Nicholas Sheldon Howe, 85, departed on his final hike April 4, 2019, after a period of declining health.
Nick was born in Greenfield, Mass., and attended the Bement School and Deerfield Academy, where his father was on the faculty as a history teacher. His childhood was spent among the fields of the Pioneer Valley and in the White Mountains around Jackson, where the family has had a home known as Overlook since 1903.
As a young man, Nick worked as a hutman in the AMC hut system first skinning mules and later at the Madison hut. A love of the White Mountains, hiking and skiing steered his life and career.
Nick attended Middlebury College in the 1950s and then took a year off to take a job on the ski patrol at Sun Valley, where he rubbed elbows with many of the “legends of skiing.” He later graduated from Goddard College. He was one of the founding members of Franconia College in 1963, where he taught until 1976.
In 1977, Nick became a contributor to Skiing magazine, where his inimitable storytelling writing style earned him many fans. For almost 20 years, he profiled many of those same ski legends for Skiing, finding that special anecdote to drive the narrative.
During this time, Nick also signed on as the correspondent for the U.S. Women’s Ski Team, following the World Cup circuit and athletes such as Abbi Fisher, Tamara McKinney and Christin Cooper around the world and submitting stories back to news outlets and Skiing. One memorable tale described a kerfuffle at the Czech border involving the Stasi Police, ski team members and a coughing Soviet-era automobile … what really happened is still a mystery.
Indeed, although he would never admit it, Nick’s writing could often be summed up as, “never let a few facts get in the way of a good story” (to paraphrase an oft-used quote).
Eventually, Nick left Skiing and the U.S. team and became a freelance journalist, writing for Yankee, Backpacker, Outside and others, writing creatively about anything that interested him — everything from Bean boots to woodpiles were subject to his scrutiny.
He is best-known for “Not Without Peril,” his chronicle of accidents in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains, published by the Appalachian Mountain Club. Nick also authored “Barns,” a coffee-table photo journal of New England’s iconic farm building.
He was a regular columnist for The Conway Daily Sun from 1989 until recently and was much-loved for his observations of the region and its people.
Nick was also an accomplished musician. He played the fiddle and banjo as a member of the Canterbury Country Dance Orchestra and other groups, playing local contra dances and festivals. These musical collaborations also produced several albums.
In 1965, he was a performer at the Newport Folk Festival, which was best-known as the year that Bob Dylan “went electric.” In his later years, he collected banjos and mandolins and played occasionally.
Nick was never a boring sibling, uncle, cousin, colleague or friend. He could always be counted on for a great story, a unique piece of history or an irascible comment.
He was predeceased by his sister, Elizabeth. He is survived by his brother, John Howe and his wife, Mary, of Jackson, N.H.; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
His family wishes to give heartfelt thanks to the staff of the Coos County Nursing Home for their care, love and support over the past year. Please consider a donation in Nick’s name to the New England Ski Museum, P.O. Box 1673, North Conway, NH 03860.
A reception in Nick’s memory will be held at the Eastern Slope Branch of the New England Ski Museum in North Conway, N.H., on April 27 at 4 p.m.
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