New Hampshire's Joe Cushing, Resort Planning Pioneer, Inducted Into Ski Hall Of Fame
When Cushing started skiing on the slopes of Wachusett Mountain in the 1930s and 40s, there were no ski lifts to get him to the top of the mountain. As a young man his love of the woods and of skiing brought him to New Hampshire, where he met Sel Hannah. Hannah was inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame in 1968.
Cushing began working as a farm hand on Hannah’s Ski Hearth Farm. Knowing that Cushing could find his way through the woods, Hannah asked him to join him when looking at potential ski areas.
Cushing and Hannah went on to pioneer the profession of ski resort planning with their company Sno Engineering.
Sno Engineering pioneered modern ski resort design, including everything from parking lots to lift terminal placement to snowmaking layout to trail design that took into account environmental impact as well as varying skier abilities. Hannah and Cushing developed techniques and standards that continue to guide ski area development today.
“It was the best thing that ever happened to me. The main thing is being able to see – to go into the woods, put out ribbons, and all of a sudden it appears as a ski area, a trail. It’s magic. I thought, wow, I can’t believe I ended up doing this. I was headed toward the corporate world. Thank god we ended up moving to Franconia," Cushing told SnoCountry.com
Cushing worked on over 400 projects; of which, over 150 include some or all of his design influence. Many were built from scratch; others were existing ski areas renovated to modern standards and aesthetic designs that he brought to the industry. His influence can be seen at the majority of ski areas in the United States, where trails flow gracefully down the mountain, lift capacity is balanced with terrain capacity, and facilities are balanced to a comfortable carrying capacity. His lift layout and trail designs can be enjoyed at resorts including Loon and Bretton Woods, New Hampshire; Sugarbush and Stratton, Vermont; Copper Mountain and Keystone, Colorado; and Deer Valley, Utah.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame honors not just the athletes of the sport, but all of the people who make skiing and snowboarding what it is today. “Even to the athletes it’s about life, not just about a sport. Joe Cushing overlaid that because he’s the one who shaped the playground.” U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame board member Frida Waara told us.
Designing ski areas in the early years of resort development was a different game than today’s GPS–guided world. “In the old days all we had was a USGS map. One job, the map was dated 1898, so we spent a lot of time running reference lines,” said Cushing.
Aesthesics had a huge role in Cushing’s vision for his tail designs. “If you have the right gradient, you try to stay away from straight lines. Bretton Woods is a good example of this. We had a good opportunity to wiggle the trails. We scalloped the sides. When looking at the mountain from below, and when skiing, you don’t want a bunch of straight lines. I’m a big fan of islands in the middle of a trail, too,” Cushing said.
“The final analysis is to walk down the trail and mentally ski it. It’s great fun.”
Photo: Joe Cushing pioneered much of the trail and ski resort design that we find across the globe today. He is shown here with fellow inductee Kristina Koznick (Sam Cushing)