Skiing Mount Washington - The Cog Railway
New Hampshire l
Imagine skiing faster than a
locomotive. I had my chance in 2004, as the first ski train in North
America debuted on Mount Washington. The Cog remained open for
skiing for only two seasons.
My family and I participated in
the trial run in 2004 as we rode the
first Cog Railway ski train during our stay at the
Hotel Mount Washington
and Bretton Woods. This one-of-a-kind adventure starts at
the Marshfield Railway Station at 2,700-feet elevation, on the western
flanks of Mount Washington. You board the train, dressed for skiing,
and take a seat in heated comfort of the historic railway coach, which
holds about 70 passengers.
In classic train fashion, the whistle blows and the Cog starts to
churn and chug its way up the track of the Northeast’s highest peak.
The Cog is the only railway still operating entirely by coal-fired
steam, which you are reminded of as smoke swirls around the train
The cogwheel train is pushed methodically up Mount Washington by an
engine car behind, giving passengers an uninterrupted view up the
tracks toward the summit. Along the 15-minute ascent, this is no
high-speed quad, the views of the surrounding White Mountain National
Forest open up. It is a nostalgic ride; the same journey people have
been making on this train for 135 years, only you are making your mark
as one of the first generation to ride in winter and to ski down.
The novelty of this “rail riding” was certainly more thrilling than
any terrain park for my children. Kids love trains, and a ski train is
super exciting since there is the anticipation of the ensuing run on
With a final shrill and a huff, the train stops at the 3,800-foot
Waumbeg Station, about a third of the way up the Cog’s summer route to
the 6,288-foot summit. With skis in hand, we disembark onto the
platform, ready to ski down one of the two trails that run parallel to
the tracks on each side.
A skier’s natural instinct is to immediately push off and earn first
tracks down the 1,100 vertical. If you do so, you will beat your train
down without contest. What is truly unique however is to wait for the
train’s departure, and ski alongside this piece of history.
It is a rush to hear the clicking of the tracks and smell the steam of
the engine, while you carve your own tracks right in time to the
brightly colored rail car next to you.
The folks that remain on board wave and take photos. My kids raced the
train, passed the train in a dozen swift turns, then stopped to do it
again multiple times as we descended the mile-long snow-covered trail
toward the base station.
The Cog Railway was the first mountain climbing train in the world
when it opened in 1869.
“To find a similar ski train experience, you would have to go to
Europe,” said Doug Waites, The Cog Railway marketing director. “This
is an exciting event in history for the Cog Railway, and for New
England skiers it is an incredibly unique experience.”
The snow trails that border each side of the tracks have the pitch of
a novice run, although because of their narrow width, about 30-feet
across, skiing here is best suited for intermediate and advanced
skiers and riders. Beginners found it challenging, since the trails
are considerably tighter than today’s average ski area boulevard. The
terrain was groomed, and snowmaking was added.
I should explain that this downhill experience is not of
Ravine caliber, nor is the train a vehicle to access the Ravine or any of the
other high-alpine terrain on Washington. You do not come here to rack
up vertical either. This is not backcountry by rail. It is purely a
nostalgic, fun day and a very memorable experience.
Since the sale of
Bretton Woods and Hotel Mount Washington to Omni, the Cog is no
longer operating in winter for skiing so you will have to hike
Tuckerman's to ski the highest peak in New England.
New England l
l Canada l Europe
All Stories by Heather Burke
All Photography by Greg Burke
©All Rights Reserved on all Stories and Photos on this Web Site. Stories and
Photos can not be reproduced in anyway without the express written
permission of the Author and/or Photographer. Web Developer: