Gunstock Names New Lift to Honor Penny Pitou

By AlpineZone News |
Nov 30 2009 - 10:25 AM

GILFORD, New Hampshire — Gunstock Mountain Resort is taking the wraps off it’s 3.5 million dollar summer expansion and will honor Penny Pitou by naming its newest chairlift the “Penny Pitou Silver Medal Quad.” “Penny’s lifelong history in the Lakes Region and her impact and contribution to winter sports is inspiring” says Greg Goddard, General Manager of Gunstock Mountain Resort. “Penny was the first US athlete ever to win an Olympic Downhill Medal. Her two Silver Medals at the 1960 Olympics at Squaw Valley marked a new era of ski racing in the United States. Her legacy continued with the creation of the Penny Pitou Ski School at Gunstock. It’s only natural to dedicate our new “learn to ski” chair in honor of her achievements not only in racing, but in teaching thousands how to learn to ski and enjoy the sport.

Penny was three when her family moved to Center Harbor from New York and she spent most winters skiing in her backyard and the Gilford Outing Club, beating most of the boys. When in High School, there were no girls allowed on the Laconia team so she just tucked her blond hair inside a helmet and asked all her skiing buddies to call her Tommy. She was winning all the races until one day she fell in front of a gatekeeper , and the beans were spilled along with her hair. He called the principal and she was asked to leave the team. That didn’t stop her as she competed in the 1956 Olympics in Cortina then again in 1960 in Squaw Valley, where she made Olympic history. She won Silver in the Downhill and Giant Slalom events, and only a major fall in the Slalom cost her the Women’s Overall Gold medal. She was the first American women ever to win a Downhill race in Olympic competition. After the Olympics, Penny married Austrian Olympic Skier Egon Zimmermann. They were offered the opportunity to operate Alpine Meadows Ski Area in California, but Penny decided to return to Gilford, where she and Egon began the Penny Pitou Ski School at Gunstock. She has been instrumental in ski development ever since. Penny is the owner of Penny Pitou Travel, and continues to personally escort annual ski trips to the Alps.

Penny’s Quad is one of the first chairlifts of its kind in the United States. It was manufactured in Salt Lake City Utah by Dopplemeyer/CTEC. The Ecco drive lift is smaller, quieter and uses less energy. It is designed with beginners in mind, giving them a full 10 seconds between chairs to load. It also keeps the rider close to the ground, alleviating some of the natural fears of first time chair riders. With room for 4 on each chair it is easier for instructors to get their classes up the mountain and keeps them together.

The Penny Pitou Silver Medal Quad Chairlift is the centerpiece of a newly expanded beginner complex, and is part of the overall master plan for Gunstock. The new trails are designed to allow a progression from gentle slopes to slightly steeper terrain to prepare skiers and riders for their full mountain experience. To inspire potential new Olympians, Gunstock will be developing historical plaques of Penny’s successes over the years and mounting them in various places on the mountain. “Her history is unique. It is inspiring. She had a major effect on skiing in the heyday of the 60’s and we look forward to this opportunity to celebrate her accomplishments here at Gunstock”, says Bill Quigley, Director of Marketing and Sales. “Penny’s celebrity status was known across the globe and people flocked to not only watch her ski, but learn from her”

Gunstock is planning on dedicating the lift on Saturday, December 12th, check the website for details.