“Skiing down Tuckerman Ravine once is a fine experience,” deadpans Warren Miller, in his 1984 movie Ski Country, as a skier plummets perilously. “Skiing it twice is a dumb experience.”
Miller was right in asserting that this famed New Hampshire backcountry route wasn’t for the faint of heart. Boasting pitches of 40 to 60 degrees, Tuckerman Ravine is not just a proving ground for East Coast skiers, but for all of North America. As if the sharp pitch wasn’t enough, skiers must hike or skin up for three miles, gaining more than 1,800 feet, to reach the summit. Nonetheless, expert and adventure-minded skiers have been trekking to Tuckerman Ravine for more than 100 years.
To give you an idea of Tuckerman Ravine’s historical breadth we compiled a timeline of recreation on this famed New Hampshire cirque.
1858 – Henry David Thoreau, the famed poet and naturalist, visits Tuckerman Ravine.
1899 – The first use of skis on Mt. Washington by Dr. Wiskott of Breslau, Germany.
1913 – Fred Harris and two other members of the of newly formed Dartmouth Outing Club (DOC) complete the first ascent of the mountain on skis.
1914 – Outdoor athlete, John S. Apperson of Schenectady, New York, who visits “Tucks” in April 1914, becomes the first man on skis in the Ravine.
1920s – In the late 1920’s, skiers travel to Tuckerman a bit more frequently due to winter plowing of the highway through Pinkham Notch. Skiing is becoming more popular as clubs, such as the DOC, involve more people in the sport.
1931 – On April 11, two Dartmouth skiers, John Carleton and Charley Proctor, are the first to ski the Headwall from the Lip. One week later, a group of Harvard skiers made history as the first skiers to ski the Headwall from the summit.
1933 – Named for a famous race held in Mürren, Switzerland, the first American Inferno, a summit-to-base race, is held on Mt. Washington.
1938 – The third American Inferno was held April 16, with 42 skiers taking part. The race is marked by Austrian ski instructor Toni Matt’s thrilling winning run, during which he essentially straight-lined Little Headwall.
1940s-1950s – Brooks Dodge, the son of the local hutmaster, pioneers a dozen new routes in the steepest and narrowest zones.
1960s-1970s – Even though new ski resorts are popping up in the Rockies, Lake Tahoe and Utah, New England skiers begin flocking to Tuckerman Ravine in record numbers on spring weekends. Many young adventurers camp along the lakes at the bottom of Mt. Washington and enjoy fireside parties at night and skiing or ice climbing by day.
Fast forward the video below to 1:55 to see what skiing on Tuckerman Ravine was like in the 1960s.
1980s – As aforementioned, Warren Miller climbs “Tucks” in 1984 and films Greg Smith showcasing one of the more “daring” cliff jumps in Mt. Washington’s history.
Fast forward to 2:35 to see the Tuckerman Ravine segment.
1990s-early 2000s – In 2000, the Friends of Tuckerman rejuvenate the original American Inferno by holding the first annual Tuckerman Inferno pentathon to benefit the preservation of the area. Challenging even the fittest of athletes, the Inferno is a 36-mile course that starts in the Mount Washington Valley and finishes at the base of Tuckerman. Particpants must run 8.3 miles, kayak six miles, bike 18 miles, hike or skin three miles to the summit of Tucks and then ski down.
Spring 2015 – Coming off a winter of record-breaking snowfall, East Coast skiers reap the rewards on Tuckerman’s. Here are some of the latest and greatest Tuckerman Ravine videos.
If you’re not quite ready for ski season to be over check out our post about where you can ski in May, or call one of knowledgeable Mountain Travel Expert at 800-610-8911.
Director of SEO + Content
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now living in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com as Director of SEO + Content, I've been able to combine a litany of skills, passions and interests. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.