Last updated: February 28, 2023
Literally located in the shadow of Mt. Washington, Wildcat Mountain has long been a New England skiing destination.|
The skiing history on Wildcat Mountain dates back to 1933, when the Wildcat Ski Trail was cut by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Designed by Charley Proctor, the trail ran from a warming hut near the summit of "E" peak to the base of the mountain. Prior to the rise of lift served skiing, the Wildcat Ski Trail was one of the top racing destinations in all of New England.
In the mid-1950s, the United States Forest Service gave Mack Beal, Brooks Dodge, George Macomber, and Malcolm McLane permission to start developing a commercial ski area on Wildcat Mountain. The first development of its type in the White Mountain National Forest, the new ski area would incorporate the Wildcat Ski Trail into its trail network.
A 3,000 foot T-Bar likely opened on the lower slopes of Wildcat in January of 1958, as Bill Boardman served as manager. An opening ceremony was held in the rain on January 25, with Governor Lane Dwinell present. Midway through the season, the United States' first ski gondola opened, instantly making the $1.5 million dollar Wildcat development one of the largest ski areas in the Northeast. At the time, the area was seen as a possible venue for the 1972 Winter Olympics.
The Bobcat T-Bar circa the late 1950s
Running from the base of the ski area to the saddle between Wildcat D and Wildcat E, the Italian Carlevaro & Savio two person gondola provided over two thousand continuous vertical feet of skiing on the Wildcat and Polecat trails. Unfortunately its first season was not without incident, as a mechanical malfunction on March 24, 1958 resulted in the hospitalization of two riders. The lift was subsequently retrofitted to fix the issue.
While Wildcat enjoyed large crowds, it quickly developed a reputation for being overly challenging. Its easiest trail from the top, the Polecat, featured multiple steep stretches that have since been bypassed or altogether abandoned. For 1959-60, the trail was heavily manicured to appeal to the growing number novice-intermediate skiers. Meanwhile, a 1,100 foot novice T-Bar was installed just beyond the original T-Bar, serving two slopes. The Boston Globe claimed the changes had "clipped Wildcat's claws."
The popular intermediate Alley Cat trail made its debut for the 1960-61 season, accessible by both the gondola and original T-Bar. A rebuilt Route 16 opened in 1961, making for easier travel between Conway and Wildcat. More noticeably for Wildcat, Route 16 was relocated across the Peabody River, resulting in a much larger base area.
While Wildcat's gondola was its major draw, it was also its Achilles heel. Being the only upper mountain lift, lines were often prohibitively long. As a result, the Catapult chairlift was installed on the upper mountain, accessible from the original T-Bar or gondola. Initially advertised for the 1962-63 season, it likely was not completed until 1963-64. Also completed for the 1963-64 season was the Lynx trail, which may have debuted as a rough trail the year before.
While the late 1960s involved lots of grass for some, it meant lots of snow for Wildcat. The 1968-69 season started off with a bang, as the Wildcat trail opened top to bottom in November (General Manager Stan Judge noted it was the first pre-February top-to-bottom opening of that trail in the area's history). One particular storm in February of 1969 briefly crippled the ski area from snow drifting. 10-15 foot drifts clogged the summit terminal of the gondola, while a bulldozer had to be used to clear the T-Bar and chairlift lines.
Snowmaking and More Lifts
The Lynx double chairlift was installed in 1970, taking stress off the gondola and lower mountain T-Bars, while also providing top to bottom chairlift service in conjunction with the Catapult. Base operations were also boosted that year, as the first 9,000 feet of the present day main lodge opened.
The Wildcat Gondola and Catapult Double circa the 1970s
As was the case across New England, Wildcat was hit hard by the 1973-74 season, failing to open until January 2. A subsequent January thaw, along with the energy crisis, resulted in a 40 percent drop in business.
