Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Tuckerman's Ravine

My cousin Stuart Brewster informed me this week that there used to be a family tradition of going to Tuckerman's for April 19th (the Patriot's Day holiday). Stuart and his brothers, David and Dudley, and my father, Nick Nichols, would go there for spring skiing.

I was unaware of the April 19th tradition, but did often hear my parents speak of hiking and climbing up Tuckerman's Ravine, and then skiing down. They and their college outing-club friends loved to reminisce about their adventures at Tuckerman's.

Here's a link to a trail map of Tuckerman's Ravine, which is on the side of Mount Washington in NH.   You can see the ski routes here.   An impressive place!

I particularly recall the story telling about a famous incident in the late 1930's. As spectators on the sidelines of a ski race, they were startled by a sudden blur in the air in front of them. A skier had gone STRAIGHT OFF THE HEADWALL, sailing out into the air, rather than making the expected turn down a trail.   Astonishing! And the skier lived to tell the tale.  Even just skiing on the slope of the headwall is challenging. See Tuckerman photos and history on the New England Ski Museum website.

Today I found a review of Over the Headwall: a Short History of Skiing at Tuckerman Ravine. I was pleased to find evidence there confirming what I had heard from my parents:  in 1939 a young Austrian named Toni Matt became the first to schuss the headwall in a competition. Searching Toni's name, I found a report in his own words of how he beat Dick Durrance in that race, cutting in half the previous record time for that Inferno race.

I think both of my parents witnessed Toni Matt's feat in Tuckerman's Ravine that day, but they weren't yet married and may not have been aware of each other that day. Perhaps my father was with the "Brewster boys" (his cousins) or with college friends. I'll have to ask Stuart more about the trips to Tuckermans.

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