History & Culture
Wildcat Mountain remains a classic among New England ski areas, providing a glimpse of the sport's heritage and roots while continuing to resonate with a core market that simply comes to ski and ride.
It was the summer of 1933 that the depression-born civilian conservation corps, armed with axes and cross-cut saws, started clearing the Wildcat trail, one of the first ski racing trails built in the United States. Designed by Charley Proctor, the all-around ski champion of Canada in 1927, it was designated as a class "A" racing trail.
The decision to develop a modern ski area on Wildcat Mountain was influenced by a few factors. Tremendous annual snowfall, high elevation, and northern exposure assuring a long ski season. Then there was the possibility of year-round recreational development. Of course, the spectacular scenery that surrounds Wildcat, including eye-level views of Tuckerman Ravine and Mt. Washington directly across Pinkham Notch, played a role as well!
Among the group that dreamed, planned, and finally built the ski area were Brooks Dodge and George Macomber, both of whom had raced many times on the famous old Wildcat Trail. These two men, each of whom had raced on two U.S. Olympic teams, were joined by Malcolm McLane and William Beal in shaping the first plans for the development of Wildcat Mountain Ski Area. A corporation was formed, capital obtained, and before you knew it the first T-bar was ready to roll. Only a few weeks later, and with appropriate ceremonies and fanfare, the first Gondola passengers were carried all the way to the top of the Mountain. Wildcat had entered the "Big Time" as one of the major ski areas in the United States.
The Wildcat Gondola, Wildcat's trademark for many years, was the first lift of this type to be erected in the U.S. It opened for operation during the 1957-58 ski season on January 25, 1958. It was carried by twenty-three towers which kept the lift close to the contours of the mountain, helping to protect the lift from winds. The original Gondola has been dismantled, and today Wildcat does not operate a Gondola or enclosed lift during ski season. Taking the Gondola's place for base to summit transportation during the ski season is the Wildcat Express, a high-speed detachable quad chairlift, which was installed in 1997. The Wildcat Express is the fastest and longest detachable Quad chair lift in New Hampshire and possibly the fastest in the Northeast. At full operating speed, it can carry skiers and riders from the base to the summit in just over 6 minutes! During the summer and fall, the Quad lift line is then transformed, chairs are removed and enclosed Gondola cabins are put on the line and it operates as a scenic skyride for sightseers and is New Hampshire's highest 4-person Gondola!
There lingers the misconception that Wildcat is a mountain for experts only. While the old-timers remember with nostalgia the s-turns and narrowness of Wildcat's first trails, these trails have been tamed over the years. Although the grade remains, the trails have been widened. This, combined with modern snowmaking and grooming technology, has created a unique and beautiful place for the whole family to learn to ski. In fact, the award-winning Polecat Trail has been described as "two and three quarter miles of sheer pleasure", "a masterpiece of construction", and "the most scenic trail in the U.S."
The Polecat, which keeps a special place in many a skier's heart, is New Hampshire's longest ski trail! Anyone who can complete a basic turn can ski the Polecat and experience the satisfaction of having skied a big mountain from top to bottom. Those of us who grew up skiing at Wildcat know it's the best place to learn!
2005 October Storm
On October 25, 2005, Wildcat Mountain received 16 inches at the base of the mountain and at least three feet of new snow in the higher elevations added to the more than a foot of snow received over the previous weekend. This was no trick, but a pre-Halloween treat for many and has become one of the single local, legendary events that many remember during the crisp and cool fall months of every season that has followed.
Prior to Wildcat Mountain crews clearing the deep snow around loading and unloading ramps and spinning the lifts marking one of the earliest opening dates in its history, skiers hiked and strapped climbing skins on to the base of their skis to reap the reward of first tracks with some reporting eight to ten-foot snow drifts. One local, Meghan Simone, touched upon the unique aspect of skiing during peak foliage season, "Skiing through the fresh powder and also hearing the leaves on top of the snow rustle among your ski boots is a sound I sure hope in my life I get to hear again!"