Dartmouth is collaborating with a new area nonprofit organization to improve the trail system and cross country ski facilities at the Oak Hill-Storrs Pond Recreation Area in the town of Hanover.
The new facility will be the home course for Dartmouth’s women’s and men’s Nordic ski teams. Over the last few years, poor conditions and the failure of the current trails to meet cross country competition standards have often forced Dartmouth to hold its Nordic winter carnival events at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Vt., more than 90 minutes from campus.
“This facility will be great for our Dartmouth athletes and for the entire student body,” says Cami Thompson Graves, Dartmouth’s director of skiing and women’s Nordic head coach. “And, as a community member, I think it’s great for the Upper Valley.”
Snowmaking and the redesigned trails will allow the Dartmouth teams to train on their home course, and Dartmouth also expects to host the NCAA national ski championship races in 2025.
The nonprofit organization, called the Friends of Oak Hill, has been formed to design, construct, and manage the new facilities. The first phase of the project will focus on improving several core cross country ski trails and installing snowmaking. That will be followed by work on lighting, upgraded facilities, and improved parking.
In addition to upgrading the home of Dartmouth’s Nordic teams, the improvements will enable extended use of the area for recreational skiers, the Ford Sayre Ski Program, Hanover High School, and regional club teams, as well as off-season use by mountain bikers, runners, and hikers. Dartmouth’s Outdoor Programs Office will continue to run programs at Oak Hill, including partnering with the Friends group to host learn-to-ski events for students.
The trail system encompasses land owned by Dartmouth and the Hanover Improvement Society. A memorandum of understanding has been signed by Dartmouth, the Friends group, and the Improvement Society to guide development and operations.
The cost of the improvements is expected to be $5 million. Dartmouth has committed to fund half of the total with the remainder to be raised from private donors. The town of Hanover’s Bressett Fund has contributed seed funding to kick-start the project, which began in 2017 with a feasibility study.
The permitting process for the project is underway and trail work is expected to begin in early 2023, with the goal of constructing trails and snowmaking in time for the 2023-2024 ski season. The Friends group is investigating the use of sustainable methods of snowmaking. If all permits are received according to schedule, lighting, parking lot improvements, and facilities improvements will continue in 2024.