September 26, 2012FRANCONIA — Two sessions took place last week to provide the public with information about plans to improve the Mittersill ski area, which is part of the larger Cannon Mountain Ski Area. One of the events was in Concord. A Friday evening session occurred in the Brookside Learning Center at Cannon Mountain.
The project is dubbed the "Mittersill Terrain Area Enhancement Project." Cannon Mountain general manager John DeVivo said that the plan amounts to "the revitalization of the Mittersill alpine ski area." The plan would offer a racing and training location on Mittersill.
DeVivo noted that Cannon Mountain has engaged many organizations in this effort. There are pending environmental studies related to the work. One major issue pertains to the protection of Bicknell's thrush habitat in areas above 2500 feet.
Cannon is very interested in protecting species, DeVivo said on Friday. He noted that 65 acres of thrush habitat would be undisturbed by the current plan. "We've worked very tightly with Fish and Game" and others on issues of wildlife protection, DeVivo said.
The mountain has also engaged the Audubon Society and the Forest Service. DeVivo said he remains committed to a partnership with all interested parties. Information at the public meeting noted that Cannon has received positive feedback from the Mittersill Association of Chalet Owners.
Tree cutting above and below the 2500' line would not be outside of historical clearings, DeVivo said. David Fitzgerald of the Franconia Ski Club (FSC) also made this point. "It's not a massive clearcut," DeVivo said.
A two-page summary of the plan echoed these sentiments. It notes, "The vast majority of the balance of the Mittersill terrain area will remain in its current state."
FSC fundraising for the effort has commenced. As DeVivo described the plan, "FSC will run the fundraising program for this project." At completion, the improvements would be gifted to the state. "Cannon," DeVivo continued, "assumes the ownership and liability" at that point.
FSC has existed since 1933. Its contract with Cannon would be renegotiated under the agreement. This would facilitate greater terrain diversity for athletes and the public using Mittersill.
DeVivo believes the public wins under the proposal, thanks to greater access to skiing sites. Training and races will occur in segregated areas, he said. This offers greater safety to the public, as well.
About 25 people showed up on Friday night to hear about the project. During the event, DeVivo said, "I think this is a great thing for the evolution of Cannon."
Plans for the expanded trails and snowmaking capability would require the approval of the governor and the executive council. DeVivo hopes to be before the council later this fall. The work is valued at about $3 million.
Widening of skiing trails would facilitate different types of events. DeVivo said that Mittersill could be used for giant slalom, Super G, and slalom ski racing. Possible lighting was explored early on, but this is no longer part of the current project.
Snowmaking is seen as an important part of the effort. A $2 million chairlift was installed on Mittersill in January 2011. Since then the lift has only operated for 75 days due to poor snow totals. The new project would install a T-Bar lift to complement the existing double lift.
DeVivo is confident that interested groups will continue to see the value of the project. Cannon hopes that the project could be ready for the 2013-14 ski season.
The public can submit comments on the project through October 12. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com.