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Inside an ugly battle over the future of Gunstock ski resort in New Hampshire

Everyone involved can agree that the region’s only county-owned ski resort is something special. But that might be the only thing they can agree on.

Boston Public Library
A map of New Hampshire showing the area where Gunstock is located. Boston Public Library

LET’S START AT THE TOP of the mountain, where the Panorama chairlift deposits you in the cold wind amid spindly, snow-powdered pines. You find, looking down, a dazzling view of Lake Winnipesaukee, its vast surface frozen and white. Off to your left is the Panorama Pub, a cabin with an old sled nailed up on the wall and so-so chowder and semi-decent chili on the menu.

The ski runs at Gunstock Mountain Resort, in Gilford, New Hampshire, are not particularly steep or long, and the chairlifts move slowly. But New England’s only county-owned ski mountain is one of its most beloved, drawing a variety of visitors largely from nearby towns. There are the hundreds of schoolchildren who arrive in yellow buses each winter week; the seniors who, after age 70, get free lift tickets; the sledders on the tubing hill; and the RVers who populate Gunstock’s wooded campground, even on the coldest weekends. And then there are the lean and hungry affiliates of the Gunstock Nordic Association, a group of cross-country ski racers that includes me, a few other middle-aged strivers, and some high schoolers who formed a rock band called Don’t Kiss My Sister.


Gunstock is not Aspen. It is, rather, a place to ski — or snowboard or fat bike — after school or work, and it’s far removed from the chic upscaling and lavish lodge remodeling that has pervaded ski resorts in New England and elsewhere in recent decades. To many locals, among them my across-the-street neighbor Charlie Townsend, the no-frills vibe is a point of pride. “People come up from Massachusetts and they ask me, ‘What’s up with the bathrooms at Gunstock?’” says Townsend, an arborist and part-time ski instructor at the mountain. “And I’m like, ‘Did you pee in a hole? Did it go down?’”

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