February 29, 2020
Day 23
Skiers: Carla

Envision yourself walking on a wooded trail under a canopy of snow blanketed trees, when suddenly the trail emerges into a clearing and you find yourself before a tiny ski slope that minutes before you had no sight of. Imagine this storybook setting piled high with snow, with an absence of electricity, cars, bathrooms, and other modern amenities. Visualize a nostalgic black and white photograph circa 1940 with beaming faces racing down the slope. Now add in skiing dogs, a yurt, and children laughing. That is Mount Prospect. I cannot begin to describe the majestic serenity and beauty of this little ski tow. If I had to pick a favorite small area for my NH Talls & Smalls adventure this might be it…


Harper the snow loving dog


Harper skiing with her boy down the center slope

The ski tow is located on the northwestern slope of Mount Prospect in Weeks State Park off of Rt 3 in Lancaster. It is currently the northern most operating ski area in the state and is the most remote location I have visited this season. It is open on Saturday afternoons when natural snow allows with a 1957 Chevrolet powered rope tow, three trails, grooming, and a warming yurt. Volunteers from the Mount Prospect Ski Club staff the area, while the Town of Lancaster provides funds to cover liability insurance. All supplies including fuel to run the rope tow are brought in via snowmobile. Ticket cost is a contribution to the donation jar inside the yurt.


Welcome sign on Route 3 identifying parking area


Trail leading into the ski area, as you can see there are no visual signs of a clearing ahead. Various snowmobile and hiking trails cross through this area.


Lucy’s map of Mount Prospect, date unknown. Cottage & tower pictured are part of the Week’s Estate. I am not sure if the current backcountry trails are accessible from the estate, but I do plan on hiking this area over the summer to further explore the area.

Weather today was chilly in the lower 20’s with bright sunny skies. I have become pretty adapt at riding rope and had no difficulty riding the full-length multiple times. There are three cut trails: North Slope on skier’s right, Weeks Way is the central trail, and Suicide to skiers left which has a steep drop off face at the top of the trail. Weeks Way and Suicide were well groomed with a nice packed powder surface and a fluffy 2-3 inch topcoat. The ungroomed snow on North Slope was easily 18” deep and soft, perfect for leisurely powder turns. Backcountry enthusiasts can hike an additional 400’ above the rope tow to access gladed trails maintained by the Granite Backcountry Alliance.


Base area. Rope tow line to left. Week’s Way to right of center trees. There is a narrow gladed path through these trees that adds an additional trail.


Rope tow hut, volunteer Matt inside waving at the camera


View looking down the tow line. At 1,200' I was told this is the longest rope tow in the state


Looking down Suicide, beautiful powder!


View looking down the center slope


Ungroomed North Slope with deep powder tracks

There was about twenty people at the tow including volunteers and several families. There was also four dogs who were running up and down the tow and slopes with their people: Harper, Dulce, Willie, and a golden who’s name I did not catch. A fifth dog, an old soul dachshund named Mocha was content being carried in a front-pack sling. I was told when he was younger, he would enjoy skiing in a backpack down these slopes. I have never encountered skiing snow dogs; it was the coolest sight and added to the feeling of stepping back in time to the simpler days of winter sport.


Harper the dog on her way into the glades with her boy


The golden dog running along the rope tow


Dulce & Harper near the rope tow. Looking right you can see children starting to line up for the shovel jump


Harper & Dulce nosing around the base area. Groomer belongs to a local construction company who grooms on Friday evenings.

I spent some time chatting with volunteer Lucy who discussed with me the challenges the ski tow has faced over the years. Mount Prospect Ski Tow was established in the 1940’s, and operated intermittently over the years. After sitting idle for over a decade, locals rallied and reopened Mt. Prospect during the winter of 2007-08. She stated that locals have “a deep well of affection” for this area. A skier who was there with his family told me that one-time Mount Prospect offered night skiing, a small base lodge, and at the top of the tow was “Ernie’s Hut” a small building used by the Franconia Ski Club. The only permanent structure remaining is a hut at the top which houses the rope tow engine. A warming yurt complete with woodstove and an outdoor BBQ grill are set up seasonally at the base area.


Warming hut & BBQ, pups were acutely aware that hotdogs were grilling


Willie warming up inside the yurt held by a sweet smiling young girl


Children playing with trucks outside the yurt.

The most popular event of the afternoon was “ski jumping”, not in a traditional sense as I experienced at Storrs Hill, but rather the old school homemade style. While other ski areas discourage the use of shovels, at Mount Prospect the shovel is readily available.


Volunteer building an old school shovel jump! The kids loved this and kept chanting “make it bigger”


The kids all lined up and one by one would go off this jump in succession.


This girl was darling, she jumped with arms outstretched like a starfish and a whooping gleeful laugh

Overall impression: Heaven. This little haven surpasses everything I thought I would find as I visited all the ski areas in NH this season. It is skiing as it was intended to be generations ago, minimalistic, magical, and inviting. The vibe is like attending a family reunion or backyard BBQ, where all are welcome and children are encouraged to roam outside and play. I am totally inspired to strap on a pair of old wooden skis when I return here next season!

Snowy Wishes,
Carla Frontfive
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