Despite the rough season, Wildcat invested in its first triple chairlift in 1974, replacing the novice T-Bar. After a successful 1974-75 season, snowmaking was finally installed. Over the next two decades, snowmaking was gradually installed on most of Wildcat's main trails.
Another sizable investment took place for the 1982-83 season, when the original T-Bar was replaced with a new triple chairlift.
The Wildcat Gondola circa the late 1970s
In 1986, the Franchi family, owners of the Cranmore Tennis Club, purchased Wildcat ski area. The following year, $1.6 million spent on upgrading the Catapult chairlift from a double to a triple, as well as installing the Tomcat triple. In conjunction with this project, the Polecat was reworked.
Wildcat found itself in a dispute with the United States Forest Service in 1989, when the agency recalculated the area's lease and sent a large retroactive bill. Though the Forest Service threatened to shut down Wildcat as the 1989-90 season arrived, the matter was eventually resolved.
The End of the Gondola
Snowmaking was installed on Lower Wildcat and possibly Lower Catapult for the 1990-91 season.
The early 1990s at Wildcat
Meanwhile, the famed gondola was aging. Prior to the 1991-92 season, 50 of the cabins were refurbished to keep the lift operational. At this point, the two-person lift was operating at 600 feet per minute with an uphill capacity of 500 people per hour. General manager Stan Judge told a writer that the lift could soon be replaced with a new gondola or a parallel high speed chairlift.
Alleycat and Lower Catapult were widened augmented with 6,000 feet of snowmaking pipe for the 1992-93 season. As the season unfolded, the owners of Wildcat found themselves in a lawsuit with lifetime passholders from the prior ownership group.
The 1994-95 season was a struggle, as warm temperatures and rain washed out much of the snow in mid-January, leaving the area shuttered for a week until a high-elevation snow storm resumed operations. Following the challenging season, Wildcat announced an expansion plan aimed at keeping the area in operation in challenging seasons. Vice president of operations Lou Franchi told the Concord Monitor, "Last year helped to highlight our strengths and weaknesses in many areas of our operation. We are excited to meet the challenges of next season." Plans included 18,000 feet of new snowmaking pipe, 30 acres of trail work, relocating the skier development center, working on the race area, and expanding the gift shop.
1995 snowmaking pipe installations reportedly included Star Line, Pussycat, Lift Lion, Hainesville Pass, Al's Folly, Catenary, and Midway, resulting in Wildcat advertising 100% snowmaking coverage. In addition, the Catacomb glade was developed.
The Feline trail and Catacomb glade may have been added for the 1996-97 season.
The High Speed Era
The ski area was forever changed in 1997 when the Wildcat Express was installed. The Doppelmayr high speed detachable quad cut the 2,041-vertical-foot ride to the summit to 6-minutes. Gondola cars were later purchased for summer use on the new lift.
The Wildcat base area in 2006
Following the 1999 fall season, the original gondola was decommissioned. The gondola cars were auctioned in March of 2000. The lift towers, as well as those from the Lynx double were removed during the next few years.
On October 21, 2010, Peak Resorts, owner of nearby Attitash, announced it had entered into a purchase and sale agreement with Pat Franchi to purchase Wildcat. Since the sale, Peak Resorts has worked on developing synergy between the two areas.
After major snowmaking system issues in 2013-14, Peak Resorts overhauled Wildcat's system, installing new pumps, pipe, and snowguns, including equipment procured from the liquidation of Ascutney in Vermont. Following the improvements, Wildcat competed for first and last 2,000-vertical-foot-skiing in New England honors. The area enjoyed a May close in 2015 and an October open in 2018.
On September 24, 2019, Vail Resorts acquired Peak Resorts, becoming Wildcat's new owner. Following the onset of COVID-19, Wildcat was among the first large areas in New England to shut down.
In May 2020, Vail Resorts announced Josh Klevans would become general manager of Wildcat. In October 2021, JD Crichton was named general manager.
