Cranmore Mountain

Skimobile

By: Laurie J. Puliafico

Perhaps one of the most unique and well known ski lifts in New England was the skimobile at Cranmore Mountain.  It was the first of it's type lift and only one other skimobile lift was even installed, that lift was at the Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.  Like the Aerial Tramway at Cannon Mountain , not only did the Skimobile at Cranmore provide uphill transportation for skiers in the winter, it proved to be a rather popular tourist attraction during the summer months.

Skimobile in the summer.

While the Skimobile proved to be a reliable lift, it was considerably more labor-intensive than chairlifts.  Because of it's design, cars with snowplows had to run the tracks of the trestle in snowstorms, salt had to be spread on the track during ice storms, and tire pressure had to be adjusted for varying weather conditions. 

Skimobile in the winter.

The first half of the Cranmore Ski Mobile was installed in 1938 and was finished in time for the 1939 ski season.  It had 60 cars which each held one skier.  Running up the hill on a wooden trestle, each car was attached to a cable which moved under the planks.  It was the brain child of Conway garage mechanic George Morten.

Harvey Gibson decided in 1937-1938 to make a major ski resort out of his old home town.  At the time there was already an established branch of the Arlberg ski school in North Conway, it was owned by ski pioneer Carol Reed and run by one of Hannes Schneider's loyal instructors, Benno Rybizka.  Gibson bought the ski school from Reed, bought and remodeled an old hotel and had a local lumberman cut trails on what was then known as Lookout Mountain.

On February 12, 1939,  Hannes Schneider, the famed founder of the Arlberg ski method arrived in North Conway.  He came in on the 7:00 AM train and received a heroes welcome with an archway made from ski poles greeting him as he exited the train.  Schneider, who had been forced to leave his native homeland of Austria  during the Nazi takeover (see article linked above), was on the snow by 10 am.  Shortly after his arrival at Cranmore, Schneider convinced Gibson that the skimobile needed to be extended to the summit of the mountain.  The upper trestle was built and ready to be opened by the beginning of the 1939-1940 ski season.  The lift was widely publicized and soon the resort became one of the leading ski areas in New England.

The skimobile continued to be a popular lift for years drawing both winter and summer visitors.  In 1989, most likely to make room for more modern lifts with greater uphill capacity, the Skimobile was dismantled.  It's cars can be seen in front of various businesses in the North Conway area.  There is also a car at Cranmore Mountain and another at the New England Ski Museum. 

 

In my opinion, It's unfortunate that such a piece of ski history now only exists as single cars scattered around New England.  Like many other unique and original lifts that were developed in New England, it is only a memory now.

More Cranmore Mountain Postcards

(Cranmore)SkimobileWinter/Summer '60's

Cranmore (Skimobile) map from '69 Ski Atlas

(Cranmore)SkimobileWinter/Summer 70's

 Cranmore Map Brochure 2002-2003

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