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The Cog Railway has ferried tourists to the 6,288-foot summit of Mount Washington since 1869-just never in the winter. So all that high-elevation (by Eastern standards), consistent snow has always been out of reach to all but the most dedicated backcountry skiers who are willing to brave the highest winds on earth for mid-winter fresh. If Wayne Presby gets his way, though, it won’t be long before skiers and boarders are riding the steel wheels of the Cog up the mountain’s snowy flanks. “I’ve been thinking about it for years,” says Presby, who is a part owner of the railway. “It’s a natural.”
Maybe, but a much-hyped mid-’80s scheme to run the train near the summit and guide skiers into the surrounding federally managed backcountry was scrapped when the necessary permits were denied. The new plans call for the train to climb to the Waumbek water tower, gaining about 1,500 vertical feet from the mountain’s 2,700-foot base. As such, the available terrain will be limited to two (yawn) groomed trails located alongside the tracks, on railway-owned land. “It’s the train ride, not the skiing itself, that’s the big draw,” admits Presby. Oh well. Anyone up for a train-jacking?