History of the Eastern Slope Ski Club
1930‘s – Why don’t we organize a ski club?
This was the question asked at a small informal gathering at the Emerson Inn, Intervale, one evening in December 1935. Those present included Chester Emerson, Dr. Harold Shedd, Bod Davis, James Carter, Richard and Christine Parke, Gladys Carter and Noel Wellman.
Interest in skiing was growing rapidly and everyone at this gathering agreed it was time to get on the bandwagon. Therefore, a general meeting was arranged for Dec. 13th at the home of Dr. Shedd. Those mentioned above were joined by Mrs. Shedd, George Russell, Phil Robertson, Ernest Foss, Arnold Berry, Carl Randall, Jr., Ken Kenison, Alice Eastman, and Edna Ricker. At this meeting it was unanimously voted to organize a ski club. Temporary officers were elected and a committee appointed to draw up by-laws. The next meeting of the ski club was held Dec. 17th at Kearsarge Hall with 26 present. At this time Chester Emerson was elected president, Dr. Shedd, vice-president and Noel Wellman, secretary-treasurer. The executive committee named included Bob Davis, Phil Robertson, James Carter and Carl Randall.
Although the Club was originally conceived as a “non-commercial” organization, it was quickly realized that it must take a lead in improving skiing facilities and promoting skiing in the Eastern Slope Region. Accordingly a Publicity Committee was appointed and the possibility of clearing Mrs. Tibbett’s land on Cranmore Mountain was discussed.
The next meeting of the Club was held Jan. 6th, 1936, and the name Eastern Slope Ski Club was formally adopted and it was voted to become affiliated with the United States Eastern Amateur Ski Association. At this meeting, Trails and Race Committees where appointed. Due to the expense involved it was deemed impractical to clear the Tibbett’s land, it was recommended to “brush out a trail”.
At this same meeting, the boys and girls of the region received their first attention when Chuck Emerson announced junior ski instruction was to be offered on Saturday afternoons. The Feb. 6, 1936 meeting constituted another important milestone in the rapid growth of Club activities. Chuck Emerson announced weekly slalom races for junior skiers on the Jones Place (now the Red Jacket property) during the month. Prizes of a pair of skis to the winners were donated by the North Conway Rotary Club and Emerson’s Alma Mater, Dartmouth College. At this same meeting the club emblem designed by Francis E. Getty was adopted.
One of the most important developments took place in 1936 when Carroll Reed started a ski school under the direction of Benno Rybizka, whom Reed had brought over from the famous Hannes Schneider Ski School at St. Anton, Austria. At the second annual meeting of the Club in April of 1937, the sum of $200 was donated to the ski school to assist in sending four instructors to St. Anton for training. Arthur Doucette, Arthur Callan, Francis Savard and Tyler Micholeau were the four young locals selected.
In March, 1937, Harvey D. Gibson advised the North Conway Chamber of Commerce that he had purchased the Cranmore Mountain property and would develop it as a ski area. ESSC was asked to appoint a committee to work with the Chamber of Commerce to make recommendations for the development.
About this time the Club came to the realization that while skiers were flocking to the region, they arrived to find the resident population was not ski minded and only a mere handful of boys and girls participated in the sport. Chuck Emerson concluded this was not a healthy condition and he was keenly interested in the kids. He originated the Junior Ski Award Plan in 1938 whereby certain worthy skiers were selected by an impartial citizens’ committee to receive equipment at the nominal cost of $2.00. This represents the formal creation of the Eastern Slope Ski Club’s Junior Ski Program. Over the next two years more than 250 boys and girls were awarded equipment. Chuck Emerson announced to the Club a plan to give youngsters free ski lessons once a week under the direction of Arthur Callan. The plan eventually developed into holding weekly junior ski classes in Conway, North Conway, Jackson and Bartlett.
In February, 1939, Hannes Schneider arrived in North Conway. He and his family were welcomed at the train station by local residents and passed through a double line of a large number of junior skiers holding ski poles aloft to form an arbor. Hannes Schneider had a keen interest in junior skiing, and junior instruction began under his guidance.
In July, 1939, the Eastern Slope Region Association was incorporated and in early 1940 the Eastern Slope Ski Club relinquished its area promotional activities to the new association.
In the early days of the programs the ESSC budget included income from town appropriations. As the Junior Program and Race Teams expanded the Club created fundraising events. The Snow Ball was a yearly social that continued for many years. Initially, the ESSC hosted different ski races to raise funds for the Club. In 1970 the first annual ESSC Ski Sale was instituted and netted $500 in income that year. The 2005 sale raised $14,000! Through continuing support of local ski shops and events such as the Red Parka Challenge Cup and Club Membership dues, the Junior Program can currently offer equipment to any child that wishes to ski.
1940‘s – 1980’s Years of Growth
By the spring of 1941, the Club had made its mark in competition throughout the skiing circles of the United States and was widely known as a racing organization. ESSC teams had dominated both team and individual events in New York and New England.
