‘Mayor’ of Cannon Mountain in 34th Year at Lift Controls

  • Allan "the mayor" Girard has been a lift attendant at Cannon’s Zoomer lift in Franconia, N.H. for more than 30 years.

  • Allan "the mayor" Girard has been a lift attendant at Cannon’s Zoomer lift in Franconia, N.H. for more than 30 years.

Special to the Valley News
Sunday, January 14, 2018

Allan “The Mayor” Girard sits on his chair in his small alpine office. His bundled-up constituents outside the glass window wave as they fly past him. He waves, too, watching them intently.

An American flag, heater, microwave, radios, phone and other items are stationed in Girard’s work place, with a commanding north-facing view of the frigid peaks of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Three buttons are posted in front of him — two red to stop (one that stops gradually and an immediate emergency stop), and one black switch to slow it down.

“After you’ve been here long enough, you can tell if someone is going to have problems, so you can use that slow to give them more time to get their poles ready or their snowboard off the footrest,” he said.

The mayor has been the man at Cannon’s Zoomer triple lift for more than 30 years. He’s been there since 1984 and employed by the mountain since 1980. Lift attendant in winter, grounds crew member in summer, he helped install the tram that’s running today, the Cannonball lift and the latest version of Zoomer serving Cannon’s wide, steep and scenic Front Five — Gary’s, Rocket, Zoomer, Paulie’s Folly and Avalanche.

Girard, a 65-year-old Franconia resident, gets to his post Monday to Friday mornings thanks to a drop-off via snowmobile or groomer. Once he’s there, he’ll shovel under the bullwheel, making sure the ramp onto which skiers disembark from the chairlift is nice and flat. He puts the safety gate down and places safety signage about. The New Hampshire native looks down the lift line, making sure there are no obstacles on it and that the 78 chairs are clean.

When the lift runs, Girard has skiers in his sights and watches and waves as they leave the lift area to the trails. He believes skiers can also be better passengers by listening to the attendants when they get on the lift and stay aware of the safety signs.

The mayor loves the people, weather and birds he sees. People walk up the snowy steps outside the shack to say hi and perhaps accept a piece of the candy he keeps on hand.

Though Girard isn’t quite sure how he got his nickname, it’s one that often finds a social someone associated with a certain place.

“The people wave because they know him,” said Cannon marketing director Greg Keeler. “The others wave because they’re waving back at him.”

Girard often puts bread outside for resident ravens and watch as they come to eat. They’ll sit on the hearty birches outside the lift shack and keep him company.

Then there are the chickadees. They’re something of weather forecasters.

“The chickadees will come and feed at the feeder a lot and then all of a sudden they disappear,” he said. “You look down through the notch and you can see the weather coming at you because they know that there is some kind of weather or storm coming. They’ll feed and then go hide to stay out of the weather.”

He can also watch the wind as it intensifies during storms.

Bears have walked across the lift line and jets have screamed overhead, leaving long thin contrails in their wakes.

“You get to see like the C-130s that fly through here,” the lift attendant said. “Like today, those jets were out doing their maneuvers.”

Of course, there are the people.

“Watching people is fun,” he said.

Over the years, he’s seen the passing of the family torches in Cannon loyalists with children, parents and grandparents riding Zoomer.

Cannon also has its well-known skiers, like Franconia-area natives Bode Miller, the Olympic and World Cup champion, two-time national telemark champion Cory Snyder and monoskiing Paralympic medalist Tyler Walker.

“It was pretty cool to be able to know them and watch them what they’ve done in their racing careers” he said. “It’s very impressive to me.”

But Girard doesn’t ski. He tried it a few times but it wasn’t for him.

Hunting and snowmobiling used to take up his spare time, and he still enjoys fishing. During this earlier days at Cannon he would hike all over the mountain during work, sometimes coming down as darkness fell.

The mayor has no plans to step down and wants to remain an incumbent for a while.

“I hope to be here for as long as I can,” he said. “You look around. This is a pretty nice place to be.”

The straight-shooting mayor’s got that right.

Marty Basch can be reached at mbasch@gmail.com.