A Brief History of Cranmore Snowsports
Cranmore’s Snowsports history actually began in Jackson, N.H. with the arrival of Hannes Schneider’s teaching disciple, Benno Rybizka. Hired by skiing enthusiast, and retail sales entrepreneur, Carroll Reed, Benno, along with the aid of some local boys taught some 6,000 lessons in the winter of 1937, under the banner of The White Mt. Ski School.
While on a visit to his home town of North Conway, Harvey Gibson, a local boy and Wall Street financier, accompanied his daughter to Jackson to watch her take a ski lesson. While there, Mr. Gibson began to think that if people were willing to travel to Jackson for ski lessons, then they would also be willing to travel to North Conway.
In 1937, Mr. Gibson quietly acquired Lookout Mt. and renamed it Mt.Cranmore after a family who had owned a major portion of the mountain. During the first season at Cranmore, Gibson rented an unused rope tow from Thorne Mt. and paid to have it moved from Jackson to Cranmore. He then invited Carroll Reed to open a second branch of The White Mt. Ski School, which he did, and Cranmore began to take its rightful place in ski history.
After speaking to his friend W. Averell Harriman, developer of Sun Valley Idaho, and the world’s first chair lifts in 1936, Harriman told Gibson if he was going to be successful, he would have to have something special to draw people to his ski hill. Gibson hired local inventor and mechanic, George Morton to design and build a unique up-hill lift that would help draw attention to the young ski area. The result was the Skimobile, a lift that served Cranmore and its patrons for 50 years.
On February 11, 1939, through the efforts of Mr. Gibson, famed Austrian Skimeister, Hannes Schneider and his family arrived via the snow train at the North Conway Train Station. Greeting the family were countless towns people, children enrolled in The Eastern Slope Junior Ski Program, and four of Schneider’s Austrian instructors who had preceded him to the Eastern Slope Region; Benno Rybizka, Toni Matt, Otto Tschol, and Franz Koessler, along with eighteen of his “American Instructors” including Tyler Micoleau, Francis Savard, J. Arthur Doucett, and Arthur Callan.
From 1939 to 1955, Hannes Schneider operated one of, if not the most widely recognized ski schools in the world. Hannes and his staff taught countless thousands of people how to ski using his renown Arlberg Technique. With long wooden skis and relatively soft leather boots, learning to ski was a much more arduous endeavor in the early days than it is today. This often translated to days or weeks in the same class, sometimes even entire seasons, attempting to perfect each step in the Arlberg System.
With the unexpected passing of Hannes in 1955, Herbert Schneider assumed the directorship of the ski school and carried on the traditions and legacy of his father until 1984. Under Herbert’s leadership as ski school director and later owner/manager of the entire mountain, Cranmore continued to be a leader within the ski industry. 1955 brought the East Chair, followed in 1963 and 1969 with the addition of two new Mueller chair lifts. 1970 saw the rudimentary beginnings of snowmaking, snowfarming, and better grooming.
In 1985, the Hannes Schneider Ski School name was retired, and the ski school business became part of Mt. Cranmore Inc., led by then owner Ed Mank. For the next five years the ski school continued to operate under the direction of local ski shop owners Bob Sullivan and Terry Love. From 1990 to present, the Snowsports School has been ably led by Karen Dolan, a 40 year veteran of the mountain and its ski schools. Karen has persevered under four different ownerships and has led the school back to a position of prominence, receiving recognition by Ski Magazine, and The Boston Globe for having one of the Best Children’s Programs in the east. Thanks to Ms. Dolan, today’s Snowsports instructors have the same passion for teaching as their predecessors, and they have the same desire to instill that passion to the people they teach.