New England Ski Museum Announces 2014 Grant Availability

New England Ski Museum will once more offer $3,000 in grants to support individuals and organizations that will spread the Museum’s mission to preserve the history of skiing and winter sports under its Cal Conniff Grant program in 2014.

The program is named for Museum board member Cal Conniff, who organized the first Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race in 1997 to honor the Austrian ski innovator who helped establish the mountain resort industry, and to create a measure of financial stability to the non-profit Museum.

Forty years ago this fall, Cal Conniff had just been named the executive director of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) when the industry faced a very serious crisis in the wake of the Mideast oil embargo and resulting energy shortage. On November 20, 1973 the Senate passed the National Energy Emergency Act that would have restricted travel for “non-essential” purposes like recreation.

Sherman Adams of Loon Mountain, left, with Cal Conniff, then executive director of the National Ski Areas Association about 1975.

Sherman Adams of Loon Mountain, left, with Cal Conniff, then executive director of the National Ski Areas Association about 1975.

Meeting with NSAA president Pete Seibert of Vail, Tom Corcoran of Waterville Valley, and Sherman Adams of Loon Mountain, Conniff and the others devised a rapid response to the threat. As a former presidential chief of staff Adams knew Washington processes and guided the association’s strategy. The NSAA mobilized its members across the country—with the then-cutting edge technology of the fax machine—to contact their House representatives, and the language was altered to avoid the specter of illegal weekend travel to resorts.

 

This year, the Cal Conniff awards will be announced on Friday, March 7, 2014 at the opening reception of the Hannes Schneider Race in Cranmore’s Pub in North Conway, NH.

These Cal Conniff Grant were made in 2013:

  • T-Bar Films of Richmond, Vermont: $1,000 to support their documentary film United We Ski that captures the histories of several small New England ski areas still in operation today, including Cochran’s and Northeast Slopes. The film is now out on DVD and has been shown in northern New England locations to very good reviews.
  • Thunderbolt Ski Runners of Adams, Massachusetts, $1,000 to upgrade the exhibits in their Thunderbolt Ski Museum at the foot of Mount Greylock.
  • Youth Enrichment Services of Boston, Massachusetts, $1,000 to underwrite season passes for low-income Boston youth to participate in Operation SnowSports Season Pass program.

The Cal Conniff Grant Program is open to individuals, organizations and educational institutions with an interest in winter sports, such as alpine and nordic skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Anyone who can demonstrate the need for funding for the purposes of education, preservation of skiing history, encouraging winter sports participation, or other involvement in snow sports is eligible.

The selection process is conducted by the Museum’s Grant Committee on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis. The committee judges applications based on the following:

  • the importance of the grant to the success of the proposed program;
  • the proposal’s contribution to the preservation of ski or snowboard history;
  • the educational value of the proposal;
  • the extent to which the project encourages skiing or snowboarding participation;
  • the applicant’s degree of organization in the pursuit of the project.

The application process is kept purposefully informal. Applicants submit a letter that outlines a description of the project, its goals, the audience that it will impact, and the dollar amount requested. Supporting information for the application should include:

  • resume or organizational description, including contact name and mailing address;
  • two letters supporting the merits of the individual or program;
  • representative photograph for publication if the applicant is successful.

Questions about the program or application materials should be e-mailed to staff@skimuseum.org or mailed to:

Cal Conniff Grant Committee, New England Ski Museum

PO Box 267, Franconia, NH 03580

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Ski Area Survivors is New Exhibit at the Ski Museum

A recent series of 75th anniversaries celebrated by ski resorts across the country, from Shawnee Peak in Maine to Timberline in Oregon, points to a phenomenon that is the subject of a new exhibit at the New England Ski Museum, titled Ski Area Survivors: Prewar American Ski Centers with a History. In the 1930s the concept of a ski area was new, based on the recent invention of ski tows and aerial lifts for skiing and, new ski areas were opening up rapidly. By the latter half of the decade a handful of American ‘ski centers’, to use the term of the day, had emerged that are recognizably modern, and the foremost among them approached the scale of resorts found in Europe at the time.

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway opened on June 28, 1938.

The Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway opened on June 28, 1938.

The ten principal ski areas of the prewar years shared most of the features that came to define the concept of a ski resort: maintained ski slopes or trails; a state-of-the-art ski tow or aerial lift; nearby or on-site lodging accommodations; professional ski instruction; and provision for a ski patrol. In many cases, these prewar areas were the venue for national ski meets.

Sun Valley in Idaho, opened in the winter of 1937 by the Union Pacific Railroad, was the earliest and most developed of the ski areas of the 1930s, and became a prototype for other American ski centers. It directly influenced developments at two New Hampshire locations, Belknap Recreation Area (now Gunstock) in Gilford and Cranmore Mountain in North Conway in succeeding years.

Whitney’s (now Black Mountain) in Jackson, New Hampshire, Pico in Mendon, Vermont, Mount Mansfield in Stowe, Vermont, and Cannon Mountain in Franconia, New Hampshire round out the list of eastern areas that were the most significant of the prewar skiing universe. In the west, Mount Hood, Oregon with its majestic Timberline Lodge, Alta, Utah, Sugar Bowl, California, and Sun Valley were the major resorts of the day.

