The History of Gunstock

~Gunstock's Rich Ski History and Its Preservation~

Bull Wheel

GUNSTOCK'S HISTORY

The recreation area was created by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) under the guidance of the Hussey Manufacturing Co. of North Berwick, ME. Chief Engineer, Ed Willey, lead hundreds of previously-unemployed men (some as coming as far away as Boston) as they developed a nationally-recognized recreation area. Gunstock Mountain Resort, as it is known today, was the home of the first chair lift in the East, which was constructed as part of the original ski area.

It was the mesmerizing sport of skiing that transformed the local economy as well as the social scene. The first meet ever held at the brand new recreation facility was in February 1937 after the completion of the 60-meter ski jump. Year after year, championship meets were held there under the watchful eyes of up to 10,000 spectators traveling in from all parts of the country.

Jump Competition

These meets attracted national and international ski jumping stars including the young jumping sensation, Torger Tokle. Tokle, breaking hill records across the country, held the hill record at Belknap for 35 years. He was quoted as saying that Belknap’s 60-meter jump was “his hill”. In March 1946, the jump was named in honor of this young athlete after he was killed in battle during WWII.

The history of Gunstock is filled with changes; changes that were made to meet the demands of the skiers who continually flocked to the ski area. Those changes demanded full-time management of the facility and the five-member Gunstock Area Commission was created. Major expansions followed in order to keep up with the pace of the changing technology of ski areas. In 1960, a young Gilford resident burst into the international arena of downhill skiing and became a decorated Olympian. Penny Pitou, who trained with Gilford’s Gary Allen, won two Silver Medals at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley, CA. She returned to Gilford after the Olympics and married fellow Olympian, Egon Zimmermann,  The couple ran the Penny Pitou Ski School at Gunstock during the 1960's. She remains a Gilford resident and considers it “her home”.

penny_pitou

In the fall of 2009 came the Seven to Save designation from the NH Preservation Alliance for the 70-meter ski jump at Gunstock. Annually, the Alliance recognizes seven properties in the state that possess significant historical value and are in danger of being forever lost.

70 Meter Jump

In order to deal with the magnitude of this epic restoration, the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society was formed. From the onset, this project gained national attention, becoming the subject of an on-line article of the National Trust. During its first year, the project grew from the restoration of the 70-meter jump to the restoration of all Gunstock’s four historic jumps with the goal of once again making them usable by today’s ski jumpers.  The society is now a registered 501(c)3 organization.

The Society’s mission is to preserve all of Gunstock’s ski history as well as that of Belknap County. During its first year, it was awarded a $5,000 Moose Plate Grant from the New Hampshire State Library for the preservation of the over 400 historic blueprints owned by the ski area. The preservation of the over 4,000 photos at Gunstock is also a goal of the organization. The seven members of the society's archive committee are working to organize and categorize the entire collection.  PastPerfect Museum Software has been purchased, and digitization of the archives has begun.  

Future goals are the creation of display areas in the main lodge, a museum, and the continued preservation of the historic trails and structures located at Gunstock. Proper documentation of the family stories and oral histories of this piece of America’s history is a critical goal. This must happen in order for future generations to learn of and understand the great cultural resource that Gunstock represents in the daily life in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

~Help the society preserve this history - become a volunteer today!~