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Local historian's new book tells tale of Gunstock

Carol Anderson at the Gilford Public Library Metting Romm with her husband John and two children, Dean (left) and Sarah (right). (Jeff Ferland) (click for larger version)
October 26, 2011
Local author Carol Anderson spoke at the Gilford Public Library Tuesday, Oct. 18 about her recently published book, titled "The History of Gunstock: Skiing the Belknap Mountains," concluding the library's Get Booked series.

Gunstock Mountian Resort has historically been a great asset to the Gilford community and local skiing fanatics, but few know the unique, 57-year history of this winter play-land.

Anderson said the inspiration for writing her new book came while helping her daughter, Sarah Anderson, research the old Gilford Outing Club warm-up hut on Cherry Valley Road at the bottom of the sledding hill, which she planned to restore with historic accuracy.

While researching, Anderson stumbled upon a mountain of information on the history of Gunstock Ski Resort, but realized there was no officially recorded or documented history.

After noticing an overwhelmingly positive reaction by local residents towards Gunstock, she decided to dig deeper.

Through research and stories of residents and ski-enthusiasts, Anderson pieced together the complete 57-year history of Gunstock, with a Forward By Penny Pitou, two-time Olympic Silver Medalist.

Anderson admitted that she grew up in a flat town in Connecticut, and had no background in alpine skiing.

"I don't ski. I didn't even know anyone who skied," laughed Anderson.

She recalled people in her home town telling her she would be bored in Gilford.

"They said 'nothing ever happens in New Hampshire,'" recalled Anderson, adding that she was jealous of those who grew up surrounded by the lakes and mountains.

"I would never go back," she said.

Though she still does not ski, she immersed herself in the history of skiing in the Lakes Region.

Anderson said she had a tough time tracking down information regarding the early days of Gunstock, or, as it was known then, Belknap Mountains Recreation Area.

"They didn't keep any paperwork," said Anderson. "I had a hard time finding data."

Through microfiche files of old newspaper articles, she was able to piece together the early days of construction and operation of the ski-area.

Anderson dedicated her book to Torger Tokle, a Norwegian immigrant who set the record for the 60-meter jump at 251 feet in 1941. Anderson found his name many times in her research, and decided to look further into his history. She found that his record went unbroken until the 60-meter jump was converted into an Olympic size 70-meter jump; Tokle still holds the record for the longest 60-meter jump. Tokle was renowned in the world of ski-jumping but his promising career was cut short as he was killed in action during his service in World War II.

According to Anderson's research, the updated 70-meter jump was dedicated to Tokle in 1946, and re-dedicated in March 2011, on the 70-year anniversary of his record-breaking jump, by the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society, which Anderson founded.

When it came to writing, Anderson said she began with the chapter on Tokle. She said it was the easiest to write, and whenever she felt stuck in her work, she would look back on Tokle's story and feel inspired.

One of the more difficult chapters for Anderson was the chapter on Pitou, who spent her winters training on the slopes in Gilford.

"She doesn't belong in a chapter. Her achievements could fill a book," said Anderson.

Over the years, the jumps have been neglected, but now Anderson and the Gunstock Mountain Historic Preservation Society are looking into restoring the old jumps, and some of the ski trails which used to surround them.

According to Anderson, the group is in the process of seeking grant funding. She said an assessment of the jumps showed that restoration would be fairly simple. Most of the work would be re-grading the landing hills to the correct angle. She hopes the project will bring ski jumping back to Gilford.

Anderson said she would consider learning to ski, but her fear of heights would keep her off the 70-meter jump.

Anderson just released "The History of Gunstock" on Oct. 6, and it is on sale at Piche's Ski and Sport shop, Annie's Book Stop and on Amazon.com.

According to Assistant Librarian Betty Tidd, the event was Anderson's first public presentation since the book's publication.

As far as additional publications by Anderson, she said only time will tell, but added, "I'm working on it."

"I love the work I do," she said. "This is a great history to preserve."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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