The Pinnacle’s Origin Story

by Connie Baxter Marlow

This is the story of a journey that led to the creation of The Pinnacle, told in honor of its 60th Birthday Season by Connie Baxter Marlow whose life-long skiing adventure began along with the birth of The Pinnacle.

Jack Baxter, who conceived of the idea of creating The Pinnacle Ski Club (first known as The Kiwanis Ski Slope) in the mid-50s, and who along with Bud Dow’s engineering genius, brought it to fruition, will celebrate a personal landmark this year. He turns 95 on March 11 in Loveland, Colorado. Jack will celebrate his birthday with his children Connie Baxter Marlow, John (Randy) Baxter and Judy Baxter and several grandchildren and great grandchildren (all of whom are or were skiers.) See Jack’s “Ski Chatter” in The Pittsfield Advertiser 1954/1955.

Skiing was a life-long passion for Jack whose enthusiasm and commitment to the sport influenced many of the Pittsfield youth in the 50s and 60s as he and others developed the ski school at The Pinnacle and contributed to the development of the Sugarloaf Ski Area not far away.  After his move to Oregon in 1965, Jack skied at Mt. Hood and Mt. Bachelor well into his 80s, as well as The Rockies and European resorts.

As the story goes…

Born in 1920, Jack grew up in Brunswick on “Powder House Hill” – 75 Pleasant Street – and as a young boy had a pair of wooden skis with leather straps, no bindings:Jack Baxter Young Skier 4x6 100 Border

This was his introduction to the thrill of sliding down hills and mountains that would enrich his life throughout the half century to follow.

Fast forward to his Bowdoin College days – Fall 1938 to Spring 1942. In 1938 Jack was head of The Outing Club, which developed a ski team of self-taught skiers.

Keep reading for a great story that intertwines with the evolution of skiing in America.

Timeline:

1937-1938 Ski Season: Carroll Reed started the Eastern Slope Ski School in Jackson, NH patterned after the European Ski School of Hannes Schneider of St. Anton, Austria, and hired Austrian Benno Rybizka, Schneider instructor to head the school.

1938-Spring: Reed took a group of local hockey players turned ski instructors to Austria to be trained and certified by the Austrian State Ski certification exam.

1937-1938 Season: Harvey Dow Gibson, Bowdoin College graduate ‘02 and prominent world financier, opened a new ski resort, Mt. Cranmore in his hometown of North Conway, NH with a rope tow and with lodging at the Eastern Slope Inn purchased by Gibson to pair with the ski hill.  Gibson created wide open trails similar to Austria, unique at that time in America where most trails were narrow and twisting.

1938 – Fall:  Gibson purchased the Eastern Slope Ski School from Reed and Benno Rybizka moved his lessons to Mt. Cranmore. Franz Kossler came from St. Anton to teach at Jackson.

1938-1939

1938 – November: Austrian ski instructor Toni Matt, 19, arrived in North Conway. He won every downhill he entered in the 1938-1939 ski season in America.  In the spring of 1939 he became a sensation because he schussed Tuckerman’s Ravine in the American Inferno race topping his nearest competitor Dick Durrance’s time by 1 minute. Personable, glamorous and exotic, the Austrian instructors Benno Rybizka, Toni Matt, Otto Tshcol attracted skiers from throughout the country to Cranmore Mountain Resort, which was patterned after Sun Valley in Idaho, created by Gibson’s good friend and fellow tycoon Averell Harriman. At Cranmore The Skimobile, a unique uphill transportation system, invented by George Morton, with 60 cars that ascended a wooden trestle pulled by a cable under the track, carried skiers up the first half of the mountain.

