By David Schissler
(June 2014) Sitting just a stone’s throw from the base terminal of the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tram in Franconia, NH is a low, modest building housing the New England Ski Museum. From the outside you would have no idea of the treasures displayed within.
Their collection is an impressive and authentic trip back through skiing history. You’ll see actual gear used by the fabled 10th Mountain Division, an exhibit of ski fashion down the years, equipment seemingly as old as the mountains themselves as well as sport-changing artifacts such as the Raichle Fiber Jet ski boots, whose design was so advanced it was displayed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, and the first pair of metal skis designed and manufactured by Howard Head. Some of you may remember the name Lowell Thomas. He was the author of Lawrence of Arabia, an adventurer in the true sense of the word, and an avid skier. His skis, ski pants and a full collection of his writings are on exhibit. It’s also the home of the Golden Ski Award (see full story).
Cannon Mountain is Bode Miller’s home hill. Being the fan I am, I was drawn to a very impressive Bode Miller display. The NESM has Bode’s original downhill suit (complete with holes from wear), his Head and K2 skis, three of his World Cup trophies and a sparkling display of five Olympic Medals from the Salt Lake and Vancouver games.
I’m always on the lookout for unique ski items as gifts for my skiing family and friends and to add to my own collection of ski memorabilia. The NESM gift shop has one of the best selections of ski jewelry, books, mugs, glasses, pins, wall art, placemats, dinnerware and much more. What sets their items apart is their unique nature. You won’t find them anywhere else. A case in point is a hand crafted pottery mug I bought (when I was a kid my Dad told me food and drink from a skiing motif plate or mug always made its contents taste better. He was right!). It caught my eye because it’s one of the most technically correct skiers I’ve ever seen on an item. And no wonder. The potter is Joan L. Hannah. She grew up on a truck farm and ski lodge in Franconia, NH. Both her parents were ski racers and her Mom was a sculptor. Joan began skiing at three and first raced at ten. She won a spot on the Olympic and World Championship teams from 1960 to 1966 and won a Bronze medal in Giant slalom at the 1962 World Championships. In 1968 Joan moved to Vail where she opened a pottery studio. True to her roots she returned to Franconia and her parent’s farm where she’s creating beautiful original art and still teaches skiing a few days a week.
Admittance to the New England Ski Museum is free. I highly recommend a visit whenever you’re in the Franconia area. If you’ve been before, go again. Exhibits change annually. To learn more visit http://newenglandskimuseum.org . Be sure to click the “shop online” button to see their catalog of outstanding items. Your purchase will support their dedicated effort.