Letter: Correcting the record on Vail’s gondola
As one of many New Hampshire natives in the valley, I’m writing to correct an erroneous claim that has been appearing in the real estate listings as Eagle County history snippets. It states that Vail had the first gondola in the United States. While Vail can claim many things in its history as one of the world’s greatest ski resorts, the distinction of having the first gondola goes to New Hampshire’s Wildcat Mountain.
It featured unique two-person cabins, built by Italian company Carlevaro & Savio and was introduced in the 1957/58 season – five years before Vail’s debut. I remember it fondly as the first gondola in which I ever soared, its intimacy and spectacular views of Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines across the valley on Mt. Washington sending shivers up this young skier’s spine. The towers were short so as to keep the cabins protected from the notorious wind that rips through the spectacular landscape, giving you a feeling of solidarity with the mountain. It had a good run, but sadly went to the scrap bin of skiing history after the 1998/99 season.
When considered alongside the famous Skimobile lift down the road at Cranmore, it can be argued that the White Mountains boasted the two most prestigious early ski lifts in America. The Skimobile was designed and built by local mechanic George Morton and consisted of one-person cars running up a wooden trestle, all attached to a cable underneath. It debuted in the 1938/39 season and carried snow riders to Cranmore’s summit for 50 wonderful years, a truly one-of-a-kind way to get lovers of snow like me to the top of the mountain. It was a great place to “grow up.”