One of our readers, Jim Klein of Billerica, Massachusetts, is responsible for today’s subject. Back in mid February he wrote, “I skied at Homestead in the 1960’s and used the "Skimobile" lift that served the slopes. When did that lift system get replaced with a chairlift? Was that before the same type lift was replaced at Mt Cranmore in NH?”
In writing for SkiNC and SkiSoutheast over the years I have encountered some pretty cool stories about how people were transported up various ski hills prior to the installation of chair lifts. One of the more interesting is the subject of today’s story.
THE CRANMORE SKIMOBILE LIFT
One of the more ingenious lift systems, and perhaps one of the more unique was the SKIMOBILE lift system that was located at Cranmore Mountain in New Hampshire. According to Jim Klein, there were only two installations of this lift in the United States. One was at Cranmore and the other at The Homestead Resort in Virginia.
Not only did the Skimobile at Cranmore provide uphill transportation for skiers in the winter, it proved to be a rather popular tourist attraction during the summer months as you might expect. It offered a neat way to enjoy the surroundings. The Skimobile lift was actually installed in two sections. The first half of the Cranmore Ski Mobile was installed in 1938 and was finished in time for the 1939 ski season. It had 60 cars which each held one skier. Running up the hill on a wooden trestle, each car was attached to a cable which moved under the planks. It was the brain child of Conway, New Hampshire garage mechanic George Morten!
Later, Hannes Schneider arrived at the resort and convinced the owners that the skimobile needed to be extended to the summit of the mountain. The upper trestle was built and ready to be opened by the beginning of the 1939-1940 ski season. The lift was widely publicized and soon the resort became one of the leading ski areas in New England.
While the Skimobile lift was reliable as heck, it was much more labor intensive than chairlifts. Due to it’s unique design the resort have to run skimobiles with snowplows up the tracks during heavier snowstorms to clear the tracks. Also salt had to be spread on the track during ice storms, and tire pressure had to be adjusted for varying weather conditions.
The skimobile continued to be a popular lift for years drawing both winter and summer visitors. In 1989, most likely to make room for more modern lifts with greater uphill capacity, the Skimobile was dismantled. Its cars can be seen in front of various businesses in the North Conway area. There is also a car at Cranmore Mountain and another at the New England Ski Museum.
Cars are still being sold or traded and we have a contact if any of you guys are interested in buying one! Thanks to Scott Andrews for some of the photos and David Klingerhaus for some of the history and postcards.
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