The first chairlift at Alta opened on January 15, 1939, though it was unreliable in its first season.

The first chairlift at Alta opened on January 15, 1939, though it was unreliable in its first season.

Beside these leading ski resorts, dozens of other smaller areas with rope tows and T-bars had opened in the years before the United States entered World War II. The National Ski Areas Association, the trade group for ski areas in the US, lists more than 40 areas that date back before the war but did not have status as a major resort at the time. Some of these, like Aspen, Winter Park and Steamboat in Colorado, and Snow Basin and Deer Valley, Utah, have since become some of the largest ski resorts in the country.

The somewhat surprising premise of the exhibit, that at least 60 American ski areas dating back to the 1930s or earlier are still operating today, contrasts sharply with the doleful lists compiled by the New England Lost Ski Area Project website (www.nelsap.org) that document the closure of nearly 600 mostly small-scale ski areas in New England. Visitors to the new exhibit, Ski Area Survivors: Prewar American Ski Centers with a History, should come away with an appreciation of these ski area survivors that can all be skied today.

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Remembering the first ski ascent of Mount Washington

One hundred years and one day after the first documented ascent of Mount Washington on skis, two grandsons and a great grandson of Carl E. Shumway, one of the three to make the first ski climb, celebrated the centennial with a ski tour along the route taken by the 1913 adventurers. It was on March 10, 1913 that a party of the Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) made up of its founder Fred Harris, its third president Carl Shumway and Joseph Cheney made their way up the eight-mile Mount Washington Carriage Road on an uncharacteristically clear day with mild 19-degree temperatures on the summit. The road they took, long since re-named the Mount Washington Auto Road, runs for four miles above the timberline, and the group roped themselves together like alpinists for both the ascent and the run down the icy upper stretch.

Carl Shumway in Tuckerman Ravine in 1937, nearly a quarter century after the first documented ascent of Mount Washington on skis.

Carl Shumway in Tuckerman Ravine in 1937, nearly a quarter century after the first documented ascent of Mount Washington on skis.

On March 11, 2013 Shumway’s descendants, Bo and Wyatt Adams of Rochester, NH and Charlie Adams of Ballston Lake, NY retraced the tracks of the early party, using modern alpine touring equipment with climbing skins (but no ropes), provided by EMS North Conway store manager Michael Scontsas. Much about skiing has changed since 1913, but the alpine touring equipment used harkens back to the days before ski tows, when climbing was an essential part of the sport. The Auto Road itself is much different than in 1913, and as part of the Great Glen Trails network is normally off-limits to alpine touring equipment. Carl Shumway was the manager of the road and its associated Glen House hotel in the summer of 1913, and he remembered it as the last summer that four-horse teams were used to carry visitors to the summit. Before the transition to auto traffic, Shumway sold gasoline via siphon from barrels to the few cars that appeared. Today in winter, snow tractors from the Mount Washington Observatory and Mount Washington State Park travel the road, using their plow blades to level a path across what were steeply angled snow slopes when the DOC group made their ascent. Tracked SnowCoaches of the privately-owned Mount Washington Auto Road routinely take visitors to treeline over the snow-packed lower four miles.

Bo Adams, Charlie Adams, and Wyatt Adams emerge from timberline with Mount Adams (no relation) in the background.

Bo Adams, Charlie Adams, and Wyatt Adams emerge from timberline with Mount Adams (no relation) in the background.

DOC parties to the mountain were common in the 1910s and 1920s, often on the long weekend in early March afforded by town election days. In those years before the extremity of the mountain’s weather was documented by the Mount Washington Observatory, Dartmouth climbers were unaware that they were venturing into terrain that features some of the most difficult winter weather conditions on earth. With the modern benefit of that knowledge, the 2013 party of Shumway descendants decided to conclude their climb five and one half miles up the road as the wind rose to uncomfortable levels. Modern skis with deep sidecuts, steel edges and bindings that firmly fix the heel made the descent from the top of the Cragway grade a much more pleasant, if perhaps less thrilling, ski run than the 1913 ski pioneers experienced. Shumway’s account of the trip notes that bridge planks on the carriage road were taken up in the fall, requiring the skiers to jump the gaps.

Bo Adams on the descent of the 5-mile grade, where his grandfather Shumway skied roped to his companions a century ago.

Bo Adams on the descent of the 5-mile grade, where his grandfather Shumway skied roped to his companions a century ago.

On the day before their summit ascent, the Fred Harris-Carl Shumway party of 1913 was also the first to use skis to travel to Tuckerman Ravine, where they skied down from partway up the headwall. Today, thousands of skiers visit Tuckerman in spring, attracted by its deep snowpack and steep slopes. Within two decades of the DOC’s pioneering expedition, skiers had come to the realization that the ravine was the premier ski site in New England, while snow conditions above treeline on the mountain are normally less than optimal for skiing.