Emerging from the initial COVID-19 shutdown, Wildcat struggled to regain its footing. The 2020-21 season was relatively short for Wildcat standards, running from mid-December to mid-April. The following season was plagued with operational and staffing challenges, including COVID-19 vaccine mandates and not having the summit lift open until the end of December. Other than the COVID-19 shutdown, the 2021-22 season was Wildcat's earliest closing date of the 2000s.
||Average Percent of Terrain Open
|October||10% (2 reports)|
|November||9% (4 reports)|
|December||66% (3 reports)|
|January||75% (2 reports)|
|February||74% (2 reports)|
|March||83% (3 reports)|
|April||62% (19 reports)||
-- start conditions table -->
|Recent Conditions Reports|
|Feb. 27, 2023 by tuckers|
Packed Powder, Loose Granular
|Jan. 17, 2023 by tuckers|
Loose Granular, Ice
|Mar. 7, 2021 by nhalex|
Loose Granular, Frozen Granular
|Dec. 7, 2019 by rocket21|
Packed Powder, Packed Powder
|Apr. 27, 2019 by nordicgal|
Spring Snow, Corn
|Wildcat Mountain on NewEnglandSkiConditions.com|
|Lift Incident at Wildcat - Jan. 8, 2022|
|Vail Curtails Crotched Mountain Operations Amidst New Hampshire Struggles - Dec. 30, 2021|
|Three New New Hampshire General Managers - Oct. 21, 2021|
|Wildcat Co-Founder Brooks Dodge Passes Away - Jan. 23, 2018|
|Ski Season to Start Before End of Week - Nov. 7, 2017|
|18 Ski Areas Open in Four States Starting on Friday - Nov. 24, 2016|
|Killington Set to Open on Tuesday - Oct. 23, 2016|
|Peak Resorts Annual Report Reveals Dire Financial Situation - Jul. 17, 2016|
|Cash Strapped Peak Resorts May Be Forced to Discontinue Dividends - May. 8, 2016|
|Peak Resorts Financial Woes Mounting - Apr. 26, 2016|
|Wildcat Mountain NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News Page|
Click on lift name for information and photos
Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
||Season Pass Price
|2022-23||$115.00||$557.00||4.8 days||November 24|
|2021-22||$99.00||$499.00||5.0 days||December 4||April 10|
|2020-21||$94.00||$639.00||6.8 days||December 11||April 11|
|2019-20||$89.00||$739.00||8.3 days||November 15||March 14|
||Season Pass Price
|2018-19||$89.00||$1129.00||12.7 days||October 27||April 28|
|2017-18||$85.00||$999.00||11.8 days||November 11||April 29|
|2016-17||$79.00||$999.00||12.6 days||November 24||April 29|
|2015-16||$79.00||$859.00||10.9 days||November 25||April 24||57,817|
|2014-15||$75.00||$829.00||11.1 days||November 9||May 3||85,442|
|2013-14||$70.00||$799.00||11.4 days||November 23||April 27||64,400|
|2012-13||$70.00||$799.00||11.4 days||November 22||April 21||76,117|
|2011-12||$70.00||$799.00||11.4 days||December 18||April 15||53,599|
|2010-11||$70.00||December 11||April 24||77,100|
|2009-10||$65.00||$749.00||11.5 days||December 11||April 19||146,884|
||Season Pass Price
|2008-09||$65.00||$899.00||13.8 days||November 28||April 20||155,325|
|2007-08||$59.00||$699.00||11.8 days||November 30||April 27||112,139|
|2006-07||$59.00||$699.00||11.8 days||December 8||May 6||107,185|
|2005-06||$55.00||$699.00||12.7 days||October 28||April 16||84,360|
|2004-05||$55.00||$699.00||12.7 days||December 4||84,360|
|2000-01||$49.00||November 17||April 29|
|1999-00||$49.00||November 19||April 16|
||Season Pass Price
|1994-95||$36.00||November 26||April 16||95,000|
|1990-91||$33.00||November 16||April 15||108,000|
|1989-90||$32.00||November 24||April 15||114,000|
||Season Pass Price
|1987-88||$28.00||November 14||May 1||139,000|
|1985-86||November 27||April 6||103,000|
|1984-85||$21.00||$450.00||21.4 days||November 23||106,000|
|1983-84||$20.00||$425.00||21.3 days||November 19|
|1982-83||$19.00||$425.00||22.4 days||May 1|
|1981-82||$18.00||November 27||May 1|
||Season Pass Price
|1977-78||$12.50||November 26||April 23|
