Growing Up Cranmore

Black and White image of snow train skiers

If you grew up in Mt. Washington Valley you’ve likely been skiing at Cranmore since before you can remember. The rush to get first chair on Saturday mornings, pinching yourself for a powder day, besting your best friend’s Mountain Meister race time—it’s all essential rites of passage that begin pretty much as soon as Valley kids learn to walk.

Cranmore isn’t just a place where people go skiing: Cranmore raises skiers. It’s a decades-old tradition that continues to endure. There is a sense of homecoming when each generation returns to the mountain so their children can learn to ski and ride on the same slopes they did.

History of Ski School 

Mount Cranmore became the site of the first official ski school in 1939 when Hannes Schneider stepped off the Eastern Slope Express in North Conway. When Schneider immigrated to Mt. Washington Valley from Austria, he brought the gospel of skiing. To this day, you will find skiers on the hill who have been coming out to Cranmore since that initial wave of ski mania in the 30s and 40s.

Schneider’s personal goal was this: If a child in our community wants to get on skis, they will. It’s a mission folks in the Valley inherited and strive to uphold today.

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Eastern Slope Ski Club

Today, the Valley promotes snowsports to local kids through ESSC (Eastern Slope Ski Club) junior programs: From January to March, all children in the Valley (grades 1-6) who want to ski head to the mountain for a half-day each week to learn.

Many of these students also choose to sign up for ski racing. The racing crews that form at Cranmore bond into second families or, as SnowSports Director Karen Dolan puts it, their “winter families.” It feels like camp.

Black and White image of skier instruction

Embodying the Legacy

Nobody embodies Cranmore’s generational legacy better than the snowsports director herself. Dolan learned to ski at Cranmore when she was about 2 years old and quickly fell in love with it. Though she left the Valley for a time to ski out west in Colorado, at the end of the day, Cranmore was home.

When she returned, she practically raised her children at Cranmore. It was such a major part of their lives that her daughter wrote about it in her college admission essays, detailing the discipline she learned growing up in ski school.

This season, Dolan is on a mission to get her grandson on skis. It perfectly represents what you witness on the hill every weekend: three generations of one family all skiing together, building on unifying traditions.

Dolan is far from the only Cranmore employee who’s a returning student. Many former ski schoolers become instructors, and both the current director of marketing (Becca Deschenes) and the director of mountain operations (Brantly Ludington) discovered their passion for snowsports at Cranmore. In fact, before Ludington and Dolan became colleagues, he was one of her students.

“Cranmore has forever been the home mountain of the Conways,” Dolan explains. “People who are born into Cranmore would never say anything negative about it.” This shared history and this shared passion for skiing are foundational in making the White Mountains the deeply connected community that it is.

Family walking across the snow with chairlift in the background
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