As soon as our summers turn into a humid, sweltering affair, people start dreaming of something cool. Which is what the Cornwall Historical Society has to offer with its new exhibit Mohawk Mountain: The Snow Story. It opened last weekend and is a reminder of how influential the slopes of a small New England town became in the mid-20th century. That’s when Walter Schoenknecht created his first winter playground and came up with his most significant innovation, which was later copied worldwide: an artificial snow-making apparatus that mixed water and air and piped it to the trails under pressure. It was a technical masterstroke that saved the ambitious skiing area in its fledgling phase. The “phenomenal snow man” (Sports Illustrated about Schoenknecht in a profile published in 1961) had invested tens of thousands of dollars of his family’s money in it, but struggled after the second winter had not produced enough natural snow.

The exhibit touches on several stories, because the mountain was shaped by a number of forces. Not the least by Alain C. White and his sister, May W. White, who gifted the land to the state. And by the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corp which turned it into a recreation area.

The mountain’s toughest moment came in 1989 when the infamous tornado came through. The whirlwind produced millions of dollars worth of property damage, toppled lifts and scattered pieces miles away.

The exhibit will be the backdrop of a special event on August 9 at 5:30 P.M. Gerri Griswold, Director of Administration and Development at White Memorial Foundation, will give a presentation about the siblings from Litchfield who played a role in the development and inspired the modern land conservation movement in the region: “Recognizing Alain and May White.”

— Juergen Kalwa

📸: Juergen Kalwa