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A Whole New Way for Skiers to "Get Schooled" This Winter

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In an age of continued corporate consolidation in the ski industry, the number of independently owned mountains continues to shrink.  

Of this ever-diminishing group of non-corporate mountains, there are two that represent a truly unique subset. New Hampshire’s Dartmouth Ski Way and the Middlebury College Snow Bowl in Vermont are the only mountains owned and operated by colleges.  Both offer a more laid-back experience that is appealing to many skiers seeking an alternative to what has become the norm in today’s ski industry. 

Founded back in 1938, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl is the fourth oldest ski area in Vermont after Stowe (1934), Pico (1934), and Bromley (1936).

The Middlebury College Snow Bowl's ski area lies on the flanks of Worth Mountain on the southern side of the Middlebury Gap. Skiing began there when the first trails were cut in the early 1930s and the first-ever Middlebury College Winter Carnival was held in 1934. The college’s first lift was built on the campus’ Chipman Hill in early 1938. The first rope tow was installed on the site of today’s Snow Bowl in 1940 by the Middlebury College Mountain Club and Middlebury Winter Sports Club. It is the fourth oldest ski area in Vermont after Stowe (1934), Pico (1934), and Bromley (1936).

Originally called the Bread Loaf Snow Bowl it later became known as the Middlebury College Snow Bowl, solidifying the winter sports tradition and the culture of skiing at the prestigious private college. The original base lodge, a traditional log cabin, was built in 1938 and stakes the claim of the oldest standing base lodge in the nation. Stowe’s legendary, insurance magnate owner, CV Starr, gifted a new lodge to Middlebury in 1962 and it was completely renovated in 2004.

Today the Snow Bowl boasts 4 lifts and 17 trails along with some surprisingly high-quality gladed terrain. With a summit elevation of 2,720,’ it offers a thousand vertical feet of skiing of generally un-crowded slopes. Middlebury Snow Bowl will be hosting the 2021 NCAA Championships this winter. 

The Dartmouth Ski Way

With its northern New England location and an active Outing Club, Dartmouth College was “the collegiate champion of the outdoor life and winter sports” in the early 1900s. A number of men skied for the United States in the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany, an amazing feat given that their local ski hills were what is today the Hanover Country Club.

In April 1955, a report, spearheaded by John Meck ’33 entitled, “Development of Adequate Skiing Facilities for Dartmouth Students in the Hanover Area,” was submitted to the Dartmouth Trustee Planning Committee. The report outlined five basic principles, the first two statings, “Dartmouth has had a preeminence in skiing which has been beneficial and… it is very desirable that this preeminence be maintained… both in terms of the competition at the ski team level and of recreational skiing for the student body generally.” The Trustees were sold with the idea.

Holt’s Ledge

The Lyme, NH site for the Skiway was identified, acquired, and in the summer and fall of 1956, Holt’s Ledge was “transformed into the early Skiway. It couldn’t have been done without the help of strong and able people, most of whom lived within sight of the hill.” The first trails to open were named Worden’s Schuss, Lyme Drop, Gauntlet, Sachem, and Green Pastures.  “The major effort and ordeal of the 1956 season was the installation of the Poma lift, which gave the Skiway an uphill capacity of 800 skiers an hour. It was 3,775 feet long with innumerable wheels, cable, towers, platter, and power components.

Another achievement of [that] first season was the speedy completion and inauguration, on March 3, 1957, of the Peter Brundage Lodge… with indoor facilities, spacious observations rooms, circular fireplace, and gracious sun deck.”

Development of Winslow

Skiing on Holt’s Ledge was tremendously popular, but by 1967 was considered, “a costly success… not for lack of snow, but because too many skiers had too little surface to ski on.” John Meck authored another report entitled “Dartmouth Skiway – Completion of Winslow Hill Development” which outlined “two alternatives for trustee consideration: Installation of a lift on Winslow Hill, or installation of snow-making equipment on one or both hills.  Installation of the lift was the preferred solution. A 3,800-foot Italian double chairlift was ordered, delivered, installed, and tested, and four trails were cut, graded, and groomed in an unbelievably short six months.” The first trails were named “Ph.D.,” “M.D.,” M.B.A.,”, “A.B.,” “Cum Laude,” with “Pass/Fail” and “Dropout” for lesser achievers.”

Snowmaking

All seemed well until a series of winters with little snow in the east and knee-deep powder in the west. “In the winter of 1973-74, the Skiway had operated thirty-four days; in 1979-80 exactly four.” With other local mountains installing man-made snowmaking, “it was generally agreed in 1981 that snowmaking was the solution to the Skiway problem.” A memorandum, entitled, “Snowmaking at the Dartmouth Skiway”, was drafted to recommend the installation of snowmaking equipment with gifts to be a significant funding source. The Trustees approved the project in 1985, and a special—and successful—fundraising campaign ensued. Equipment was installed by the end of December 1985 and “there followed one hundred days of skiing on perfect snow.” John Morton, head men’s ski coach from 1978-1989 and a two-time Olympic biathlete said, “Not only did [the man-made snow] mean better training, less travel time, and a Dartmouth Carnival at home, but the spirit of excitement and enthusiasm reached back to campus, where students lined up daily for the bus ride to the Skiway.”

Additional snowmaking was incrementally installed over the years with the most recent significant expansion funded by the Herman K. Dupre family. Considered a pioneer in snowmaking, Herman Dupre founded HDK Snowmakers and held 34 U.S. patents for various snowmaking systems and techniques. Herman and his wife “Sis” had 9 daughters, one of whom is Denise Dupre ’80, a former Dartmouth College Trustee and an avid skier. The Skiway trail Herman’s Highway was named after Herman Dupre.

McLane Family Lodge

The original Brundage Lodge started to show its wear and tear after 40+ years of use. Ideas were gathered for the creation of a new lodge that could host Dartmouth’s rousing winter carnivals and the men’s and women’s alpine ski teams, and support recreational skiing of the local community. In 2000 a white-pine timber frame was raised and the post & beam McLane Family Lodge was constructed. The frame was built from local VT and NH forests, and all the tables and benches were constructed from wood from the College’s Second College Grant.

Trail Names

  • The old Sachemtrail on Holt’s Ledge was renamed John Meck ’33 to honor the former vice president and chairman of the investment committee at Dartmouth College who championed the development of the Skiway.
  • The Howie Chiverstrail is named after Howard Chivers, the first manager of the Dartmouth Skiway from 1956 – 1983.
  • The Ph.Dtrail was renamed Upper Thomas and Lower Thomas after Lowell Thomas, a journalist, author, filmmaker and broadcaster who was a passionate skier, and would often broadcast his radio shows from ski areas.
  • The original M.B.A trail was renamed Herman’s Highway after Herman Dupre, a pioneer of snowmaking whose family donated significant snowmaking equipment to the Skiway and funded its installation.

The Tale of The Tape
Dartmouth  /  Middlebury
Lifts / 4 / 4
Trails / 22/ 17
Vertical / 975 / 1,000
Hosted NCAA Championships / 2 / 7
NCAA Men’s team titles / 2 / 0
NCAA Co-Ed Team titles / 1 / 0
NCAA Individual Champions / 42 / 11
Years Teams Scored in NCAA’s / 65 / 61

 

 

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