Just prior to the running of the 1938 Arlberg-Kandahar race in St. Anton, Austria, German troops entered Austria in the bloodless occupation/annexation known as the Anschluss. Hannes Schneider, until then the town’s leading citizen by virtue of the robust prosperity that his internationally famous ski school had created, found himself the target of native Austrian Nazi party followers who had previously been powerless to sway opinion to their cause given the steadfast opposition of Schneider. In the immediate wake of the Anschluss, Schneider was arrested and sent to the Landeck jail, though the policeman who took him in was apologetic to Hannes to such an extent that he was fired days later. Karl Moser was made mayor of St. Anton, and two days after the Anschluss organized a celebratory parade through St. Anton in which all were forced to march. Friedl Pfeiffer, one of Schneider’s top instructors watching from the sidelines with a broken leg, witnessed American racer Betty Woolsey marching alongside in her own counter-demonstration, shouting “Ski Heil” and displaying “a decidedly different hand salute to the Nazis” than the now-mandatory Nazi upraised arm. Source: New England Ski Museum

1939 – February:  Famed St. Anton, Austria ski school director Hannes Schneider developer of the Arlberg Technique and a magnetic personality known world-wide as well as an outspoken Nazi dissident, arrived in North Conway to head the Cranmore Mountain Ski School (where he remained for the rest of his life) after being released from a Nazi prison as the result of negotiations at top levels of the German Government under Gibson’s influence in the international financial arena. Hannes Schneider is credited with being the father of modern skiing.  Summer: Upper section of the Skimobile was completed.

1940-1941 Ski Season Bowdoin Ski Team Story: Gibson heard about the newly-formed Bowdoin Ski Team, consisting, according to Jack Baxter, team member, entirely of self-taught skiers. Gibson invited the Bowdoin Ski Team to come to Mt. Cranmore and offered them a week of free skiing instruction with the instructors in the Hannes Schneider Ski School, if they paid their room and board at the Eastern Slopes Inn.  As Jack tells the story: “Harvey Dow Gibson told Hannes Schneider about the ‘great’ Bowdoin Ski Team coming for a week’s instruction. Hannes assigned Toni Matt to the team. Toni took us up the hill, set a tight flush of slalom poles by sticking one pole in the snow at each end of his ski laid in the snow and said, ‘ok, run it.’ Well, we were terrible. Toni exclaimed ‘Oh my God!’ and had us run that flush every day, all day for a week. He didn’t know what else to do with us! By the end of the week we skied a little better. At that time Toni Matt was the top downhill racer in the world, schussing the headwall at Tuckerman’s Ravine in 1939.”


Bowdoin Ski Team 41 42Bugle 2

 

Jack Baxter, Bowdoin Ski Team Captain 1941. FR:2nd fr right.

 

 

1940-1941: Mt. Cranmore became the first ski resort to develop serious program of snow grooming. This significantly changed the ski technique from the Arlberg Technique and stem Christie, developed in Europe on ungroomed snow, to the Christie, without the stem, which soon led to carved turns and parallel skiing needed for packed snow and icey conditions.

1941 – December: America entered World War II and three regiments of mountain infantry were formed, with more than 20 skiers from the North Conway, Eastern Slope Region – including Toni Matt and Herbert Schneider, Hannes’ son, which combined into the 10th Mountain Division. The 10th Mountain Division trained for two winters at Camp Hale, Colorado prior to being sent to Italy in late 1944, where they fought with distinction in a short but severe campaign in the Apennine Mountains. Following the war, many veterans of the 10th got involved in the growing ski business. Two of the most famous ski areas founded by 10th veterans were near Camp Hale. Aspen was identified as an area with great ski potential by Friedl Pfeifer, a Hannes Schneider protégé, and Vail was developed by one-time Eastern Slope Inn golf course caddy Pete Seibert.

Jack was hooked on skiing. He returned to Mt. Cranmore every winter for many years. Upon graduation from Bowdoin in 1942 and marrying his high school sweetheart, Alice Comee, the next day, he proceeded to introduce her to the sport by putting her in the Hannes Schneider Ski School for the duration of their week-long ski vacations over the years.  Alice, a talented athlete, became a very good skier and was an instructor at The Pinnacle. Their firstborn, Randy, who became a dedicated skier and racer, remembers to this day his early skiing experiences at Mt. Cranmore which were followed by many years at The Pinnacle and Sugarloaf and a successful racing stint on the Jr., high school and college circuits.

