History ~ Family Memories and Historic Photos ~ More Memories
Note - the history presented here is believed to be mostly accurate, but it is still being worked on.
First, many thanks to Art Olive who sent us many scanned images of this lost area which were provided by Dave Potter Whitcomb, the grandson of the founder of this former ski area! Most pictures featured here are from them, unless otherwise noted.
Skiing at the Peterborough Golf Club, which is next to what became Whit's, apparently started in the mid 1930's. We are not sure of the exact dates, and if this was affiliated with Howard Whitcomb, the founder of Whit's Ski Tow. We do know that a 1940-1941 season article mentioned the first year of Whit's as being the year prior, 1939-1940. Because the period of time from the mid 1930's-late 1930's is murky, we will assume this ski area to begin in 1939, but research is ongoing to clear up any confusion. To the left is a postcard from the NELSAP collection showing the PRC Ski Tow (Peterborough Recreation Club?). Mt. Monadnock appears to be in the background.
|This postcard, also from the NELSAP collection, shows a rope tow at the Peterborough Golf Club, date unknown, but likely 1930's.|
|But back to what we do
Founded by Howard L. Whitcomb, a farmer, Whit's opened during the 1939-1940 season, and lasted until at least 1968, and possibly into the early 1970's. The area abutted the Peterborough Golf Course, and originally had just one rope tow. During the 1940-1941 season, Whit added another rope tow, and the area boasted three "classy" trails (beginner, intermediate, and an expert trail named Suicide) up to 900 feet in length. Trails were also widened and cleared at the conclusion of that first 39-40 ski season. A toboggan chute also operated during that season.
(Right - learn more about skiing at Whit's during the second season. Click on the article for the larger version.)
|In January of 1941, the
Boston Traveler ran a picture of what was then considered advanced
snowmaking/grooming at the time. During times of low snowfalls, Whit
would load up snow collected from town in his manure spreader, then dump
and smooth out the snow on the slopes! He was one of the first that
realized that ski area operators could make a marginal skiing situation
possible under trying weather conditions. Click on the image on the left
to see a closeup of this operation.
Whit was quoted in another article (below, click on it for the larger version) as saying "In these times, a fellow can't just set up a rope, clear off a slope, and wait for nature to do the rest. You have to do something yourself.". He also used a roller attached to his tractor to pack and groom the snow. Well ahead of his time!
|Whit's grew slowly during
the 1940's and 1950's, adding another rope tow, and eventually night
skiing around 1960. Several people taught skiing here. Steve Carr was
one of the first ski instructors. Then, according to Betsy Moody, Ollie
Mannion, a former Olympian, ran the
there in the late 50's and early 60's. Ann Eneguess
ran the ski school during the 1960's.|
The left view shows the area at its peak in during the 1960-1961 season, with plenty of snow. Note the beginner rope tow on the far left, and the expert tow in the middle. Not pictured is the bunny tow on the far right.
|Sadly, competition from
nearby Temple Mountain and Crotched Mountain, along with the difficulty
of running a ski area in his 70's for Whit took their toll, and the area
was sold in 1968 to a local developer. Whit had hoped that the area would continue to
run, to allow a more affordable place to ski, and that there was a place
for $2 lift tickets in the ski industry.
It is unclear at the moment if Whit's operated until the early 1970's, as the developer in the article to the right mentioned he might have operated it a bit longer. Some readers remember it operating past 1968, so it is possible. We will clear that up.
Click on the article on the right to learn more about the sale of Whit's in 1968.
|Regardless, the base of Whit's Tows was developed into apartments, however, the top 2/3 of the ski area is still undeveloped, but very grown in. To the left is an aerial view of how the area appeared in 1998.|
Family Memories and Historic Photos
We have heard from several family members of Whit. Here are their stories:
am Sally Whitcomb Potter, the daughter of
Howard Whitcomb, the founder and owner of Whit's Tow in
Peterborough, New Hampshire.
The tow started in 1940 or 1941 and
continued every winter until about 1968. The power for the rope tow was
supplied by the engine of a model A Ford which was placed on golf club
property at the top of the hill.
The tow as it appeared during the likely first season - note no cleared slope to the right of the rope tow.
Dave Potter Whitcomb: Whit was my grandfather, you may have
heard some of this from my brother, but here is what I know. I strapped
on my first pair of skis there when I was 3, 47years ago. I think
it started in 1933 and shut down about 1970 due to my grandfathers age
mainly, but also due to popularity of larger areas. He was a real
pioneer. There were 3 rope tows, bunny, intermediate and "expert" I
think they were powered by model T engines. there was also a toboggan
run there back in the 40's.
|More of the Potter family, Mark, Susan, Jack, Sally, and Dave, 1960-1961.|
|The Potter and Whitcomb families loved to ski at Whit's!||
||Hi, My name is Dick Dart and I was born in Peterborough in 1925. In my recollection Whit's FIRST tow was just below where that guy is "racing" in the picture you have of Whit's SECOND tow. The racer is going down the 5th fairway of the and for his first tow Whit parked an old (early 30's I think) car, facing downhill, just below that racer, took off the left rear tire and used the rim for the rope tow to go around and to get it's power. I believe that this was about 1936. Us kids sometimes sat in the car to give it the gas when it slowed down with a big load of kids on the rope. We skied down to the old 4th green (now the 1st green), which is about where the tow you have in you picture started and came up along the stone wall. Later Whit put in a 3rd tow by opening up the hill below the 4th green and had a longer tow that went all the way down to Summer Street, which is the white area in your picture above.|
|Betsy Moody: Whit's Ski Tow was on Summer St. in Peterborough. The top of the rope tow brought you to the golf club. It had night skiing beginning about 1960. We had high school ski races there. The Peterborough High ski team practiced there with the former Olympian Ollie Mannion. He ran the there in the late 50's and early 60's. Ann Eneguess was the next Ski School director. I'm not sure of the dates of operation, I would say from the 40's until the late 60's anyway. Since skis did not come with edges we use to have the edges put on our skis in the shop there.|
Jonathan Meath: I can shed a
Golf Club, although it was located on the edge of their land.
