Gunstock: Gem of the Lakes Region

Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, NH

Nestled among the stoic peaks of the Belknap Mountain range in the heart of New Hampshire’s Lakes Region sits a real community treasure. Since its opening in 1937, Gunstock has served as both a literal and symbolic rock of the community. The mountain has evolved many times over its nearly 90-year history. Right out of the gate, the first ski jump was installed (modeled after the one at Lake Placid at the 1932 Olympics). According to the Gunstock Website, it drew jumpers from all over the world and drew over 10,000 spectators to the inaugural event.

The first chairlifts were installed in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Before that, eager skiers were treated with what some of the old timers referred to as “those glove-chewing rope tows. But, hey… It got you up the mountain. The “T-Bar” came with great fanfare giving access to even more of the mountain, including the summit. In the ‘70s, the Pistol complex was developed, along with the installation of a snowmaking system spanning 75-acres.

The mountain continued development but met some challenges in the ‘80s due to a lack of natural snow and a heavy debt service of the recent expansion. Nevertheless, Gunstock survived. With creative thinking and the help of the community, Gunstock was able to return to independence of county funds and even began to pay the county a fixed sum of $150,000 per year and a share of the revenue over $6,000,000 under the “Memorandum of Understanding Agreement.”

Next came the addition of the Panoramic High-Speed Detachable Quad. This made the trip to the summit around seven minutes, as opposed to the over fifteen-minute trip of the Summit Triple. The added seat space was a welcomed bonus.

Recently, Gunstock has invested in several capital improvement projects, from expanding the Panoramic Pub to completely redesigning the Stockade into a full-service restaurant and pub. Also, the rental center got a new space, and the main parking lot was paved.

As of today, Gunstock boasts 1,340 feet of vertical drop, 227 acres of skiable terrain, and 49 trails including 5 glades (22 of those trails are open for night skiing/snowboarding). Upgraded LED lighting as well as two magic carpets cater to new snow enthusiasts.

These days, Gunstock has all four seasons covered. In the late fall through winter and spring, activities include skiing and snowboarding, uphill, snowshoeing, cross country, and tubing. They host ski races, a NASTAR course, and one of the best development programs in the region. In spring through summer into fall, Gunstock offers a host of outdoor adventures including a high ropes course, hiking, mountain biking, scenic chairlift rides, Aerial Treetop Adventures, thrilling rides down the Mountain Coaster, and one of the longest Ziplines in the country! Additionally, Gunstock offers a nearly 200-site campground with options ranging from basic sites to cabins. Check out the events calendar to catch fun and exciting upcoming events at www.gunstock.com/discover/events-calendar.

I remember my first winter at Gunstock in 2001. The terrain park was on Phelps back then, and it was perfect for a new snowboarder. There was a mixture of elements from simple jumps to more complex jumps and even a halfpipe. “It wasn’t top-notch” to quote a friend, but I remember spending hours and hours trying to improve my skills. This was one of the great benefits of living so close to the mountain. When they installed the Panorama High-Speed Quad in the summer of 2003, they moved the summit triple to Pistol and reopened that side of the mountain. The terrain park was moved to Pistol as well. This opened a ton of space, and the terrain park grew by leaps and bounds. The park crew does an amazing job building and keeping the elements in top condition.

My days of hitting jumps and rails are well behind me, however, I enjoy watching this next generation take the sport farther and farther. There is no feeling quite like working hard on trying out a new trick repeatedly; going up the lift, then down to the element you’re working on, and then finally… you land it! What a moment! (Of course, that’s usually the very moment everyone around you was looking the other way). Nowadays, it would likely be caught on camera.

I can vividly remember the first time I made a huge jump with a tail grab and landed it clean. I felt like I was 20 feet in the air and floated for minutes. I’m sure it was no more than a couple of feet and lasted less than 3 seconds, but in my mind, I just qualified for the X Games. I hurried back to the lift and barreled down Phelps to the same jump. I felt like Al Bundy scoring four touchdowns in one game.

These days, I’m on skis chasing my kids through the elements on Side Arm. I’m watching them as they navigate through the rollers, the jumps, and the rails. It’s amazing how many families I talk to with generations of skiers. It reminds me of my wife’s grandfather, who spent much of his youth skiing at Gunstock in the early days, ON WOODEN SKIS! Her parents were avid skiers too, and then her generation took the reins. Now, our kids are blazing down the trails, and hopefully someday our grandkids will have that same opportunity.

But the reach of Gunstock is far greater. I’ve met many families with similar stories from all over New England. Gunstock is a special place that keeps bringing families back time and time again. Generations of families all converge in this one special place that binds us together in the pursuit of that perfect run, getting just a little faster, jumping just a little higher. Over the years, my family has spent countless hours enjoying all that Gunstock has to offer. We’ve done just about every activity there is to do.

But I share all that to make this point: Gunstock has been a staple in the community for nearly a century. It brings so much to the Lakes Region all year round. The economic benefits stretch far beyond the boundaries of the mountain, benefitting local restaurants, retail stores, hotels, Airbnb rentals and VRBOs, and so much more. There’s no doubt that Lake Winnipesaukee draws large crowds all summer long (many come for winter activities, too). Gunstock attracts folks all year round; these and other area attractions make the Lakes Region a vibrant and attractive place to live, work, and play.

Randy Miller is a Sales Associate with Roche Realty Group in Meredith, NH

This article was written by Randy Miller. Randy is a Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith and can be reached at (603) 279-7046. Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market.

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