|1976-77||$11.75||$230.00||19.6 days||November 13|
|1972-73||$9.00||November 11||March 30|
||Season Pass Price
|1968-69||$7.50||$135.00||18.0 days||November 6|
|1961-62||November 23||April 29|
||Season Pass Price
|"I remember the Catapult triple. It was a great chair in the spring. No doubt the high speed quad is awesome but loosing that upper mountain chair changed how I see Wildcat. I'd rather stay on the upper mtn in the spring."|
|Daniel Fillingim, Feb. 14, 2021|
|"we had 4 life time passes. 3 g3nerations of loyal skiers. we aps dlso have a gondola in out front yard. Beverly and Burt"|
|burton fineberg, Mar. 15, 2019|
|"I have been skiing Wildcat for years..I never remember Catapolt double being up grated to a triple...I remember the double, with the pole in the middle of the chair...anyone out there remember riding a Catapolt triple??"|
|bruce regan, May. 25, 2016|
|"I grew up skiing Wildcat Mtn. Even bought myself a 'Wildcat Parka' from the Jack Frost Shop in Jackson back in the '60's! Loved the entire area; the whole State of New Hampshire always felt like my second home."|
|Betsy Geislar, Mar. 6, 2014|
|"(The press release below was originally released July 25, 2011 and the intent had been to remove the building during the spring of 2012. Because of weather/conditions that season, delays occurred and full removal was rescheduled for spring 2013. A short video marking the occasion and showing the final removal May 18, 2013 can be seen here: http://youtu.be/iAFNzhxnVAQ)After considering all reasonable options, and working with U.S. Forest Service to understand codes and requirements to renovate the existing summit building that once served as the top-station for the original Wildcat Mountain gondola, Peak Resorts has determined that the capital expense is not feasible and instead budget the costs and expense to dismantle, remove, and restore a small, but noticeable, portion of the natural summit.“You have to admire and respect the history and the individuals that built what remains of the original, but long neglected, infrastructure here”, said Wildcat Mountain General Manager Josh Boyd. “But we’re in a different era with extensive building requirements and regulations that the U.S. Forest Service has in place to preserve the natural beauty of the White Mountain National Forest. And I have worked with them to understand and fully study what was possible, but building codes and related costs would require us to rebuild the building almost entirely. At this time, we feel the significant capital expense to build at the summit is better spent to simply remove the structure next spring, restore a bit of the natural beauty at the summit, but leave a defined footprint that may allow the U.S. Forest Service to permit a building in the unforeseeable future, and to allocate any immediate capital expenses to other more pressing improvements here at Wildcat.” Boyd went on to say that an expense of this proportion to create a minor profit center that may never fully see a break-even return to simply even operate season-to-season, is just the type of thing that challenges any ski area owner or operator to have to consider increasing the price of lift tickets and season passes.Of note, the Mount Washington Observatory has already taken immediate action to relocate their summit web cam and Wildcat Mountain has worked and cooperated to provide an alternate location. Known for its legendary views of Mount Washington and Tuckerman Ravine, Wildcat Mountain is host to one of many summit cams that the Mount Washington Observatory website shares with its members and general public."|
|Thomas Prindle, May. 24, 2013|
Wildcat Ski Area - official site
Wildcat D - FranklinSites.com Hiking Guide