After graduating from Dartmouth, Carl Shumway had a hand in the operation of snow trains by the B & M Railroad, edited a ski section of the Boston Evening Transcript titled “Old Man Winter,” and organized the first ski show in New England, the 1935 National Winter Sports Exposition and Ski Tournament in the Boston Garden. Bo Adams, an insurance executive specializing in ski area coverage and the president of New England Ski Museum, continues the family tradition of deep involvement in skiing established by his grandfather.

Fred Harris followed up his founding of the DOC with similar roles at the outset of the US Eastern Amateur Ski Association and the Brattleboro (VT) Outing Club, and a stint as vice president of the National Ski Association. Joseph Cheney, the third member of the summit ski party, who had never seen snow before attending Dartmouth, spent his career after college in his native Florida.

The New England Ski Museum collects, preserves, and interprets objects and manuscripts that relate to the history of skiing in New England and elsewhere, and keeps track of obscure skiing anniversaries.

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EMS Randonee Night Tour Returns to Cranmore

The 17th annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race will feature an untimed, up and down-mountain social nighttime ski tour and dinner for skiers on randonee and telemark gear as part of the opening festivities on Friday evening, March 1. Eastern Mountain Sports of North Conway will sponsor the event, providing alpine touring demo equipment for those who need it. Participants who want to take advantage of the demo offer should call the EMS North Conway store at 603-356-5433 to reserve gear or visit the store prior to February 28, 2012 so that they can be fitted with equipment.

The 2012 EMS Randonee Night Tour leaves the Cranmore base area as twilight fades to night. Hannes Schneider, grandson and namesake of the Austrian skimeister, strides toward the camera in left center.

EMS was a pioneer in the retailing of nordic and backcountry skiing gear in the early 1970s when the concept of cross-country skiing was becoming popular but not many alpine ski shops were prepared to cope with the surge in interest in the new style of skiing. The EMS store in North Conway became a center of cross-country sales and information in that period and for several years revived the fading Intervale Ski Area as a nordic center. Over the years other retailers caught up to EMS’ early lead, but several of the company’s massive mail order catalogs from the early 1970s in the New England Ski Museum’s collection give evidence to the breadth of their ski selection in the early years of nordic skiing’s popularity.

The connection between human-powered climbing on skis and the man honored by the event, Hannes Schneider, is clear and direct. Schneider developed his techniques before the invention of ski lifts, and as a practiced and passionate backcountry skier in his native Arlberg region of Austria, used uphill alpine touring techniques daily himself and taught them to his students. Schneider is considered the founder of ski instruction as it is still structured today, and as an originator of the mountain resort industry because his ski school sparked unprecedented prosperity to his mountain hometown of St. Anton, Austria.

Registration for the EMS Randonee Night Tour begins at 4 PM on Friday March 1, and costs $25, including a dinner buffet. Beginning at 5 PM, tour participants will ascend a route to be selected and marked by Cranmore patrollers, and follow a designated route down the mountain’s alpine trails. The Meister Hut at the summit of Cranmore will be open and hot chocolate available to the group. All skiers will be urged to make their descent by 7:00 PM so as not to miss the hearty alpine buffet that coincides with the opening reception of the Meister Cup in Zip’s Pub and Grill.

The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is a benefit event for the New England Ski Museum of Franconia, NH. While celebrating 30 years in its Franconia Notch State Park home, the museum also maintains satellite exhibits at Bretton Woods Ski Area, the Visitor Center at Intervale Scenic Vista, and the Eastern Slope Inn.

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Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race Honors US Ski Troops

70 years ago this winter, the legendary American ski troops that would soon be named the 10th Mountain Division were just occupying Camp Hale, the brand new training base in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Veterans of the 10th Mountain Division from that era from as far away as Washington state will be on hand at the 17th annual Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race at Mount Cranmore in North Conway, New Hampshire on Saturday, March 2, 2013.

Construction of Camp Hale was just being concluded in late January 1943, and some 16,000 soldiers and 2,500 mules were already in residence. In late December 1942 the War Department issued an order to fill a second regiment of soldiers to be trained in mountain and winter warfare. In an unprecedented arrangement, the Army used a civilian agency, the National Ski Patrol, to serve as a recruiter for the new regiment on the theory that the NSP could better judge skiing ability than non-skiing Army personnel. The resulting unit, the 86th Mountain Infantry regiment, had sky-high morale and test scores indicating that two-thirds of the 86th enlisted men were officer material. A 1946 Army report noted that “some of our most hard-bitten Regular Army personnel are now frankly admitting that the best men we are receiving …have been endorsed through the National Ski Patrol.”

The soldiers of the mountain infantry had only a short time at Camp Hale to learn the essentials of outdoor winter living before they were assigned to maneuvers in the Homestake Peak area near Leadville, Colorado from February 4 through 12. Those troopers who had already spent one winter training with the 87th Mountain Infantry adapted to both the winter environment and bureaucratic Army methods and thrived on the exercises. In a 2005 memoir Robert W. Parker, later a Vail resort marketing executive, recalled his squad setting up their Army mountain tents in crisp, straight lines that would please the most diligent superior officer, then proceeding to dig snow caves where they slept in warmth and comfort impossible to achieve in the non-breathable, moisture-coated tents.

