Cannon Mountain was the site of the first passenger tramway in North America. The fact that it was built at all is a tribute to the vision of a few men, and the foresight of the New Hampshire Legislature.
From its construction in 1938 to its 1980 retirement, 6,581,338 passengers made the thrilling 2.1 mile journey up Cannon Mountain. The dedication of Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway II on May 24, 1980 marked the end of a 42 year era, and the exciting beginning of a bright new future for Cannon Mountain.
Alexander Bright, a famous skier, conceived the idea of building a tramway in NH during his trip to Europe as a member of the US Olympic Ski Team in 1933. In Europe, Bright had seen passenger carrying tramways and recognized that building one in NH could foster the growth of skiing and summer tourism in the White Mountains.
Bright’s idea appealed to increasing numbers of people and groups associate with winter sports, and Peabody, through his enthusiasm, aroused the support of the NH Legislature.
As the contractor began construction of the tramway, a 200 man CCC Camp began work on a parking area and developing 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 1931-1932.
The opening attracted newspapermen, photographers, newsreel cameramen and syndicated writers from across the nation. Later Lowell Thomas made evening news broadcasts from both the valley and mountain stations.
As its proponents had predicted, the tramway proved not only a sound financial investment for the state, but also confirmed the viability of skiing as an industry in New Hampshire. Cannon Mountain, with the highest vertical drop of any ski mountain in the East, became the pinnacle of Eastern skiing. The success of the state’s venture attracted the interest and investment of the private sector and the ski industry in NH grew and prospered.
Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway II ascends the famous slopes of Cannon Mountain for 5,359 feet. Its two cabins, each with a capacity for 80 passengers and one attendant, travel at a speed of 1,500 feet per minute, with an hourly passenger capacity of 1,540 or 770 in each direction, or more than three times the capacity of the original tramway.
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