Where do you think the oldest overhead cable lift that’s still operating in the United States is? Sun Valley? Alta? Surprisingly, the answer is Black Mountain in Jackson, New Hampshire.
In 1935, the lift was installed at Whitney’s Farm on Black Mountain. The original lift consisted of an overhead cable with strands of ropes that skiers would hang onto, but would eventually be switched out with shovel handles in 1937 for an easier ride-up. The shovel handles would then be replaced by the J-Bar setup a little while later, which still exists to this day.
After being typically used once or twice during recent winters, Black Mountain has spent the offseason renovating the historic lift. I got to chat with Ray Gilmore, who is the Ski School Director at Black Mountain and one of the key voices for bringing the J-Bar back to life. Here’s what he told me about the process:
In recent years, the J-Bar has barely operated due to the snowmaking on Whitney’s Hill and Moody’s Run trails being inoperable, as it hasn’t been used since the 1990s. During this offseason, Black Mountain repaired snowmaking lines to the terrain pod, and they will be placing tower guns around the slopes to make it operational for every weekend. Throughout the process, John Fichera, who is the owner of Black Mountain, got his hands dirty in order to help complete the snowmaking project. Additionally, the mountain operations team rebuilt all the old wheels on the J-Bar, and they are currently rebuilding the platform for the counterweight at the top terminal.
Last Saturday, Black Mountain assembled a volunteer crew full of locals to restore the J-Bar to its old look. The base terminal building has been repainted to its original white and brown color, kind of like a gingerbread house. The lift towers were also repainted a candy apple red. The restoration is expected to be a multi-year process, but they got a lot done this offseason. If you make a trip to the white mountains this winter, you should make a trip to Black Mountain to check out the changes.
Some photos of the work done during this offseason are below.
Image Credits: Black Mountain/Ray Gilmore