on this subject. You see I learned to ski there in
1966. It was a commercial operation called "Whit's Ski Tow." I am not
sure who the owner was, but I feel it was not affiliated with the
The Golf Club was, and is, at the top of the hill, off High Street, in close proximity to the second photo on your web site. The Whit's warming hut and center of operations was located at the bottom of the hill, on Summer Street. One accessed the hill from the bottom, at Whit's. There were no facilities open in the winter at the Golf Club, and to get there by car from Whit's involved a , through town, round about and up High Street. This is a long winded way of saying that while physically located at the Golf Club, you should list this as "Whit's Ski Tow."
Whit's was a wonderfully friendly place. The clientele was all local. Moms would hang out in the hut, or drop off kids in the morning and come back at sundown to pick us up, cold, happy and tired. The Whit's experience involved a pack of kids all having a great time, skiing, warming, skiing. And, the adventure had all the perils of rope tows; frozen gloves, hats in the machinery, kids falling and sliding back into others creating a pile-up to rival anything at NASCAR. The hut was warmed by a wood stove and I think there was a very tiny snack bar, with cocoa and that's about it. The hill featured three rope tows, each with there own slope. The bunny tow was far right of the hut. It's 15 ft. tow and slight slope was perfect for a young learner. There was a middle tow at a slightly steeper slope that was 30-40 ft in length. The big tow is the one in your first picture. It took you up the hill (70-100 ft) and over part of the Golf Club lands (another 100 ft). The main run took you left of the tow, across the gently rolling pitch of one of the golf tees to the top of a steep exhilarating 100 ft drop down to the warming hut.
I loved Whit's. Whit's was a great place to learn to ski, but, like all of us kids, I graduated to the "Big Slope", Temple Mountain, when I was about 10.
|Victoria Ford: While I never skied at Whit's in, my parents did. In fact, my mother taught my father how to ski there in the late 60s. I noticed you didn't have an end date on the Whit's page so I thought I'd write to say that it operated at least in 1968, my parents' first winter in NH, and probably 1969. My sister was born in 1970 and it was a few years before they skied again. When they took skiing up again around 1976, we were a Crotched family.|
he area was still in operation in 1955 but closed probably in the 1960s sometime.
There were two rope tows. The smaller one was for little kids and real beginners; the larger is shown in the first (top) Peterborough Golf Club photo. The tow debouched just below the current Monadnock Country Club clubhouse, very near the practice putting green. That is the area shown in the second PGC photo, looking toward what was until recently the first tee (near the flagpole shown in the distance).
I and my friends spent many days skiing at Whit's. Later, in the mid-1970s, I resided in an apartment complex that now occupies what was then the bottom of the ski slope, including the warming hut and the parking lot.
|JD Hale: Whit's Tow in Peterborough, NH. I had some great skiing years there from about 1965 to 1972. The rope build my forearms forever. Great hotdogs.|
||Alan Packard: There were, I think, three rope tows, although I'm not
positive. There were two or three main trails, as shown in the photos, that
the club house of the country club, but as far as I know, there was no connection between the two. There was another, smaller, "beginners" area off to the right looking up the hill. There was a pretty simple warming hut at the base, and they did have night skiing.
Whit's was in operation through the 60's (when I lived in the area), but I have no idea when it closed. I think there are now some apartments along what used to be the base of the area.
Ron Lyon: It was a small area in Peterborough, known as "Whit's", and sported either a T-bar, or a Poma, and a short rope tow on the far right hand side of the area, looking up. I don't remember which tow went to the top, because I only rode it once! (Note - it was a rope tow). We spent all our time there on the rope tow with our kids, ages five and one half, four, and two and one half. The youngest never went up the rope tow, he only walked around the base, but the rest of us melted the snow on the rope tow! This was the winter of '64-'65, and Christmas was not white that year. We had move onto Pine street in Peterborough in January of '64, and had waited a full year for our first white Christmas, having come from Austin, Texas, where our three sons were born. I had taken a night time job with a ski shop in Wilton, where I mounted cable bindings, and was able to equip our whole family for that first snow free Christmas. By the next winter, we had moved and had graduated to Pat's Peak and Pinnacle for our skiing.
But Whit's got us started - we even had our first, (and only), injury there - my wife sprained her ankle in 10 inches of snow, and that was the last powder we saw for a long time! :) Whit's has been replaced by condominium style apartments, but I can't tell you what year. I'm not even sure how many years it operated after we moved. If you are familiar with Rt. 202, as it enters Peterborough from the North, you know it follows the river into town. If you came into town that way, and turned right towards the center of town, you would cross over the river, and the next right hand turn would put you on a road to Handcock - I think it is Middle Handcock road, but I'm not positive. It goes North out of town on the opposite side of the river where you came in on 202. About a 1000 yards from where you turned right, on you left, there are residential apartments, with a steep hill behind them.
If you remember more about this area, just let us know.
Last updated: October 9, 2008
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