Aukee Ski Area
Canterbury, NH
1967-about 1980

Thanks to Doug Russwick, who helped found this area, we now know more about its history. Here is his story:

Aukee was born at a party in Canterbury by three individuals. The three there Dick Stewartson, Jim Lilly, and Doug Russwick, all three non skiers. They decided it would be a good idea if Canterbury had a ski tow. They looked all over town for a suitable slope and finally decided the best they could find was the slope behind the Russwick barn. The slope did not exactly rival Cannon Mountain but it did offer a clear slope, it was 400 feet long and it dropped 40 feet. Not exactly Olympic dimensions but it did have easy access for the patrons. After this decision was made the next was to go get started on construction. (Half the front porch from the Stewartson home was used for the floor of the motor hut and warming area. Not exactly mind blowing since it was about 10' X 12'.

A 1948 Plymouth was found after all the unnecessary pieces of the car were removed it was taken to Len Bowler for surgery. He shortened the frame and drive shaft, then welded two rims together and mounted two tries on the rims as were going to use the sides of the tires to pull the rope up the hill. He also welded a stand under the shortened frame to hold the whole conglomeration up in the hut. The remodeled Plymouth was loaded on a pickup truck and taken to the slope in a blinding snow storm. The front of the hut was removed and the power unit was slid into the hut.

Next we needed poles to hold up the rope and wheels for the pulleys on the poles. The poles were found by watching the local power company replacing some poles in town. All members of the club carried chains in their truck and when they spotted a replaced pole on the ground they chained it to the truck and hauled it to the slope. The wheels were found at the dump where there were abandoned cars. We took the front wheels from some of the cars and mounted them on the poles, which a local farmer had placed on the slope with a hole digger.

The next big need was a rope. We found that the group at Sanbornton was replacing their rope so we went up there and bought the used rope. We hired an individual to splice the rope to the proper length for the slope. He put about a 10-12 foot splice in the rope and it was almost impossible to find the first splice. We mounted the rope on the wheels and put a deadman wheel at the bottom of the slope. We connected the deadman to a chain fall, for adjustment, went around the power unit wheels, and we were in business.

After we were inspected by the state to ensure that we had the proper safety systems in place we could finally start up the tow. We acquired flood lights to light the slope which gave us the ability to run at night.

We set a price of $25 for a family and started giving ski lessons for adults and children. This lasted for probably a year and then we charged $35 a family and hired professional ski instructors from the Gunstock Ski Area. The instruction of the kids did magic things to the ski team at the local high school.

Aukee lasted about 10-12 years at which time it died. It probably died through a lack of interest for skiing in the town and increasing insurance rates. It was fun while it lasted and the three initiators all learned to ski. When the area shut down the speedometer on the tow had over 10,000 miles on it.

Peter Moore also remembers this area:

"This hill is where I learned to ski, in the late 60's, early 70's.  I still have fond memories of the clubhouse-lodge if you will, that housed the old Plymouth engine that ran the rope tow.  You could get a cup of hot chocolate for like a quarter in there, but it was so loud with the engine running constantly.  When you got you seasons pass, you were given a pair of leather mittens (red on the inside) that would give you better grip on the rope tow.  Anyone at Canterbury elementary school who had those leather mittens were the coolest.  Within one weekend of skiing though, they would shred into pieces in the palms.  Night skiing on Friday nights was always a big treat. 
If I recall there was a jump that was formed from an old pile of rocks over to skiers left about half way down the hill.  Only when there was plenty of snow could you launch off of it.  I remember many a nasty spill off that jump, as it was crudely maintained and more often than not either pitched you forward, back, or sideways off the lip.  I'd love to hear of anyone else who skied there, that has the great memories I do.  I worked in the ski industry for 15 years, and still coach ski racing at Mt. Cranmore, and I look at what the kids have available to them today when they start skiing in term's of equipment and mountain amenities.  They surely are lucky, but honestly I would never trade back those days at places like this small forgotten area in Canterbury. "

The 1969 New Hampshire Winter Guide confirms that there was a 375' rope tow.

Does anybody else remember skiing here?

Last updated: April 15, 2015

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