If it weren’t for Sherman Adams, Loon Mountain Resort may never have been built at all.
As a young man coming of age in the 1920s, Adams was a “walking boss” for the Parker Young Co., managing the far-flung logging camps that dotted the East Branch of the Pemigewasset River near the town of Lincoln, New Hampshire. To the rough-hewn loggers he oversaw, the brash, 140-pound Dartmouth grad took some getting used to. One veteran logger, Abe ‘The Cub’ Boyle, called Adams a “cocky little devil” who earned the men’s respect by plunging wholeheartedly into any task – even if it meant jumping in over his head. “On river drives, he’d be right out there with a pickaroon, keeping the logs moving. You got to move fast, and he’d move fast. Being a little guy, he’d be right up to his belly in that cold water.” After 20 years in the woods, that same drive that propelled Adams to great heights – first as a Congressman, then as a two-time New Hampshire governor, and eventually as chief of staff to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the early 1950s. After achieving widespread notoriety in the White House (he was featured on the covers of both TIME and Newsweek) he left Washington, D.C. to return to his home in New Hampshire.
When Adams returned home in 1958, he found a town teetering on the brink of an uncertain future. The logging industry, which had sustained Lincoln for the better part of a century, was struggling to cope with new environmental regulations and an ever-dwindling supply of harvestable timber. Adams, a prolific hiker and trail builder, had long foreseen the eventual decline of logging in the White Mountains, and the subsequent need to balance industry with recreation, tourism, and conservation. He knew that something had to change if the town of Lincoln were to survive – and he probably needed to get out of the house, too. One day, his wife, Rachel, gave him the push he needed. “There must be a place to ski up there somewhere,” she said, probably gesturing to the mountains that rose steeply behind the town’s ailing paper mill. “What are you going to do about it?”
If anyone could do anything about it, Adams could. At some point in the early 1960s, Adams strapped on his snowshoes and tramped into the mountains like he did as a young man – this time in search of ski slopes instead of timber. When he eventually snowshoed up Loon Mountain, Adams realized that he had found the perfect location. The mountain’s consistent pitch, relatively few glacial boulders, and northern exposure all furnished the ideal ingredients for a ski resort.
Construction on Loon Mountain began in the spring of 1966, and the resort opened for business just eight months later, on December 27, 1966. During those eight months, Adams reprised his role of walking boss, cruising the woods and managing every aspect of the resort’s construction. Local workers built a makeshift bridge across the Pemigewasset River and used old logging roads to haul boxcars worth of lumber, chairlift parts, and other supplies to the mountain’s base. On opening day, the small, bare-bones operation opened with 12 trails, two lifts, and one toilet. “Actually we began because we had to, not because we were ready,” Adams said. “Five hundred people showed up with their skis without being invited.”
Adams would go on to serve as Loon’s president and general manager for nearly two decades. He remained deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the resort until he passed away in the fall of 1986 at the age of 87.