FRANCONIA NOTCH, New Hampshire — On Saturday, June 28, Cannon Mountain quietly celebrated 70 years of operation. Back in 1938, the first aerial tramway in North America left the base station in Franconia Notch State Park with its first official riders. Mrs. Francis P. Murphy, wife of the Governor, christened “Lafayette,” the first car, with a bottle of Echo Lake water. In its first year of operation, the aerial tramway carried over 163,000 people.
The concept of putting a tramway in Franconia Notch was brought to light by Alexander Bright, a famous skier. As a result of his consistent persuasion, legislation was drafted and passed in 1935 to build the tramway with federal funding. In 1937, a new bill was passed authorizing a $250,000 bond to start the project when the federal funding was unavailable.
The American Steel and Wire Company was awarded the contract and work began in 1938. To build the tramway, it was first necessary to construct a freight tram to haul materials. Carrying cement and materials by backpack to the freight tram, four dozen men completed the formidable task in December. They continued construction through the winter by pouring 32 carloads of cement and assembling 232 tons of steel and four miles of cable by hand. Meanwhile, while the tramway was being built, a 200-man Civilian Conservation Corps Camp began work on a parking area and development of the Coppermine, Tucker Brook, Kinsman, and Cannon ski trails. Old logging roads on the mountain had been used for skiing since 1929, and the famous Richard Taft Race Course had been developed in 1931-32.
Before 1980, the tramway only carried up to 27 passengers, with a total of over 6.5 million riders. It was then replaced by a more technologically advanced tramway that carried up to 80 passengers, with a total of over 6 million visitors from 1980 to the present.
Several celebrations are planned this year in honor of the milestone. A Rediscovery of Franconia Notch State Park Day will be held to commemorate the 70th anniversary, as well as the 200th anniversary of the discovery of the Flume Gorge. Cannon Mountain will be celebrating with different events planned this winter.
Cannon Mountain has 60 trails, 9 lifts, and terrain for all ability levels. Cannon has the longest vertical drop and the highest lift-served terrain in New Hampshire, and the state’s only aerial tramway. Cannon Mountain is based in Franconia Notch State Park, recently named America’s Seventh Most Beautiful State Park by www.americasbestonline.com, and is located directly off I-93. For more information on Cannon Mountain, visit www.cannonmt.com or call 603-823-8800.