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Mittersill slopes being incorporated into mountain

November 18, 2009
FRANCONIA—The Cannon Mountain Advisory Commission toured some of the ongoing renovations at Cannon Mountain and reviewed upcoming projects on the new Mittersill slopes.

The renovations include the new, 2,800 square foot Cannonball Pub, expanded Peabody Family room, 30 percent more retail space and new and expanded outdoor decking outside Peabody Lodge.

John Devivo, Cannon Mountain manager, said all the new renovations, which will be complete by mid to late December, will lend themselves well to summer use as well, allowing the facilities to be used for conferences and weddings.

In addition to touring the site, the commission held a meeting and reviewed the work being done on the newly acquired Mittersill slopes, which officially became part of the Cannon Mountain Ski Area earlier this year. It became part of Cannon Mountain after a land swap with the federal government for a former state park in Piermont.

The new Mittersill acquisition added around 187 acres to Cannon, of which around 86 acres are currently skiable, Devivo said. Those new acres on the Mittersill slopes will receive an extra hazardous, backcountry designation, including signs warning that skiing those slopes can put one in danger of serious injury or death. Because of its comparative remoteness, the Cannon Mountain Ski Patrol will minimally patrol the area.

During the years since Mittersill closed, in the late 1980s, skiers have continued to use the slopes, which were unpatrolled. During the reopening earlier this year, skiers and Devivo noted now there will at least be some kind of patrol, something that did not exist during those years.

There will be no grooming or snowmaking on those slopes, at least for several years, as money has not been set aside in the capital improvement budget for that purpose.

Devivo said a recent assessment was done of the work over the summer to clear the trails and how it affected the habitat of the Bicknell's thrush, a rare bird on the upper slopes of the mountain. In the memorandum of agreement between the state, federal government and the Audubon Society, occasional assessments must be done on thrush habitat.

"There's so much habitat it's hard to disturb it," Devivo said. He noted the footprint of the Mittersill trails can be no larger than when the ski area operated in the late 1980s. This includes the two-seat chairlift to be built next year. Not only is the seat part of the original layout but also is consistent with Cannon Mountain's backcountry culture, he said.

Construction on the $3 million chairlift is to start in the spring of 2010 and is expected to be finished in December 2010.

Franconia resident Kevin Johnson, who owns the Gale River Motel, asked if an environmental impact study, especially of snowmaking, had been done because of the new slopes.

Devivo said all that is being done through DRED (Department of Resources and Economic Development) and said that snowmaking had very little impact on Echo Lake, where the water comes from. Snowmaking capacity is 3,800 gallons of water per minute. Even at full capacity for 72 to 96 hours, which is never done, he said, the lake level would only drop three inches.

Johnson, who for years has been an advocate of privatizing the management of the ski area, said he was concerned the ski area had not filed all the proper permits. Even though a state entity does not have to file a town building permit, it still has to meet all the other requirements, he said.

"A state entity should still meet all the requirements a private one would have to," Johnson said.

Devivo said the ski area would meet all the requirements and get all the required permits before the chairlift is built next year.

Town of Alexandria
Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
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