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Gunstock Mountain
Gilford, New Hampshire
Gunstock as seen from Bald Knob (2010)
Gunstock as seen from Bald Knob (2010)
Gunstock Mountain Details
Status:Open
First Year of Operation:1937
Vertical Drop:1,400 feet
Lifts in Operation:1 high speed quad, 2 quads, 2 triples
Lifts Removed/Non Operational:1 triple, 4 doubles, 1 single, surface lifts
Located in the Belknap Mountains south of Lake Winnipesaukee, Gunstock Mountain has a long, rich skiing history. Initially developed in large part by the Federal government, Gunstock is the only county owned and operated ski area in New England.

Early Skiing in the Belknap Mountains
Early downhill skiing trails on Gunstock Mountain were developed by members of the Winnipesaukee Ski Club. Snow trains carried skiers and spectators up from urban areas to the popular town of Laconia, located just west of the Belknaps Mountain Range. Early ski trails were developed on Gunstock Mountain, Belknap Mountain, and Piper Mountain. Skiing on Gunstock in particular was popular, as it was the location of many races, including the 1932 United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association championship.

A unique, long rope tow was installed on the west slope of Gunstock Mountain for the winter of 1934-35. Known as the Gunstock Ski Hoist, the lift was one of the first in New England. Initially a popular development, the ski hoist was eventually overshadowed by a nearby government development.

Ski jumping was an increasingly popular winter sport in New England in the 1930s. Using Federal Emergency Relief Administration funds, a ski jump was planned for the northern slope of Mt. Rowe in the spring of 1935. The scope of the project soon grew to become a massive year round recreational facility involving the Works Progress Administration. The initial plans for the $300,000 Belknap Mountains Recreation Area included the 60 meter ski jump, a slalom course, and two new ski trails. The multi-sport facility plan was so large that it was even suggested as a location for the 1940 Winter Olympics.

The Belknap Mountains Recreation Area was officially opened on February 28, 1937 when it hosted the United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association ski jumping event. Due to subpar snowfall, an ice chipping operation was put into place to allow the event to go on as planned. A last minute snowfall helped as well.

The Mt. Rowe single chairlift
The Mt. Rowe single chairlift
Belknap Mountains Recreation Area Chairlift Development
Work on the development continued throughout 1937, with Hussey Manufacturing Company leading the way. A novice slope was cleared on Cobble Mountain while the main work effort was taking place on Mt. Rowe - the installation of the East's first chairlift.

The single chairlift, climbing from Gunstock's present base area to the top of Mt. Rowe, was operational later in the winter of 1937-38. The controversial installation was described by the Lewiston Evening Journal as making the ski area "a rendezvous for lazy skiers." Lazy skiers flocked to the Belknaps and eventually made chairlifts the primary form of transportation for downhillers.

Belknap's second lift, an 800 foot rope tow serving the Phelps slope, was added for the 1938-39 season.

A 1,750 foot long rope tow was likely installed on Cobble Mountain in either 1939 or 1940, providing a large novice area with a little more challenge than the Phelps slope. A combination of poor snow retention, as well as the distance from the main base area, put a quick end to this complex in 1941.

Big changes took place for the 1940-41 season at Belknap Mountains Recreation Area. A $100,000 building was opened at the bottom of the chairlift, constructed from local timber, as well as stone quarried from Cobble Mountain. Other things included trail improvements, as well as the addition of 11 chairs on the Mt. Rowe lift.

For 1941-42, the Cobble Mountain rope tow was relocated to the new Viking slope, thus consolidating all lift operations to the Mt. Rowe base area. At this point, the trail network consisted of the Phelps slope, the Viking slope, the Try-Me Trail, the Fletcher Hale Slalom, the Gunstock Trail, the Ridge Trail, and the Stone Bar Trail.

As was the case across the United States, expansion at Belknap Mountain was slowed by World War II. For 1946-47, a novice rope tow was installed.

During the summer of 1949, Belknap made headlines when shaved ice and hay were used to open the 40 meter jump for an August competition. Some 8,000 spectators were on hand for what would become an annual event.

Gunstock in the 1960s
Gunstock in the 1960s
More Than Just A Chairlift
In hopes of reducing skier traffic on the Phelps slope and Try-Me Trail, the Tiger slope was cleared for the 1949-50 season. A rope tow serving the slope was likely added that season. Unfortunately, the single chairlift would not operate. In April of 1950, Frank "Fritzie" Baer and his signature red hat took over as manager.

For his first ski season, Baer oversaw the installation of new chairs plus sheave liners on the single chairlift. In addition, a new beginners area was created adjacent to the chairlift. Dealing with several poor snow years, Baer also oversaw significant reshaping of many of Belknap's trails.