Other mountain troopers, new to the Colorado high country and with uneven training, had considerable difficulty in adjusting to the altitude, deep snow, and heavy packs. Mountaineering experts sent from Washington as observers submitted a less-than-complimentary report, which in time resulted in changes in the command of the unit. The high point of the maneuvers came as the artillery used its 75 millimeter pack howitzers to bring down a devastating avalanche from Homestake Peak onto the aptly-named Slide Lake. The point was to prove the potential for artillery-induced avalanches as a weapon of mountain warfare, a tactic that would never be used in World War II but which did inspire the use of explosives in postwar civilian avalanche control.

Veterans of the World War II-era 10th Mountain Division are in their late eighties now. The New England chapter of the National Association of the 10th Mountain Division will hold its annual winter gathering in conjunction with the Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race, and a group of veterans is expected on Saturday to observe the race and mingle with skiers of all ages, as well as active-duty mountain soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, New York, the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Mountain) of the Vermont National Guard, and the Army Mountain Warfare School of Jericho, Vermont. Those three units of mountain soldiers will participate in the opening ceremony of the event, skiing down with the national and division colors, and compete in the special military category of the Schneider Race.

The Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race is a benefit event for the New England Ski Museum, which has as part of its mission the remembrance of the 10th Mountain Division, many of whose veterans were instrumental in the postwar development of the alpine and nordic ski industries.

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New England Ski Museum Call for 2013 Grant Applications

Each year in connection with its Hannes Schneider Meister Cup Race, the New England Ski Museum makes grants totaling $3,000 to support people and groups that enhance the mission of the Museum, which is to preserve the history of skiing and winter sports in New England.

The program is named for former Museum president Cal Conniff, who originated the Hannes Schneider Race in 1997 to honor the Austrian ski pioneer and bring a measure of financial viability to the non-profit Museum.

This year, the Cal Conniff awards will be announced on Friday, March 1, 2013 at the opening reception of the Hannes Schneider Race in Cranmore’s Eating House restaurant, in North Conway, NH.

Previous Cal Conniff Grant awards have included:

  • Amherst Regional High School Nordic ski team, Amherst, MA, $500 for program support;
  • Penobscot Valley Ski Club, Bangor, ME, $500 to support their nordic ski program;
  • Waterville Valley Adaptive Sports, Waterville Valley, NH, $1,000 to support adaptive ski programs for local school children;
  • Discovery Camp Program at Loon Mountain, Lincoln, NH, $1,000 to support their skiing and snowboarding programs;
  • Bretton Woods Adaptive Sports & Recreation, Bretton Woods, NH, $1,000 to provide adaptive ski lessons for local students with physical and developmental disabilities;
  • The Ford K. Sayre Memorial Ski Council, Inc, Hanover, NH, $1,000 to purchase ski jumping boots for their junior and high school jumpers;
  • The Damon O’Neal Scholarship Committee, North Conway, NH, $800 to partially fund a scholarship in memory of ski racer Damon O’Neal;
  • New England Disabled Sports, Lincoln, NH, $1,000 to support its hosting of the National Disabled Ski Hall of Fame;
  • Nick Alexander, Lebanon, NH, $1,000, in support of his ski jumping career;
  • Thunderbolt Ski Runners, Adams, MA, $800 to support its 75th anniversary race on the Thunderbolt Trail;
  • Cochran’s Ski Area, Richmond, VT, $1000 to support its community after-school programs;
  • Bruce Whittier Middle School and Poland Regional High School in Poland Maine, $1,000 to support nordic ski equipment acquisition;
  • Northeast Slopes, East Corinth, VT, $500 to support installation of a T-Bar tow.

The Cal Conniff Grant Program is open to individuals, organizations and educational institutions with an interest in winter sports, such as alpine and nordic skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing. Anyone who can demonstrate the need for funding for the purposes of education, preservation of skiing history, encouraging winter sports participation, or other involvement in snow sports is eligible.

The selection process is conducted by the Museum’s Grant Committee on an objective and nondiscriminatory basis. The committee judges applications based on the following:

the importance of the grant to the success of the proposed program;

  • the proposal’s contribution to the preservation of ski or snowboard history;
  • the educational value of the proposal;
  • the extent to which the project encourages skiing or snowboarding participation;
  • the applicant’s degree of organization in the pursuit of the project.

The application process is kept purposefully informal. Applicants submit a letter that outlines a description of the project, its goals, the audience that it will impact, and the dollar amount requested. Supporting information for the application should include:

  • resume or organizational description, including contact name and mailing address;
  • two letters supporting the merits of the individual or program;
  • representative photograph for publication if the applicant is successful.

The deadline for applications is February 5, 2013.