One of the most prestigious events was the Gibson Trophy Race held from 1939 to 1966. The race was renewed in 1977. Entrants included local Olympians Abbi Fisher and David Currier and other products of the Junior Program, Doug Briggs and Michael Cloudier. The Sise Cup Masters Series now annually holds the Gibson Masters Race, the Cranmore Giant Slalom, continuing the tradition over sixty years.
The population growth that occurred during the 1970’s and 80’s directly affected the increase in the number of participants in the Junior Ski Program. In 1975 the Davis Building was built at the base of Cranmore Mountain to facilitate the Program. The building was financed by donations made by friends and family in memory of Bob and Andy Davis. This building served as the coordinator’s office, for storage of equipment, headquarters for ESSC and Kennett High Schools ski races and provided a waxing station.
During the same year a Nordic Center was built adjacent to Whitaker Woods to accommodate the growing Nordic program of both ESSC and Kennett High School. Prior to the first Volvo International Tennis Tournament another building was erected next to Cranmore’s South Slope by the Cranmore Ski Education Foundations. The Hannes Schneider Memorial Building became race headquarters and was utilized by the press corps during the tennis tournament, which rental paid for the building.
Through the 70’s and 80’s Cranmore hosted many Junior and Senior ski races sponsored by ESSC and run by the Cranmore Educational Foundation. The present competition slope was approved by USEASA fro Giant Slalom, Slalom and Downhill during this period.
Another building was needed and built near the competition slope for timing personnel to facilitate the numerous races held during this time.
Due to the successful endeavors of the original founders of the Eastern Slope Ski Club, many local young skiers advanced to higher levels of skiing. Former Junior Program participants continued onto Kennett High School Ski Teams, collegiate competition and further recognition at the national and international level. These included the following: Kathy Grant Beverage, Douglas Briggs, Michael Cloudier, David Currier*, Brooks Dodge, Imogene Opton Fish*, Abbi Fisher*, Nancy Bartlett Grant, Chrissy Guptil, Leona Reny Hill, Christin Lathrop, Jenny Lathrop, Nat Lucy, Ann Dodge Middleton, Terry Palmer*, Tlyer Palmer*, Leanne Smith*, Brendan Sullivan, Carl Swenson*, Todd Thibodeau, Paula Kann Valar, Jim Wellinghurst. (*Olympians)
Additionally, several Junior Program alumni have successfully melded their love of the sport with careers within the ski industry both in management and coaching positions.
Every March the celebration of Junior Program accomplishment, Snow Day, is held at Cranmore Mountain and Attitash Bear Peak. The first “Junior Field Day” was held on Russell’s Slope in March, 1939.
Hannes Schneider and his son, Herbert, were both committed to the idea of giving young people the opportunity to learn to ski. Cranmore was the only mountain to host the Junior Program for many years and today serves 50% of students enrolled. Today the Junior Program has expanded to Attitash Bear Peak, Black Mountain, and King Pine and includes students from Bartlett, Conway, Freedom, Jackson, Madison and Tamworth.
The cross-country program utilizes the facilities of Jackson Ski Touring Foundations, Bear Notch Ski Touring, King Pine and Mt. Washington Valley Ski Touring and Snowshoe Association. In 2004 the club added snowboard instruction to the Junior Program as the popularity of this support increased.
The ongoing success of the Junior Program is due to a number of factors which complement one another to the betterment of the ski community and the Mt. Washington Valley. The cooperation between S. A. U. 9, S.A.U 13, and both alpine and cross-country areas with the wide support of local businesses, ski shops and foundations is the key to its success.
The volunteers, who now number 400, carry a tradition of sharing their talents and time with the 1400 youngsters on the ski slopes and touring trails.
While the racing aspects of the Eastern Slope Ski Club has been delegated first to the racing offshoot, the Cranmore Ski Educational Foundation, and the Mt. Washington Valley Ski Education Foundations, the Junior Program continues to be its primary focus. The overall emphasis continues to be the development of skiing proficiency among all skiers.
The value of the Junior Program may be seen in the time teams Kennett High School has put forth through the years. The boy’s team has garnered 13 state championships and the girls seven. Since 2002, Kennett has won Boys and Girls combined Championships four times. In addition, there have been 21 male Kennett State Skimeisters and seven female. There are hundreds of Valley residents still enjoying the sport of skiing long after their participation in the Easter Slope Ski Club’s Junior Program.
Herbert Schneider stated many years ago “If you live in Mt. Washington Valley, skiing is part of your heritage. It is only right that everyone should have a chance to ski regardless of their financial situation. As a ski community, it is not only good for the kids it is a sound investment in the community’s future as well.”
AND isn’t the just why a ski club was organized 70 years ago?
Cranmore Mountain as the unnamed 1700 foot peak in 1915.
Club emblem designed by Francis E. Getty was adopted Feb. 6, 1936
Harvey Gibson – Courtesy of North Conway Public Library
1948 ESSC Volunteer Ski Instructors
ESSC Awards – 1950 Snow Day
Andy Davis 1951
Connie Davis early 1950’s