Current Annual Exhibit at the Ski Museum’s Franconia Notch Branch
Ski Photographers of the White Mountains
From the 1920s through the 1970s, four skiing photographers whose work is held in the collections of the New England Ski Museum captured snowscapes, personalities and historic vignettes in and around the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Winston Pote, Christine Reid, Dorothy Crossley and Dick Smith all worked outside the region and in other seasons, but their winter images of the White Mountains are some of the most striking in their work, and their wide-ranging knowledge of the people who skied and the places they went, hard-won by the photographers’ own skiing and climbing in the backcountry, together left a striking record of one of the earliest ski regions in the United States.
While the photographers who recorded winter scenes of the White Mountains all relied on youth and fitness to reach vantage points far from roads, Winston Pote worked the hardest simply because he was active well before roads were kept open in the winter. Over two decades, he climbed Mount Washington innumerable times, often hauling toboggans or packing heavy trunks of supplies and camera equipment for his extended stays on the summit.
In 1930, 1931, 1932, 1934 and 1940 he spent weeks living in the cramped summit cabin called Camden Cottage. He welcomed skiers who appeared on the mountain, always seeking, and rarely finding, the perfect combination of good weather, good snow, and expert skiing for his still photographs.
In 1942, despite his relatively advanced age of 43, Pote joined the 110th Signal Company at Camp Hale, Colorado, as the official photographer for the Army mountain troops, soon to be designated the 10th Mountain Division.
His crisp photographs of American mountain soldiers training in the high altitude ranges surrounding Camp Hale are apt companion pieces to his images of skiing and snowscapes in New Hampshire. At Camp Hale Pote chronicled the next stage in the evolution of American alpine skiing after its infancy in the northeast, which he had earlier witnessed and recorded.
Skier, alpinist, socialite, writer, editor, filmmaker and photographer, Christine Lincoln Reid ranged far from her home base in Brookline, Massachusetts to the Alps and Canadian Rockies, yet left a significant photographic record of some of the more prominent figures in White Mountain skiing in the 1930s.
In her early twenties she took up mountaineering, an unusual avocation for a woman of her time. She climbed Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies in 1929, ascended all the important peaks around Zermatt, and rock climbed in the Dolomites, where a new route was named Via Christine for her in 1936.
By the early 1930s Christine Reid had embraced skiing. She was a personable figure and made friends easily. The contacts she made through skiing provided her a wide acquaintance in the sport’s relatively small circles, which informed her writing in the AMC’s journal Appalachia, and her column called “Snowflake Telegraph” in the Old Man Winter ski section of the Boston Evening Transcript. In 1937 and 1938 she served as editor of Appalachia, an important and prestigious role in the venerable mountain club.
Christine Reid’s still photographs of skiing and skiers in the White Mountains, coupled with her chronicles of the social side of skiing in “The Snowflake Telegraph” and her other writings, are important sources for insight into the small, influential world of skiing’s trendsetters in the prewar Boston region.
One of very few female professional sports photographers of her time, Dorothy Crossley was born in 1929 and raised in Princeton, New Jersey. Apart from her ski area work, Crossley became a well-known photographer in the world of yacht racing.
She would work and live at ski resorts in winter throughout her working life, and documented her insider’s view of the staff, managers, owners and guests, as well as a selection of politicians and presidential candidates in her 2005 book Take MY Picture!. The first two ski resorts where she worked, Mont Tremblant and the Eastern Slope Inn, had recently lost their founders. At the third ski area she tried, Squaw Valley, founder Alex Cushing was alive and in charge, and fired Crossley for announcing, perhaps naively, an honest weather report in the midst of a rainstorm. It would be at Mittersill where she settled into her life pattern, and grew to like and respect the area’s founder, Baron Hubert von Pantz and his wife Theresa.
In her working career she covered the ski resort business from the immediate postwar years when some of the original pioneers like Hannes Schneider were still on the scene, through the boom years of the 1960s, and into the more economically challenging decades at the end of the century when new forms of snow sports were emerging. Through it all, she was most often the lone female among the pack of male sports photographers.
One of Dick Smith’s images will surely outlast all the others made by the four ski photographers featured in this exhibit. A Dick Smith photograph titled ‘Seashore’ was sent into outer space by NASA in 1977 as part of the Golden Record carried by Voyager One and Two spacecraft meant to convey a selection of sounds and images of life on Earth into the interstellar unknown.
Beginning in the early 1950s, Smith documented winter in and around the Presidential Range and the growing ski business near his North Conway home, with particular attention to Tuckerman Ravine, where he once spent four or five days in an igloo to get his shots. He had the location and flexibility to be on hand to document the times of especially heavy snow cover in the region. At times he used his wife Barbara as a model at ski areas like Tyrol and Pleasant Mountain, and in 1962 a large print of Barbara at the summit of Wildcat Mountain was displayed in Grand Central Station as part of an Eastman Kodak promotion.
In the spectacularly snowy winter of 1969, he and pilot Wylie Apt flew over the Presidential Range on a clear day just after the heaviest storms of February, capturing images of the greatest snow cover on the range since 1926. Smith chronicled a visual record of innovations in the ski business, and just as noteworthy are his images of vanished mountain landmarks such as the rustic buildings in Tuckerman Ravine that gave way to fire or changing Forest Service standards.