In trying to keep up with other developing areas in the market, Belknap's first T-Bar was installed for the 1954-55 season. The $50,000, 2,300 foot long lift served Tiger and a new trail called Red Hat.

Tragedy struck in July of 1956, when the single chairlift cable snapped. One person was killed, while many others were injured. As a result of the accident, which was caused by a concealed area of corrosion, the New Hampshire Passenger Tramway Saftey Board was established.

While the late 1950s didn't bring much in way of changes to the ski area, many financial records were broken. As a result, plans were being drawn up to greatly expand the area. Prior to the expansion becoming reality, Fritzie Baer was replaced as General Manager by Warren Warner in 1959. The Joe Smith slope would debut that season.

Corresponding with the extension of Interstate 93 up to Northfield, as well as the hiring of hometown hero Penny Pitou and Egon Zimmermann, a second T-Bar was installed for the 1960-61 season, serving the Smith and Phelps slopes. The Olympic duo was married that February in Gilford.

Belknap Becomes Gunstock
The Belknap Mountains area was revolutionized in 1962, a new Mueller double chairlift was built to the summit of Gunstock Mountain. Not only did the expansion significantly increase the operation's vertical drop, but it was meant the renaming of the ski area to coincide with its new mountain. The quarter million dollar project also resulted in four new trails.

The expansion proved to be a great success. Two years later, a second double chairlift was installed as a twin, to help cut down on lines.

As the decade came to a close a third T-Bar was installed, serving the Phelps slope. Lacking snowmaking, Gunstock struggled during that winter. As a result, snowmaking was installed on the lower mountain for the 1970-71 season. In addition, the Pistol complex debuted, featuring four new trails and a new double chairlift. The 1970-71 project was funded with a $334,000 federal grant.

The outdated single chairlift was taken out of service following the 1976-77 season. It was likely fully removed following the 1979-80 season, when the Gunshy platter pull lift was installed near the bottom of the original Mt. Rowe area.

The old twin summit double chairlifts
The old twin summit double chairlifts
A $10 million modernization effort took place in the mid-1980s, starting with a significant change in the lift network in 1986. The aging twin summit double chairlifts were removed, replaced with a Doppelmayr triple chairlift. The original T-Bar was also replaced with the longer Tiger triple chairlift. Nearby, a double chairlift was installed, serving the Gunshy complex. Sel Hannah also oversaw the widening and reworking of many trails, including Gunsmoke and Recoil.

The rest of the T-Bars were removed from the operation by the time 1988-89 rolled around, as the Ramrod fixed grip quad chairlift was installed on the lower slopes.

Improvement projects during the 1990s were generally focused around improving snowmaking and night skiing (reintroduced for the 1992-93 season). As was the case with its single and double chair operations, Gunstock was finding itself falling behind the pack with its long summit triple chairlift ride.

For the 2003-2004 season, the summit triple chairlift was replaced with a new Doppelmayr CTEC high speed detachable quad. The triple was then reinstalled in the Pistol area, replacing the aging Mueller double chairlift.

The beginner experience was significantly enhanced in 2009, when the Penny Pitou Silver Medal Quad was installed. Located adjacent to the Gunshy double chairlift, the new Doppelmayr CTEC fixed grip quad served an enlarged beginner area. Once night skiing was added to the new terrain the following year, the Gunshy double chairlift was deemed redundant and subsequently removed.

Four Season Activities
In 2011, Gunstock started a $2.1 million off season activity project that added treetop obstacle course, high speed zip lines, and off-road Segway tours. The three new attractions were all in operation by mid fall 2011.

With four seasons attractions, a lodging facility may be in the works for the future, as well as a corresponding Alpine Ridge expansion.

Gunstock made regional headlines in spring 2014, when the General Manager Greg Goddard told Senator Kelly Ayotte that Gunstock may be forced to scale back both summer and winter operations to 120 days each due to the Affordable Care Act.


Expansion History
Expansion History
Project NameSeasonStatus
Alpine Ridge2010sProposed
Cobble Mountain1938-39Abandoned
Gunshy Area1980-81Open
Gunstock Mountain1962-63Open
Pistol Area1970-71Open
Southwest Pistol2010sProposed
Tiger AreaOpen

Image Gallery
A late 1930s map showing Cobble MountainCobble Mountain as seen from Mt. Rowe circa the 1940sThe Mt. Rowe single chairlift in the 1940sThe Mt. Rowe Single circa the 1950s
1954-55 Eastern Ski Map1955-56 Eastern Ski Map1956-57 Eastern Ski Map1957-58 Eastern Ski Map
1959-60 Eastern Ski Map1960-61 Eastern Ski Map1961-62 Eastern Ski MapThe new Gunstock area map in 1962
View All Images in Gunstock Mountain Image Gallery


