Mt. Washington Auto Road
America's oldest and continuously-operating attraction
ATV riders flocked to the Mount Washington Auto Road on Saturday for the 2017 New Hampshire ATV Day.
GREEN’S GRANT — Thanks to the 1,000-mile Ride the Wilds trail system, all-terrain vehicles have a huge playground in the North Country, which on Saturday was expanded to include the Mount Washington Auto Road.
Opened in 1861, the Auto Road leads to the 6,288-foot summit of the tallest mountain in the Northeast.
While the Auto Road annually sees a lot of traffic, both of private vehicles and its own guided-tour vans, it sees no ATVs, with the sole exception being on New Hampshire ATV Day.
On that day, it hosts the Gerry Pomerleau Memorial Ride, which is named after a retired firefighter from Dracut, Mass, who in 2000, as a director of the N.H. ATV Club, founded what was then known as the Mount Washington Auto Road Ride.
In its first year, the ride, later renamed in honor of Pomerleau, who died in 2001 from scleroderma, drew fewer than 50 participants. This year, despite foggy, overcast conditions at the base of the Auto Road and wind, rain, sleet and even the occasional snowflake from above the treeline to the summit, the ride attracted more than 1,000.
The event was a sell-out, according to Crispin Battles, the Auto Road’s marketing manager, and despite a second consecutive large turnout, it did not again tie up traffic on the busy north-south Route 16.
Following the 2016 NH ATV Day, when traffic on Route 16 was tied up for hours, the Auto Road and the NH ATV Club issued a “sincere apology” to residents and visitors who were inconvenienced by the crush of vehicles towing trailers carrying ATVs, explaining that “the popularity of this event far exceeded anyone’s expectations.”
That popularity was exacerbated by “ideal weather conditions,” the parties said, which resulted in more people lingering longer at the summit, resulting in few or no parking spaces being available for the arrival of subsequent visitors.
On Saturday, however, ATV Day was broken into two sessions for riders and a lone Gorham police officer was able to manage the flow of traffic. Among the ATV riders were Alex Cortes, Dan Marrier and Jon Beaucher.
All co-workers at UTV Nation in Nashua, which sells, services and customizes side-by-side and utility-task vehicles (UTVs) and which they were promoting to fellow ATVers, Saturday’s ride up the Auto Road was the first ever for Cortes and Beaucher.
“It was a good ride, but the weather was kind of crappy,” said Cortes, with Beaucher adding that the ascent was “wet, slow and fun.”
Marrier said the turnout for this year’s NH ATV Day demonstrates the continued success of ATV riding as a sport and, increasingly, as an economic engine for the North Country.
Throughout Coos County, municipal officials hope that Ride the Wilds, and their own municipal ordinances that allow ATVs to operate on local roads, will bring visitors, who will then spend their money at area hotels and restaurants, and at gas stations, parts store and repair garages.
The City of Berlin, which once boasted a thriving paper-production industry, is actively touting Ride the Wilds as part of a plan to get ATVers to buy second homes along the trails in the city.
Berlin is home to Jericho Mountain State Park, which was built for motorized vehicles of all kinds and which annually hosts an ATV festival. As it did last year, Berlin and JMSP in 2017 will also again host the Polaris Camp RZR.