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Behind the scenes at the new "Extreme Mount Washington" - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Behind the scenes at the new "Extreme Mount Washington"

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MOUNT WASHINGTON, N.H. -

"Honestly the first thing that crosses my mind is phew, we did it," says Mount Washington Observatory Executive Director Scott Henley. He had a heavy hand in developing Extreme Mount Washington.

The new Extreme Mount Washington has been in the works for almost four years, and after raising almost a million dollars, it's finally complete. And the new focus is primarily on interactive exhibits.

Some exhibits, like the snowcat simulator, have never been done before.

"This is the one that captured my imagination since the very first days that we started talking about this project," Henley says.

With the pull of a joystick, visitors simulate driving a snowcat down the Mount Washington Auto Road.

The footage for this exhibit was recorded just a few months ago.

"A late season storm set up perfectly so that we could actually capture this footage of travelling across snow," he says.

Visitors like Andrew Bragg from Belmont, New Hampshire gave it a shot.

"It was kind of cool seeing what it was like in the winter going down the mountain," he says.

Mount Washington is famous for its killer panoramic views, but the summit is in the clouds for more than half of the year.

Enter the panoramic exhibit. Three large screens are set together to produce views on clear fall and winter days.

"You can use the joystick to pan the image slowly, so you're seeing a bit more of the image. In fact, over to the west you can see Mt. Mansfield," Henley says.

In the winter, the summit area can get caked in with a feathery substance known as rime ice. It forms when supercooled water droplets freeze and grow in the direction of the wind.

Now the museum has a way of showing this off to its summertime visitors.

"For the first time ever time lapse videography of rime ice growing over a period of a couple hours," Henley says.

Some museum artifacts are still shown under glass. A standout is the anemometer that was used to record a 231 mph wind gust back on April 12th 1934. It is still the highest wind gust ever recorded by man.

It almost didn't happen.

"A member of the crew, Wendell Stephenson, actually grabbed a wooden club, and went out in 150 mph winds, he was pinned against the ladder, which allowed him to climb up the ladder and got a few whacks in and broke the ice away," Henley says.

This allowed the anemometer to spin, so the famous wind gust could be recorded.

"What happened that day really put us on the map," he says.

Henley is hoping that Extreme Mount Washington gathers some attention too.

Some visitors are already giving the new museum high praise.

"It was pretty modern. I think I like the fact that there are a lot of screens and a lot of interactive exhibits; so it seemed a lot different from what I expected," says Justin Poisson, who's visiting from Goffstown, New Hampshire.

And others are sure to feel the same way in the future.

One other fact -- that 231 mph wind gust was once considered to be the world's highest wind speed ever recorded. However, that record was broken in 1996, when a 253 mph wind gust was detected off the coast of Australia. But Mount Washington still holds the record highest wind gust ever recorded by man -- with man being the distinction.

Extreme Mount Washington admission is included with the fee to get up the auto road. Otherwise entry is $5.

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