Questions about the program or application materials should be e-mailed to staff@skimuseum.org or mailed to:

Cal Conniff Grant Committee

New England Ski Museum

PO Box 267

Franconia, NH 03580

 

 

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2013 Ski Museum Shop Catalog Now in Print

The 2013 New England Ski Museum Shop catalog is now in print and online, featuring more than 35 new products that convey the excitement, adventure and nostalgia of skiing from the 1930s to 2012. The 24-page catalog offers perfect gifts for skiers and lovers of winter, and quite a few of the products are exclusive to the museum, developed using posters, photographs, films and archives from the broad collections that are a feature of the organization.

2013 catalog cover

New England Ski Museum is set apart from other American ski museums by the extent of their collections, housed in the Paumgarten Family Archival Center a short distance from the museum itself. The collections are used by the museum’s directors, staff and members to produce original works on the history of the sport ranging from the internationally-known academic studies of E. John B. Allen to the surreptitiously educational, hilarious blooper-reel DVD Thrills and Spills in the North Country produced by Rick Moulton. Director Jeremy Davis’ most recent book, Lost Ski Areas of the Southern Adirondacks, is one of several new books that appear in the catalog.

More skier gifts can be found on the museum’s website, including two books by members that will be available soon. Henry Yaple’s Never A Bad Year for Snow tells the history of 75-year old Lost Trail/Powder Mountain, a local sleeper ski area in western Montana, while closer to home, Tom Eastman’s 75-year history of Cranmore Mountain Resort is expected in mid-January.

The catalog cover, a bold, dynamic image of a skier in a terrain jump crystallizes the vivid style and passion for the sport that characterize ski area posters in the 1930s and 1940s. The poster was developed as a shop product as a result of an exhaustive review of collections in the process of renovating the museum’s permanent exhibit in the summer of 2012.

There was a time, about 15 years ago, when neckties were the largest seller in the museum’s catalog. Several ties with ski motifs still appear in the catalog, but the title for most popular product these days is held by hooked wool pillows, stockings and rugs by Chandler 4 Corners of Manchester, Vermont, with a variety of skiing scenes.

New DVDs in the catalog show unbelievable skiing scenes from the local—Mount Washington in the new Warren Miller film Like There’s No Tomorrow—to the Himalayan—in the mind-boggling concept behind Skiing Everest.

The shop catalog is one of the methods that the non-profit New England Ski Museum uses to support itself. All proceeds from catalog sales go to support the museum’s mission to preserve and disseminate the history of skiing.

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Bernie Weichsel to Receive 7th Spirit of Skiing Award

More than a quarter century after he created the prestigious BEWI Award which honors pioneers of skiing and the ski industry, ski and snowboard expo producer Bernie Weichsel will receive the New England Ski Museum’s Spirit of Skiing award in recognition of his influence in popularizing the sport. The award to Weichsel will be presented at the ski museum’s 35th Annual Meeting and Dinner at Wachusett Mountain Resort in Princeton, Massachusetts on November 17, 2012.

Bernie Weichsel

Bernie Weichsel, recipient of the 7th annual Spirit of Skiing Award.

The Spirit of Skiing award is given annually to a person who embodies the adage put forth by ski pioneer Otto Schneibs that “skiing is not just a sport, it is a way of life.” Previous honorees have included Tom Corcoran, Stein Eriksen, Herbert Schneider, SE Group, Penny Pitou and Georg Capaul.

Formerly a member of the board of directors of the ski museum himself, Bernie had a role in the naming of the award he will receive in November. “It was 2006, and we were casting around for a name for the award, which we would present to Tom Corcoran at our next meeting,” recalled museum director Jeff Leich. “Bernie was visiting the museum on his way to a hike up to Greenleaf Hut, and as we were browsing through the exhibit, Bernie saw the term “spirit of skiing” in a display and thought it would be a good name for the award. We never looked for any other.”

Bernie first skied at age four at Belleayre Mountain in the Catskills, and became a lifelong skier. The son of a butcher and owner of the Weichsel Beef Company, Bernie made several good faith efforts to take up management of the family company in between stints at the Colorado School of Mines and as a Vail ski bum, but the call of skiing won out and in 1979 he founded BEWI Productions, Inc. to produce events modeled on the ski shows run by Harry Leonard and Jerry Simon that he had worked in college. He burnished his reputation as an impresario of events by managing the National Ski Areas Association trade shows, and by starting SKI USA, which marketed some of the largest American ski resorts throughout the world.

BEWI Productions is the organization behind consumer ski and snowboard expos in Denver, Minneapolis and Boston, which collectively attract audiences in the hundreds of thousands each year.

As an established figure in the ski industry, Bernie got involved with a number of non-profit ski history organizations, beginning with the New England Ski Museum. After retiring from that board, he joined the boards of the International Skiing History Association and the US National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and Museum, where he is currently chairman. Under Bernie’s leadership the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony has been held at various locations around the country, including most recently Sun Valley and Seattle. He is presently working with those two allied organizations to create a new showcase of ski history in downtown Denver which will combine the Beekley Collection of Skiing Art and Literature with snowsports artifacts and displays from several ski museums.

The directors of the New England Ski Museum enthusiastically anticipate honoring Bernie Weichsel, who has done so much for the ski and snowboard industries, and who has been the founder and presenter of the BEWI Award for 26 years and counting. Board members feel that it is time for the ski world to return the favor.

