New England Ski Museum – Franconia, New Hampshire - Atlas Obscura

Franconia, New Hampshire

New England Ski Museum

Packed with gear and memorabilia, this museum chronicles the history of skiing and how its rise shaped New England.  

With a collection of over 1,000 pairs of skis, 365 pairs of boots, 970 ski posters, and thousands of photographs, this museum is a must-see for hardcore skiers who are interested in how the sport progressed from its ancient roots to its current state as one of the most popular winter activities in the U.S.

The New England Ski Museum is located next to Cannon Mountain, tucked amid the White Mountains in New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch. Skiing has a long history in New England, but it was first intertwined with daily life at the start of the 20th century by Norwegians who were using skis to navigate the impassible winter roads. The move from practical transportation to athletic and recreational use came about when ski jumps were constructed in Middlebury and Saint Johnsbury, Vermont, and competitions were held.

Shortly after, the Civilian Conservation Corps started carving out trails for cross-country transport all over New England. But it also carved out alpine skiing trails on the lowest reaches of Mount Mansfield, which is now part of Vermont’s famous Stowe Mountain Ski Resort.

Across the state line, an Olympic skier named Alexander Bright was lobbying the state legislature to develop the White Mountains as a boon to economic development; Bright had seen how effective a tramway could be in Europe. In 1938, Cannon Mountain introduced the first tramway in the U.S. This development changed the image of upper New England winters as a temporary wasteland to the region’s prime season, and it cleared the way for more innovation in developing the sport stateside.

The Franconia area is also appropriate for the museum, as Peckett’s Inn on Sugar Hill was the first resort ski school to teach Alpine skiing, and Cannon Mountain was the home training ground of the country’s most decorated ski champion, Bode Miller, who won Olympic ski medals from 2002 to 2014 as well as several world titles. Miller’s medals are on display at the museum, along with a historic tram car, and memorabilia spanning the entire chronology of the sport in New England and beyond.

Know Before You Go

The museum is on exit 34B of Interstate 93. It's open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week from Memorial Day through the end of ski season at Cannon Mountain, which is normally in early April. Admission is free (but donations are always appreciated). Note there are two other branches of the New England Ski Museum, but this is the main one and the most visitor-friendly.

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