When you think of ski trams, Jackson Hole and Snowbird are probably the first to pop into your head. Cannon Mountain, New Hampshire boasts North America’s first and oldest aerial tram which had it’s 80th birthday last week.
Cannon, located in in Franconia Notch, N.H., is one of those old school classic New England ski areas known for it’s steep terrain, tight trees, and minimal frills. Locals have long been known to cut (illegal) glades all over the mountain, both in and out of bounds. It’s also where Bode Miller grew up ski racing as a kid.
I grew up skiing there as well and remember booting up in the lodge on frigid mornings while sitting on old plastic lawn chairs. Wednesdays were $20 tickets with a New Hampshire ID, and the same crew of crusty locals was always on first tram rain, snow, or shine. Duct tape on your clothing was mandatory if you wanted to blend in. There’s been some upgrades since then, but the original vibe is still strong.
Long before my time, the original Cannon Tram opened in 1938, taking 27 visitors at a time to the summit at 4,080 feet. The original idea for the tram came from Alexander Bright, a member of the U.S. Ski Team. After skiing around Europe, he pitched the idea to the state as a way to attract tourists to the White Mountains region all months of the year. After surveying 21 different sites, Cannon Mountain was selected for its recreation potential and minimal environmental impact. At the time there were only two ski trails, but more were soon developed.
Construction began in 1937, with almost all the work being done by hand (32 carloads of cement, 232 tons of steel, four miles of cable). Crews worked through the winter and had the whole project complete in only 9 months! That’s insane. From its opening until 1980, the original tram carried 6,581,338 passengers up and down the mountain.
The Tram was such a success, that the new and improved Tram II opened in 1980, boasting a larger 80 person capacity. The new tram carries skiers and tourists 1,900 vertical feet in about 8 minutes and has been ridden by over 7 million people to date. If you’re ever in the White Mountains, Franconia Notch and Cannon Mountain are a must see.