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Plans unveiled for Mittersill upgrade

By PAULA TRACY
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 06. 2012 11:14PM

RANCONIA - Plans are coming together to create an alpine ski racing and training venue at Cannon's Mittersill.

Skiers and snowboarders at the state-owned ski area would benefit from the trail enhancement project, which will allow the Mittersill slopes to be open more due to the addition of snowmaking.

The Franconia Ski Club, Holderness School and friends of Cannon Mountain are raising the funds necessary for snowmaking, a T-bar lift, trail enhancement and perhaps lighting on portions of Mittersill.

The plan, which would come as a gift to the state, would need permitting and to be accepted by the Governor and Executive Council.

Its value would be about $2.5 million.

General Manager John DeVivo said the proposal is part of a long-range plan to develop Mittersill. He said the earliest the project could come together would be the 2013-2014 season.

He called it a 'win-win' for the public, the state operations and for the clubs interested in creating a new venue.

'The public gets a great mix of natural and man-made at Mittersill, the lift would run daily, and FSC would be off of the Front Five and have solid giant slalom and Super G venues,' he said last week.

DeVivo was describing the 'front five' trails, where currently about 200 FSC and Holderness atheletes train.

The plan is to widen trails at Mittersill, which could be used for giant slalom, Super G and Slalom ski racing.

FSC and Holderness share coaching staff and use Ernie's Haus at the base of Rocket and Gary's runs at Cannon as their center.

The plan is to continue to be based there, 'Although moving to Mittersill is the long-term plan' according to fundraising literature.

To be internationally certified for such racing, trails need certain length and slope grades.

Barron's Run would be an approved giant slalom and short Super G course and Mittersill's Taft Slope would be approved for slalom and giant slalom, with night lighting and a T-bar in the center of the mountain.

The quick turn-around, dedicated, surface lift would access the Taft Slope. Snowmaking equipment would be installed on both Barron's and Taft, which would be paid for through fundraising.

Grooming would be absorbed into the Cannon-Mittersill nightly maintenance effort, DeVivo said.

In 2011, the state installed a $2 million chairlift to the summit of Mittersill. But because of the poor snow year and that there currently is no snowmaking on Mittersill, the lift was operational for only about five days. In 2011, it was open about 70 days.

Snowmaking equipment would cost as much as $1 million.

Georg Capaul, head of snowsports at Holderness School and a former U.S. Ski Team coach, said Baron's Run has a vertical drop of 1,148 feet and a slope length of 4,152 feet, making it exceptionally good for Giant Slalom and Super G, while the Taft Slope would be widened to 90 meters and be capable of hosting multiple races at the same time.

The giant slalom course would have a vertical drop of 749 feet and a slope length of 2,448 feet, with an average gradient of 32 percent.

The slalom hill would have a vertical drop of 471 feet and a slope length of 1,703 feet, with an average gradient of 28.9 percent.

The plan is to raise as much as $2.5 million for the trail developments, snowmaking and surface lift, which could be used by the public, with limitations, during events.

Baron's will be dedicated to public use with limited allocation to racing/training. Other areas would be left alone and still would allow for the 'back-country' elements that define the area.

DeVivo said the plan also accounts for the Bicknell's Thrush, a small songbird that nests above 2,500 feet on Mittersill. It is a species in decline and the conditions for reopening Mittersill were contingent on protecting its nesting area.

He said the ski group has met with officials related to the protection of the birds, including officials from Fish and Game, The NH Audubon Society and the Forest Service and the initial response has been positive.


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