Reservations for the event may be made by calling the ski museum at 800-639-4181, or by visiting http://newenglandskimuseum.com/events/ . The cost of the dinner is $75 per person before October 1 and $90 thereafter. Sponsored tables of 10 with preferred seating and banner display can be reserved for $800 before October 1 or $1000 after that date. A limited number of rooms at the nearby Wachusett Village Inn are available to participants at $99.00 per room plus tax and service charge; reservations for those rooms can be made by calling 978-874-2000.

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Herbert Schneider 1920-2012

Herbert Schneider assumed leadership of the Hannes Schneider Ski School at Mount Cranmore following the April 1955 death of his father. Hannes’ passing was completely unexpected, and when it came he had been fully engaged with planning for the new East Slope and chairlift at Cranmore, and had just returned from a trip to New York to meet daughter Herta and son-in-law Karl Fahrner on their arrival from St. Anton.

Herbert Schneider

Herbert Schneider 1920-2012

On his last day of life, Hannes dictated several letters to Herbert, who took them down in shorthand, then complained of pain in his elbows and stomach. In those pre-EMS days it took time to arrange for an ambulance to the hospital, and Hannes died before its arrival. At his funeral in North Conway, skiers from across the country and abroad mingled with the local people who had become his friend.

At the time that Herbert Schneider took over the ski school at Cranmore, it was a busy and profitable concern. Hannes Schneider had virtually invented the ski school structure, and his fame in the skiing universe had attracted many patrons to North Conway. The ski school saw growth in every year between the arrival of the Schneiders in 1939 and 1955. There was a day when 800 lessons were taught at the mountain, and to give 200 lessons on a midweek day was unremarkable. Learning to ski on the long wooden skis and soft leather boots of the day required more practice and persistence than on today’s efficient ski equipment, and many returned to lessons week after week, for years at a time.

Herbert’s new role as Director of the ski school was one for which he had been prepared almost from birth. At age 11, he was sent to school at Feldkirch, about 40 kilometers west of St. Anton, to a Jesuit school named Stella Matutina. Here he played hockey and ran track after classes.

Herbert Schneider as a youth in St. Anton

Herbert Schneider as a youth in St. Anton

When he was older, he spent one year in L’ecole Superior de Commerce in Neuchatl, Switzerland, in order to polish his French skills. Hannes’s ski school in St. Anton was becoming increasingly cosmopolitan, and the ability to speak languages other than German was becoming important. Herbert expected to follow his formal education with a few years teaching skiing at Sun Valley to learn English, but events in Europe intervened.

When the Anschluss came in March 1938, Herbert and his sister Herta, also in school in Switzerland, knew little of the events in St. Anton. Hannes, from the beginning unimpressed at the rise of National Socialism in Austria, progressed to a firm refusal to treat with the Nazis from Innsbruck who gained influence in St. Anton. When the day came that Germany annexed Austria, Hannes was awakened at 3 AM and taken into custody along with four others, including the brother of Otto Tschol, who would live in North Conway and teach at Cranmore. One of those arresting Hannes sheepishly apologized for the way it was done, only to be fired for his solicitousness a few days later.

While Hannes was held in custody, first in the jail in Landeck then under house arrest in Garmisch-Partenkirchen Germany, Herbert and Herta stayed in Switzerland with sympathetic families.

Rosen's house

The house where Hannes Schneider was held under house arrest in Garmisch, seen in 2012. Photo by Heide Allen.

All through the summer and fall of 1938 Hannes’s future was unknown. He was offered the directorship of the ski school in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, though the offer was withdrawn after pressure. Hannes’ wife Ludwina’s strong feeling was that if they could not resume their previous life in St. Anton, it was best to move as far away as they could.

This became a real possibility late in the year, as Cranmore’s Harvey Dow Gibson, alerted to the situation by Benno Rybizka, set his sights on having Hannes relocate to North Conway and operate the Hannes Schneider Ski School from Mount Cranmore. Gibson’s financial and political connections made this improbable scenario a reality in early 1939, and the arrangement had great appeal to Hannes and Ludwina because it allowed the entire family to leave Europe altogether, at a time that turned out to be on the eve of all-encompassing war.

Upon landing in North Conway, Herbert had two immediate obstacles to a career in ski instruction: he did not speak English, and he had never taught a ski lesson. The language barrier came down within 4 or 6 weeks, Herbert recalls, helped by intensive attendance at the North Conway theater watching Hollywood’s offerings with the other Austrian instructors in town—Toni Matt, Franz Koessler, Otto Tschol, and Benno Rybizka. Herbert spent his days shadowing the experienced instructors; he recalls Toni Matt as an especially gifted teacher of skiing. It was a time when technique was progressing so rapidly in Austria that Benno, who had been in America since 1936 and was unaware of the evolution of technique in Austria, criticized Herbert and Franz for making pure parallel turns without showcasing the stem phase of the turn.

