The History of Loon Mountain

One Man's Vision

When the Kancamagus Highway was being constructed between Lincoln and Conway in 1960-61, Sherman Adams, former New Hampshire governor and President Eisenhower's chief of staff, saw more than just a road. Over 100 square miles of wilderness would be opened up, and Adams knew there was a good ski mountain along the route.

Adams was no stranger to these parts. As a member of the Dartmouth Outing Club during his undergraduate studies, Sherm got to know the White Mountains. His endurance in these mountains was legendary - he once walked 75 miles from Littleton to Hanover in one day. During summer school vacations, he signed on with the Appalachian Mountain Club trail crew and helped locate, cut, and maintain the extensive AMC trail system throughout the White Mountains.

In 1923, Adams was hired as Lumber Operations Director for Lincoln's Parker-Young Company. He was responsible for maintaining a steady flow of wood for the Lincoln mill. That meant spending a lot of time outdoors. He couldn't have been happier.

In February, 1964, Adams strapped on snowshoes and revisited some of the area on Loon Mountain. With fairly gentle inclines suitable for intermediate skiers and only scattered glacial boulders, Loon Mountain was a well-sheltered, northeast-facing slope. Close to town and the soon-to-be-built Interstate highway, Adams believed this was a good location, and set out to find an expert who agreed with him.

Proving the feasibility of Adams' plan was up to Sel Hannah, former Olympic skier and fellow Dartmouth grad. Sel had planned over 100 ski areas across the United States. Hannah spent a week in the woods on Loon Mountain. He returned a positive verdict. It would "not be an Olympic mountain," he told Adams. "But the kids, mothers and fathers would love it."

After 2 years of preparation, Loon opened for business on December 27, 1966. Over 30,000 skier visits were recorded by season's end.

Two years later, Loon opened the East Basin, an area Hannah originally declared "too steep to ski in". With its own chairlift, this area could challenge even the most rugged experts, and established Loon's reputation for having something for any skier.

During the 1980s, Loon virtually doubled its size. More novice and intermediate terrain opened in the West Basin, along with additional expert trails on North Peak.

In 1983 Loon started a master development plan to expand to the adjacent South Peak. In 2005 Loon Mountain sold 324 acres of private land at the base of South Peak to Centex Destination Properties (CDP). CDP began developing private homesites and condominium units. 

After 24 years, Sherman Adams' dream became reality. In December, 2007, Loon opened South Peak for skiing and riding, with 60 acres of new terrain and 2 new lifts. In the following years, Loon added several additional trails, including Rip Saw, Loon's first double-black diamond run. More terrain is slated for possible development in the future.

Sherman Adams died in 1986 at the age of 87. His legacy of hard work, quality conditions, and "skier first" service continues at Loon. Today, Loon Mountain offers New Hampshire's biggest skiing on 2,100 feet of vertical with 47 trails, 6 tree skiing areas, 6 terrain parks, superpipe and halfpipe. Readers of SKI Magazine consistently rate Loon as one of the most-accessible resorts in New England. 

Services and amenities include:

  • Ski & Snowboard School
  • Children's Center
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Snowshoeing
  • Ice skating
  • Indoor climbing wall
  • Day and night tubing
  • Slopeside spa and accommodations

Loon Mountain is operated by Boyne Resorts, the largest family-owned, four-season resort company in North America. A Michigan-based corporation founded by Everett Kircher in 1947, Boyne Resorts owns and/or operates award-winning mountain and golf resorts & attractions throughout the United States and Canada. Resorts include Cypress Mountain near Vancouver, British Columbia, official freestyle skiing and snowboard venue of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games; Big Sky Resort in Montana; Boyne Mountain; Boyne Highlands; The Inn at Bay Harbor - A Renaissance Golf Resort and Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark in Michigan; Brighton in Utah; Crystal Mountain and The Summit at Snoqualmie in Washington; Sugarloaf and Sunday River Resort in Maine; and Gatlinburg Sky Lift in Tennessee.

History of Lincoln and Surrounding Area:

Tourism in the Loon Mountain region began in 1802, when Jeremiah Stuart's Lincoln home was licensed for one year as a public inn and tavern. During those days it was common for private homes to double as inns. Different homes were licensed at one time or another, usually for a one-year period. Rarely was more than one home in town licensed at a time.

No one knows why Jeremiah got the nod before anyone else, and there's no way of knowing who ran the hottest spot in town over the years. Success wasn't measured in numbers, though, because Lincoln's population from 1800-1890 grew by only 24 people, from 41-65.

The harsh environment had a lot to do with the slow development of the town. As late as 1856 one person wrote, "...many portions of the town seem to have been designed by Nature as a residence for creatures of habit different from those of man".

The Native Americans of the region didn't appear overly enamored of the location, either. There are no indications of a permanent settlement in the area. Pemigewasset, the Native American name for the river whose headwaters are in this region, literally means "the crooked mountain pine place" - a name sounding far short of a fond memory.

Those who stuck it out during the 1800s saw changes. Word got out that nearby Franconia Notch was blessed with numerous natural wonders. By the 1840s the tourist industry was bomming in Franconia Notch. Many tourists passed through Lincoln and North Woodstock on their way to the Notch, and local residents began catering to these summer crowds to augment their incomes.

In the 1890s, the paper industry and a new way of life came to town. Changing from an agricultural-based community to a mill town increased Lincoln's population to 1,278 by 1910. Along with the new mill and logging operations, several large hotels were built and a strong combination of industry and tourism continued for many years.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, as summer tourism steadily increased, the paper industry faltered under increased operating costs and environmental pressures. Decreased employment forced some residents to leave town. A new economic base was needed. Enter Sherman Adams and Loon Mountain.

Portions of this article originally appeared in 1987 in the "Menu Browser" -New Hampshire's White Mountains' most comprehensive restaurant guide.