Long dubbed a skier’s mountain and once boasting the logo “Burn your boots off,” Cannon Mountain has held a reputation for being a tough, cold mountain for hardy, advanced skiers.
But the Cannon Mountain Snowsports School, along with an ideal and unique learning area, brings a different perspective, allowing skiers of all ages and abilities to learn and practice in a non-intimidating, relaxing environment and enjoy the very varied and special terrain this mountain has to offer.
The school’s beginnings go back to 1949 as Franconia Ski School, headed by two wellknown ski figures, Swiss national team member Paul Valar and his wife, U.S. Olympian Paula Kahn Valar. Today, the Snowsports School at Cannon Mountain, under the direction of Irv Fountain, has a staff of about 100 ski instructors and 20 snowboard instructors.
Their certifications, through Professional Ski Instructors of America, range from national team members to Level 1-certified instructors to new trainees. All are trained to offer their students the most up-to-date techniques suited to students’ abilities and skill levels.
Cannon Mountain Snowsports School features a little mountain within a big mountain — this is the unique Tuckerbrook Family Area for learning and family skiing, the headquarters for the Snowsports School. With 14 trails and four lifts, it provides a wonderful teaching area for the school and a great practice area for kids, families and snowsports enthusiasts. While it is an integral part of the main mountain on the Peabody Slopes side, and easily accessed from the Peabody base area with its full-service lodge, it is situated off to one side with no access from above. That means no advanced skiers or would-be racers schussing by as you are making your slow, careful turns or learning a new maneuver. From wideopen beginner slopes to easier intermediate trails and tree skiing, to a beginner freestyle park, the Tuckerbrook area is a fine location for both learning and practicing and a great way to get your ski or boarding legs under you before tackling the larger mountain.
The Snowsports School is located along the Brookside beginner trail and has its own magic carpet lift for its programs. Beginners start out here and are introduced gently on the Brookside slope. The longer Tuckerbrook quad chair gives you access to the entire area, but still on gentle slopes to give newcomers an easy, non-threatening introduction to turning and stopping. During busy times, the Tuckerbrook area also is served by the Brookside triple chair and a handle tow serving Huckerbrook, a gentle introduction to freestyle terrain.
Daily skiing or snowboarding kids programs are offered by the Snowsports School for children ages 3 to 12. The 8- to 12-year-old group, Mountain Explorers, and Cannon Kids, ages 4-7, can choose morning, afternoon or all-day classes that are grouped by both age and ability. The full-day program goes from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and includes an all-day, all-mountain ticket, lunch, snacks and equipment storage. There are colorcoded ski racks to make sure everyone ends up with same gear they started with. Morning-only or afternoon-only classes also are available. For 3-year-olds, the Tykes program runs mornings only, for an hour and a half.
For families visiting Cannon on a regular basis, the Junior Development Program, under the coordination of Alysia Rourke, has approximately 34 sessions running weekends, holidays and vacation weeks for children ages 3 to 15 for both skiing and snowboarding. In skiing, the goal of the youngest group, ages 3-4, is to provide an introduction to skiing so that by the end of the season they can ski the lower mountain confidently. Starting at around age 5, children are grouped in classes suited to their age and ability, with concentration on different skills appropriate to their level. As the kids advance in age and skill, there are progressive classes moving from honing skills on green terrain to teaching confidence on blue trails, learning linked parallel turns, and skiing some trails from the summit. Going on from there, the groups work toward more challenging terrain to gain confidence on black trails, practice short-radius turns on bumpy terrain and in trees, as well as an introduction to gate training and recreational racing. All groups are based on age and ability.
Snowboarders have three groups — the beginners just starting out, the intermediates comfortable on blue square trails and those comfortable on the whole mountain and in any of Cannon’s terrain parks.
But what about Mom and Dad, or any other adults looking to ramp up their technique and enjoy the challenge of Cannon to the fullest? The adult programs are for them. Whether you have kids in a seasonal program and want to polish your skills while they do the same, or are child free and want to sharpen your technique, you can ski and learn in a comfortable environment with highly qualified instructors and skiers of similar abilities.
The Women’s Ski Group runs every Saturday through March, with another group on Tuesday mornings. While the classes emphasize progression from one skill to the next from week to week, drop-ins also are welcomed. The intermediate group has two levels of instruction — a lower and higher level to suit students’ abilities and pace of learning. The goal is to have you skiing all the blue trails and some of the black diamonds by the end of the season. In addition to simply enjoying the sport, you will gain the skill and confidence to keep up with the rest of the family as they also progress. No more having the kids wait for you at the bottom! The advanced skiers group is geared toward those already comfortable skiing the whole mountain. Skills worked on will include moguls, tree skiing and hopefully some powder skiing.
Although the Men’s Ski Group is based around the time their kids are in their seasonal programs, all men, with or without kids, are encouraged to join. For intermediate and advanced skiers only, this group is aimed at instilling confidence on all terrain at Cannon. Mogul, tree, powder, crud and spring skiing are all part of the curriculum, so by the end of the season you’ll never be left behind, skiing everything the young hotshots can handle. Like the women’s program, this is season long, progressing from week to week. But if you can’t commit to the full season, drop-ins are always welcome here, too.
The Snowsports School also has partnered with Adaptive Sports Partners of the North Country to offer instruction in skiing and riding to those with physical or developmental disabilities ages 5 and up. The package includes equipment rental, adaptive equipment, lift ticket and trained volunteer instructors and is available Tuesday through Sunday. Reservations are required.
No matter your age or ability, from a first-timer to an accomplished skier or snowboarder, the Cannon Snowsports School, with highly trained and qualified instructors and an exceptional learning area, can give you the techniques you need, or polish your skills to let you get the maximum enjoyment out of skiing or riding all of this iconic New Hampshire mountain or any other resort you may visit.