February 2018

Rediscovering Mittersill: a trailblazing USSA-sanctioned ski-training center with old-school Alpine heritage

Mountains of New Hampshire

Photo courtesy of Franconia Ski Club

In the mountainous terrain of northern New Hampshire, where Garnet Hill was born, a love for skiing runs deep. Most area public and private schools provide skiing lessons as a part of their winter program. The Franconia Ski Club has promoted the sport for more than 80 years.

Bode Miller

Photo courtesy of Turtle Ridge Foundation

And children look up to local legends like Olympian Bode Miller.

Skiers at Cannon Mountain

Photo courtesy of Franconia Ski Club

Skiers from all over New England and eastern Canada travel to Franconia, New Hampshire each winter to ski at Cannon Mountain, which is owned by the state. Surrounded by the rugged natural beauty of Franconia Notch, Cannon is renowned for its challenging slopes and excellent ski school.

Skiers at Cannon MountainBut there’s another side to the mountain that’s not as well known.

A once-famous ski area, which remained dormant for nearly three decades, neighboring Mittersill is currently enjoying a renaissance.

Skiers at Cannon Mountain

Photo courtesy of Franconia Ski Club

On any given winter morning, venture over to Mittersill and you’ll likely find kids and teens training on the slopes of Baron’s Run and Taft Slope. With terrain comparable to famous European trails, the ski area offers a unique opportunity for speed training on a similar landscape close to home.

Yet just a few years ago, this sight would be hard to imagine.

The first ski runs at Mt. Jackson (a subpeak of Cannon Mountain) were constructed in 1933. In those early years, the only way to ski down was to first hike up. An aerial tramway installed in 1938 provided lift service to the top of Cannon and also Taft Slope.

Drawn to the area by the terrain and this new tramway, Baron Hubert Von Pantz of Austria purchased 550 acres on Mt. Jackson in 1941. An Austrian nobleman with a passion for skiing, the Baron had fled to the U.S. from Salzburg after the Nazi invasion.

In Franconia, he modeled a resort after the Mittersill Club he’d left behind in Austria, naming it Franconia Mittersill. There, he built an inn and chalets bearing authentic Austrian architecture and details. Seeking to recreate the experience from back home, he promoted Alpine skiing in New Hampshire and invested in improvements to the area.   

For many years Mittersill was an extremely popular destination, drawing travelers from all over to enjoy the resort’s excellent skiing and old-world charm. And while the resort continued to thrive, Mittersill ski area, like so many others, had its ups and downs.

In 1972, as the Baron found himself spending more time back in Austria, Mittersill was sold. After two particularly bad winters in the early eighties, the ski area closed in 1984.

In the decades that followed, the separately-owned resort and chalets offered a beautiful reminder of the area’s history, but the abandoned ski area fell into disrepair.

Cannon Mountain

Photo by Jason Tors

While skiing there was prohibited in those years, some hardy souls disregarded the warnings and hiked or skied their way to the trails for a true backcountry experience.

Cannon Mountain

Photo by Jason Tors

Over time, Mittersill achieved legendary status, with many top skiers recognizing its great potential. It finally reopened for the 2009-2010 season, with access via the tramway and an “Extra Hazardous” designation. In 2010, a double-chair ski lift was installed to make getting to the top a bit easier.

Cannon Mountain - Mittersill

Photo courtesy of Franconia Ski Club

In 2014, a revitalization project began, funded by the Franconia Ski Club as a gift to the State of New Hampshire, to create a public slope suitable for race training. In 2015, the USSA (U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association) recognized Mittersill as an official training site. A number of USSA races have been held there in the years since, with many more scheduled for the future.

USAA Races

Photo courtesy of Franconia Ski Club

Watching from our Franconia headquarters, it’s an exciting time for Mittersill, and for young skiers in New Hampshire who aspire to race on the world’s stage.

Learn more about Mittersill, Cannon Mountain and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.

 


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