolutions, they are things that I try to think about all day every day. I am doing my first dressage clinic/lesson this coming Saturday with the trainer who worked with the horse I ride when his owner first brought him here from Ohio. I am so looking forward to it, Draki and me have been working hard and have really made progress since I started riding him in the fall. Its been quite a year- I got married, bought a house and moved to NH, and started a new job. I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store!

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