Lifts
Click on lift name for information and photos
Name Type Brand Installed Removed After Details
Standing Lifts
Panorama QuadChairlift - Quad - DetachableDoppelmayr-CTEC  2003-04    Details
Penny Pitou QuadChairlift - Quad - FixedDoppelmayr-CTEC  2009-10    Details
Pistol TripleChairlift - Triple - FixedDoppelmayr  2003-04    Details
Ramrod QuadChairlift - Quad - FixedDoppelmayr  1988-89    Details
Tiger TripleChairlift - Triple - FixedDoppelmayr  1986-87    Details
Past Lifts
Gunshy DoubleChairlift - Double - FixedDoppelmayr  1986-87  2010-11  Details
Gunshy PomaPlatterDoppelmayr  1980-81    Details
Mt. Rowe SingleChairlift - Single - FixedAmerican Steel & Wire Company  1937-38  1979-80  Details
Phelps T-BarT-BarAlpine Lift  1969-70    Details
Pistol DoubleChairlift - Double - FixedMueller  1970-71  2002-03  Details
Red Hat T-BarT-BarConstam  1954-55  1985-86  Details
Smith T-BarT-BarDoppelmayr  1960-61    Details
Summit DoubleChairlift - Double - FixedMueller  1962-63  1985-86  Details
Summit Double #2Chairlift - Double - FixedMueller  1964-65  1985-86  Details
Summit TripleChairlift - Triple - FixedDoppelmayr  1986-87  2002-03  Details

Skier Visit History
Season Skier Visits Source
2010s
2011-12125,000GraphNew Hampshire Business Review  
2010-11188,000GraphNew Hampshire Business Review  
2000s
2008-09169,461GraphGunstock  
2007-08179,905GraphGunstock  
2006-07139,612GraphGunstock  
2005-06151,552GraphNew Hampshire Business Review  
2004-05178,261GraphNew Hampshire Business Review  
2003-04165,473GraphGunstock  
2002-03191,155GraphGunstock  
2001-02153,509GraphGunstock  
2000-01206,120GraphGunstock  
1999-00172,306GraphGunstock  
1990s
1998-99175,863GraphGunstock  
1993-94239,000GraphBoston Globe  
1992-93204,000GraphBoston Globe  
1980s
1980-8149,000GraphBoston Globe  
1979-8034,000GraphBoston Globe  
1940s
1940-4128,000GraphBoston Globe  

Ticket Price History
Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket
Season Price Source
2010s
2013-14$75.00Graphgunstock.com  
2012-13$72.00Graphgunstock.com  
2011-12$72.00Graphgunstock.com  
2010-11$69.00Graphgunstock.com  
2009-10$66.00Graphgunstock.com  
2000s
2008-09$64.00Graphskinh.com  
2007-08$59.00Graphgunstock.com  
2006-07$56.00Graphgunstock.com  
2005-06$52.00Graphgunstock.com  
2003-04$49.00GraphSkiNH  
2002-03$46.00Graphgunstock.com  
2001-02$45.00Graphgunstock.com  
2000-01$42.00GraphBrochure  
1999-00$42.00GraphBoston Magazine  
1990s
1997-98$39.00Graphgunstock.com  
1996-97$39.00Graphatplay.com  
1994-95$35.00GraphBrochure  
1992-93$31.00GraphBoston Globe  
1991-92$31.00GraphBoston Globe  
1990-91$31.00GraphBoston Globe  
1989-90$32.00GraphBoston Globe  
1980s
1988-89$30.00GraphBoston Globe  
1987-88$26.00GraphBoston Globe  
1982-83$17.00GraphRand McNally Winter Recreation Map  
1970s
1977-78$10.00GraphBoston Globe  
1970-71$8.00GraphBoston Globe  
1969-70$8.00GraphBoston Globe  
1960s
1967-68$6.00GraphEastern Ski Atlas  
1964-65$5.50GraphEastern Ski Atlas  
1963-64$5.50GraphBuxton's Eastern Ski Slopes  
1962-63$5.50GraphBuxton's Eastern Ski Slopes  
1950s
1958-59$4.00GraphNew Hampshire Winter Guide  

Visitor Memories
 
Phyllis Rogler
Jan. 14, 2014
Our family learned to ski here in the 60's . Then transferred to the west coast and Utah . Learned that if you can ski New England you can ski anywhere and with great form. Thanks
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External Links
  • Gunstock - official site
  • Alpine Ridge - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
  • Gunstock Ski Hoist - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
  • Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society - Ski Jump Restoration Project
  • Mt. Belknap Chairlift - WeirsBeach.com
  • Gunstock Mountain - FranklinSites.com Hiking Guide
  • Mt. Rowe - FranklinSites.com Hiking Guide
  • The History of Gunstock: Skiing in the Belknap Mountains - Amazon.com
  • Last updated: April 18, 2014

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