It was only when he arrived in America that Herbert realized the extent of his father’s influence on the sport of skiing, as Hannes was not accustomed to speak of his role at home. Hannes, Herta and Herbert were made to feel at home in North Conway immediately, and soon gained wide acquaintance. However, the welcome release from European tension was darkened by the death of Ludwina Schneider shortly after the family’s arrival.

In his second year in North Conway, the 1939-1940 ski season, Herbert had his first class on his own. His first pupils were Mr. and Mrs. C.V. Starr, he being the insurance magnate who would soon come to dominate the ski area at Mt. Mansfield, and would finance the installation of a chairlift in St. Anton after the war. Herbert received his instructor’s certification in 1940, along with Toni Matt in an exam given by Roger Langley on the old Whiteface Trail in New York. It was on that trip that he received his nickname “Zip”, invented by Walter Maguire, who drove them to the event.

Herbert Schneider skiing at Cranmore

Herbert Schneider skiing at Cranmore

The advent of war in Europe in 1939, and America’s involvement dating to the Pearl Harbor attack changed everything for Herbert’s generation on both sides of the Atlantic. Herbert, Toni Matt, and Otto Tschol joined the newly formed 10th Light Division (Alpine) training at Camp Hale, Colorado in August 1943. They were sent directly to Camp Hale, bypassing basic training. On their arrival there Toni and Herbert were assigned to the 10th Recon, the unit containing the better skiers and climbers that were detailed to teach skiing, climbing, and winter survival to the main division. Lacking basic training, Herbert and Toni were assigned to individualized training with Sergeant Nelson Bennett, a Lancaster NH native.

In the winter of 1944, Herbert was on detached duty to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and Wisconsin, training troops of the 76th Division in winter warfare. He returned to Camp Hale in time for the division’s move to Camp Swift in Texas June 1944; just before his departure he became a US citizen in Eagle, Colorado.

The 10th, now designated the 10th Mountain Division, spent the winter and spring of 1945 in fierce combat in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Herbert was with the 86th regiment during this period, winning a Bronze Star for quick thinking when he and a group from his I & R platoon encountered a German patrol in a minefield behind enemy lines.

At the end of the war, the Herbert’s unit found itself in Riva, near the north end of Lake Garda, a place where Herbert’s mother Ludwina had worked before her marriage. It was also close to the point where Hannes’ unit had ended the First World War. In the months between the German surrender in Italy and the 10th’s return to America, Herbert and two others were sent to Innsbruck to retrieve some German mountain equipment. The proximity to St. Anton made a detour irresistible, and Herbert found himself welcomed at the home he had left years earlier. A celebration ensued when word of Herbert’s return got around, and bottles of wine that had been hidden for the duration were brought out.

Herbert in St. Anton 1945

Herbert Schneider returned to St. Anton in 1945 as an American soldier

The Sporthaus Schneider, the combination ski shop, guest house and Schneider family home, remained in the possession of the family through the war years thanks to lease arrangements made on behalf of the family by Karl Rösen, the man with whom Hannes had found refuge in Garmisch-Partenkirchen after his 1938 arrest. Rösen, not a Nazi himself, seems to have had connections at the highest levels of the Nazi party dating from decades earlier. He was also a skiing friend of Hannes’ and his interventions to get Hannes out of Austria and to secure the ownership of the St. Anton property surely eased the Schneider family’s troubles greatly. During the war years, the house was leased by Rudi Matt, one of Hannes’ senior instructors, and became a rest and recreation center where German military personnel learned to ski.

The brief, happy return of Herbert to St. Anton was overshadowed by the tragedy that just ended. Many young men of Herbert’s generation never returned from the military. Herbert’s best friend as a boy, Pepi Jennewein was one. A champion ski racer, he was recruited as a fighter pilot by the Luftwaftte, as were other ski competitors for their competitive impulses and rapid reflexes.  Jennewein became a fighter ace, recording many kills, before being shot down. Another St. Anton skier, Pepi Gabl, was present and saw a parachute open, but Pepi Jennewin’s fate was unknown for decades. In recent years it was learned that he survived in a Russian POW camp until the early 1950s.

Herbert and St. Anton friends 1945

Herbert and St. Anton friends, 1945

A civilian once more in the fall of 1945, Herbert returned to North Conway and Cranmore, helping Hannes operate the ski school and the mountain. Business at the mountain grew as skiing regained its prewar popularity. Cranmore was in an excellent position to capitalize on skier interest because not many ski resorts existed before the war, and the great postwar boom in ski area construction was yet to come.

Ownership of Mount Cranmore devolved to Mrs. Harvey Gibson after her husband died in 1950, and it was she who selected Herbert to lead the ski school in 1955.  A few years later, in 1963, when her financial advisers thought it best for her to sell the resort, Mrs. Gibson vetoed their plan to sell to a group of Cranmore managers and made it possible for Herbert to assemble a small group of investors and purchase the mountain. Herbert remained the on-site manager throughout his ownership tenure.

As a ski area owner, Herbert became active in industry groups like Eastern Ski Area Operators and the New Hampshire Ski Area Operators. He went onto the Board of the Professional Ski Instructors of America in its second year, and remained a Board member and officer for years.

