Mount Washington Cog Railway Ski Train
Sargent's Purchase, NH
Opened for summer tourists 1869
Opened for skiing 2005
Closed for Skiing 2006
Was briefly New England's newest ski area with the oldest lift!


The Mount Washington Cog Railway Ski Train was perhaps the most unique lift served ski area in New England. The Cog offered a one of a kind ski experience on the western slope of Mt. Washington. Ironically, when this area opened, it was the newest in New England, but with the oldest lift! While the Cog was finished in 1869, this is the first time that an official ski area has been served by the train. In the past, some skiers rode the Cog to access Tuckermans and other chutes on the eastern side of Mt. Washington. I have a poster (to be scanned) called "Ski Trains to Tuckermans" which was likely from the 1980's.

Ticket/Base Information Information

In early 2005, the ski area offered a full base lodge, with a cafeteria, gift shop, restrooms, and museum. Rentals were obtained at Bretton Woods however. Parking was available at the Cog, or skiers could take a shuttle from Bretton Woods.

Tickets were expensive though -  $25 for one ride, $35 for three, $59 for an all day. If you bought a Bretton Woods ticket, then its only $16 more for unlimited rides. In a typical day, you could make 6-9 trips (eating lunch quickly in the time it takes the train to descend).

These prices were really not that bad considering the unique nature of the ski area, and the fact you can ski at a nearly private ski area. Low lift capacity ensures a quality experience. On March 13, 2005, the day my brother and I skied, the trail was still mostly corduroy in the middle of the afternoon!

Lift Information

The Cog itself can hold 70 skiers and their gear. You loaded at the Marsh station at the base of the Cog. Similar to riding a tram, you took your skis off, carried them inside with you, and took a seat. The trains are also steam heated, so its a warm ride up. The trains traveled at approximately 3-5mph, depending on track conditions and the amount of passengers.

Usually, only one train was operational, but up to 2-3 can run at once, all in a row. This can lead to a maximum capacity of nearly 350 skiers/hour, though that was not approached in 2005 or 2006,

Here's the base of the ski area. The loading area is to the lift. The highest point you can see cleared is just below the unloading area.


It was a beautiful trip up the mountain!

On each trip were the fireman who fed the coal into the lift, a ski patrolman, and an engineer.

On this topo map, you can see the Cog lift line. The ski area currently runs from the Marshfield Station to the Water Tank, about 1 mile in length. The Cog Railway owns about 50 feet on either side of the track. The vertical served was approximately 1100'.

Plans were to eventually the train may go a bit further up the mountain, this did not happen.

Trail Layout

There were only really two trails (an upper and lower portion of the only way down), along with a gladed section about halfway down. As you can see on the left, the trail is actually quite narrow. 

The upper half of the trail (called Upper Engineer) was for intermediate, with the bottom half (Lower Engineer) being for beginners. Beginners can unload halfway if they wish - they just have to tell the operator. 

The other side of the track was planned to open to, but did not.

There was also a gladed section towards the bottom of upper Engineer. Pictures can be found below.

The Cog Railway only owns 50' on either side of the lift, so further development could not occur.

Riding Up!

Below is a trip report from March of 2005, when I skied here with my brother.

We were lucky to get the first seats on the train each time. Here's the view of the bottom of the ski area, looking out the front of the train. Notice how much snow had fallen. 15-20" had fallen in the past 48hrs before our arrival! This had rutted the track a bit and made for a bit of a bumpy trip up, but its a very safe ride.
Approaching the unloading area at the water tank. You can just make out more of Mt. Washington from this view.

And Skiing Down!

I can't say enough how cool it was to ski down next to the Cog. After spending the summer of 1999 on the summit, and hiking the mountain many times, it was just too cool to finally ski it.

Here's the unloading area, looking down upper Engineer. 


A few hundred yards down Upper Engineer. The trail is about 50 feet wide here at its widest.
And from the same spot, a view of the Cog as it starts to descend.

The Cog descending. What a cool picture! You won't be seeing this at another New England ski area.
A bit further down the trail narrows. Here comes the cog!

And at nearly the same spot, some glades are available. These are narrow, about 20 feet wide at most. Don't go off into the woods. There was plenty of beautiful powder in the glades, and was quite a beautiful scene.

The Cog only operated for one more season for skiing, then discontinued the service. It is believed that high operating expenses, low ridership, and limited terrain played a role. The Cog does still have winter trips but skiing is not offered. And of course, the Cog continues to operate during the summer!

Thanks to Nathan Davis for taking some of these photos!

Last updated: February 7, 2009

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