JLBJr-Ski-Jump 4x6 150 JLBJR-Skiing

Jack Baxter doing a Glendesprung

Jack Baxter doing the Arlberg
ACBTeachSkiing 4x6 150 ACBBudDRyanwSkiis

Bud Dow, Alice Baxter, Ryan Fendler

Alice Baxter teaching Alma Dow, Annie MacMichael & Connie Baxter

Pinnacle Ski Club 5x7 150 2ACBonSkiis 150 2

 

 

 

 

Pinnacle Ski School

                                                       Alice Baxter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from Randy:

  1. Before the Pinnacle, Dad used to load up several of us (Red MacMichael and Mike Parker generally), drive out into the country around Pittsfield, find a farmers field with a hill in it (not hard in Maine), make us pack it out and ski for the day.
  2. I think that is how he found the Pinnacle.  The first skiing that we did there was on the Hartland Ave. side which was sort of open and had a little trail.  We would park on Hartland Ave., climb to the top and ski down that backside.

When the Pinnacle was developed, the slope we all knew was cut out of the trees on the other side, and stumps removed I would guess with Cianchette bulldozers.  At first it was only the area to the right of the rope tow, “the bowl” area to the left was added later as was the jump to the left of the bowl.  From the start, the more adventurous of us would go over and schuss the “headwall” which was the bank of the gravel pit to the far left of the rope tow and very steep.

Randy Jumping 300 2

 

Randy jumping into the Headwall

 

 

 

 

 

  1. The first warming hut was a small building that started its life as a hot dog stand run by the Hallee brothers on the corner of Easy Street and Detroit Ave. and was moved to the hill when it first opened.
  1. Dad took all of the boys to Sugarloaf to ski when all there was there was a long rope tow on the lower Winters Way.

Connie Baxter Marlow, Jack’s daughter, who began her skiing career at age 8 at The Pinnacle became head of the Women’s Intercollegiate Ski Conference and went west to Mt. Hood Racing Camp in 1966 where she met and fell in love with Pepi Stiegler, Austrian Olympic Champion 1964/Slalom, lived in Jackson Hole for 10 years and became Executive Director of Ski the Rockies, a marketing group of the 12 major Rocky Mountain ski resorts, in the 70s. She worked with Pete Seibert and Bob Parker (10th Mt.) in Vail, Freidl Pfeiffer and Dick Durrance in Aspen, Ernie Blake of Taos Ski Valley and many other pioneers of the sport which became the thriving industry it is today. Connie moved from Jackson Hole to Aspen in 1976, married and raised three children there, Alison, Consi and Jonny, who were on skis as soon as they learned to walk. None became avid skiers, although Consi’s daughter Logan, 5, has been skiing for two years now.

Judy Baxter, now living in Denver, CO, followed the family lead and spent several years at the Jackson Hole Resort and worked with Pepi in his Jackson Hole Racing Camp. Randy’s son John became a successful ski racer at the regional level. Randy’s daughter Amy lives in Boulder, CO and is also raising the next generation of skiers, Ben and Oliver.

Jack and Alice Baxter moved to Oregon in 1965 when Jack, president, merged the family food processing business H.C. Baxter and Bro (another story of historical significance) with Lamb-Weston of Portland Oregon and the rest of the Baxter family migrated West and settled in Colorado.

Pinnacle Ski School
pinnacle Ski ClubSee who you can identify: FR L-R: Bud Dow, Mike Parker, Red MacMichael, Randy Baxter, Alma Dow.

Second Row: Adrienne Cyr third from left. Jane Woodcock sixth from left. Connie Baxter in snowflake sweater. Dennis Haggerty far right.

 


Sources beyond personal stories:

Cranmore Mt. Resort: http://cranmore.com/winter/resorthistory

Harvey Dow Gibson: http://newenglandskimuseum.org/harvey-dow-gibson/

“I Dared the Headwall by Toni Matt”: http://timefortuckerman.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12506

Hannes Schneider and the Arlberg Technique: http://retro-skiing.com/2012/02/hannes-schneider-and-the-arlberg-technique/

Jack Baxter’s “Ski Chatter” column in “The Pittsfield Advertiser”

Bowdoin Bugle: 1941, 1942

Posted February 2015 to the Pinnacle FaceBook Page and the New England Ski Museum

Connie Baxter Marlow flyweagles@aol.com

www.TheAmericanEvolution.com,

www.First50Years.us,

www.TheBaxterProject.org,

www.TheTrustFrequency.net

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