Herbert Schneider leading a ski business meeting

Herbert Schneider leading a ski business meeting

In February 1966 Herbert married Doris Beaudet of Connecticut, a Northeast Airlines stewardess who was based out of Boston. Herbert and Herta had been on a flight with Doris, who soon thereafter came to Cranmore for a ski school lesson. Herbert remembered her name from the nameplate that airline crews then displayed on the cockpit door during their flights, and they struck up a romance. After their marriage, their first son Hannes was born in 1967, and his brother Christoph was born a year later.

As the son of the pioneer developer of ski instruction, Herbert Schneider was literally the second generation of businessmen making a living from skiing. Rapid developments in skiing had changed the ski business landscape since the heyday of Hannes’ ski school in the 1930s. First and foremost, just as Hannes was encountering his political problems in St. Anton, mechanical ski lifts were becoming widespread. Once it became obvious that lifts would become an integral part of skiing, the ski schools that had evolved when the only uphill capacity was measured in lung power had to adjust and incorporate lifts into the teaching scheme. Ski lifts allowed more time for downhill, hence more experience for each day on the slopes. Skis and ski boots became more refined. Both developments had the effect of reducing the time a novice had to spend in ski lessons. The Schneiders and other European instructors found Americans to be vastly less patient than Europeans, and had to make allowances for that attitude.

Just as years of ski lessons became less critical for a newcomer to gain skill on skis, a great surge in construction of ski resorts got underway in the northeastern US. Existing ski resorts like Cranmore quite suddenly had to cope with vastly increased competition from new areas on the higher peaks of the northeastern mountains, and from European and western destinations made newly accessible by air travel. Herbert struggled with these trends, and engineered the gradual expansion of lifts and terrain. He continued Cranmore’s early lead in mechanical snow grooming, and arranged for the installation of snowmaking around 1969 or 1970. While Cranmore lost the pre-eminent position in the hierarchy of eastern resorts it held in the 1940s, it remained a viable mid-sized ski area with a loyal following. In 1984, faced with the unwillingness of his partners to invest more in the resort, Herbert put the mountain up for sale and bowed out of the ski business.

It was 45 years after Herbert and Hannes took their first run on Cranmore. On the way down they had paused, and Hannes told Herbert, “Well Herbert, it isn’t St. Anton, it isn’t the Arlberg, but we’re going to love it here”.

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New England Ski Museum Unveils New Permanent Exhibition

For the first time in many decades, the New England Ski Museum has new nesm exhibitrevamped its permanent exhibition, those images and artifacts that stay on view from year to year while the museum’s shorter-term displays frequently change. The new exhibition, titled “From the First Tracks to the Fall Line: eight thousand years of skiing”, presents a coherent chronology of the development of skiing from its prehistoric roots up until the advent of the shaped ski in the 1990s, and includes local aspects of ski history with national implications such as several important ‘firsts’ at Cannon Mountain, and the career of Bode Miller.

“For years, when an important or interesting object came to the museum, it was placed on display where it would fit physically, not necessarily where it fit chronologically,” noted executive director Jeff Leich. “These renovations will give our visitors a much more logical sense of how skiing developed.”

The ski museum’s overhaul was made possible partly though a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the agency that channels federal support to museums. IMLS seeks to create strong libraries and museums that connect people to information and ideas.

The exhibition features several 27 inch video screens, on which visitors can view their choices of film clips that explore topics such as ski instruction, the power and danger of avalanches, the early days of snowboarding, and the revival of the telemark turn. Despite the relatively small space of the museum’s exhibition hall, the film clips and in-depth articles on aspects of ski history published in the Museum’s Journal, which staff and docents make available to visitors on request, expand and augment the reach of the exhibition.

Upon entering the Museum, visitors see a short video introduction to skiing, coupled with an introductory alcove in which replicas of prehistoric skis—authentically produced by tribesmen in Central Asia who still use them—are paired with K2 Fours such as Bode Miller used when he first popularized shaped skis in the mid 1990s. Miller’s five Olympic medals on display mark some of his more recent skiing achievements.

The exhibition quickly focuses in on the transplantation of skiing from Europe to New England, and especially on the rapid growth of the sport and the fledgling businesses built around the sport in the 1930s. One important aspect of that decade was the creation of the National Ski Patrol to provide first aid to injured skiers, and the NSP in turn was a key advocate of the US Army’s mountain troops that became known as the 10th Mountain Division. Following the Second World War, veterans of the 10th were hugely significant in opening ski resorts around the country.

The rise of modern ski resorts in the 1950s and 1960s was followed by a retrenchment in the 1970s and 1980s, leading to the ‘lost ski area’ phenomenon as numerous small areas closed. Nordic skiing saw increasing popularity, and two new American forms, freestyle and snowboarding, appeared in the 1970s.

A 12-foot wide photomural of Tuckerman Ravine in the winter of 1969, noted as the snowiest on record there, closes out the exhibition, and visitors photographed standing before the mural appear to be in the ravine themselves. The Museum is open from 10 to 5 from Memorial Day until the end of ski season.
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