A ‘winter wonderland’: College gears up for outdoor programming

by Thomas Brown | 1/15/21 2:10am

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by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Once most students complete their quarantine on Jan. 26, the College plans to open a number of outdoor activities and opportunities for socializing as part of its “winter wonderland” programming. Students can expect to see two ice rinks constructed on the Green, heaters and fire pits with chairs set up around campus, free equipment rentals and cross-country skiing on the golf course. 

According to outdoor rentals manager Mike Silverman, the two ice rinks will be located parallel to each other on the northern end of the Green in front of Baker-Berry Library. They will operate from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, with two tower lights keeping the rinks illuminated in the evening. Silverman added that the rinks’ operating hours may be subject to change based on demand.

Students can exchange their Dartmouth IDs as collateral for a free skate rental for the day, in addition to hockey sticks and pucks, from a trailer on the Green. The rink will only be available to Dartmouth students approved to be on campus for the winter term and who have completed the full quarantine period. Silverman advised that groups of more than three should call ahead so that all hoping to skate can be accommodated. 

Acting director of the Outdoor Programs Office Coz Teplitz explained that the rinks on the Green will be an alternative to Occom Pond, where winter ice skating traditionally takes place. Meanwhile, Occom Pond will be closed for the winter due to variable ice conditions, and Safety and Security will patrol the area to enforce its closure. 

According to Teplitz, Occom Pond has been a “less reliable” skating area due to “weather changes that are broadly related to climate change.” Silverman noted that Occom was only open to skating for 11 days last year.

“There was really no doubt that we would try to [make skating available],” Teplitz said. “Plus, it’s a walk down [to Occom Pond], and we wanted to move to a place that was easily accessible.”

Divya Kopalle | The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The College has begun installing two ice rinks on the northern end of the Green.

Additionally, a new Winter Activities Center has been established to facilitate other outdoor opportunities on and around the golf course. Operating from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends out of the former Hanover Country Club, students will be able to rent sleds, tubes, warm clothing, snowshoes, microspikes for hiking and cross-country skis during the day for free by exchanging their IDs. Extra funding given to the Outdoor Programs Office due to the pandemic has also allowed for increased rental capacity. Teplitz added that the golf course itself is being groomed for cross-country skiing and will be linked to the Dartmouth Cross-Country Ski Center located at Oak Hill.

Students will also be able to access socially distanced chairs located around gas fire pits and heaters around campus. According to deputy director of the Collis Center Joe Castelot, there will be four heaters or fire pits around Collis, six around the Winter Activities Center at the golf course and two located on the Green, with each heater surrounded by four socially distanced Adirondack chairs, which he noted should not be moved.

“A lot of this furniture is really heavy, so our hope is that once they’re in place, they don’t get moved around a lot,” Castelot said. “We’re working closely with our facilities staff to make sure that the ground is cleared when it does snow and ice is taken care of.”

Silverman said that exact public health safety procedures relating to outdoor winter offerings, such as the number of people who will be allowed on the ice rinks, are still being worked out. All rental equipment will be kept separate from unused materials and disinfected; clothing items will also be washed before being placed back in inventory.

While many outdoor activity offerings have been planned, they are subject to change based on public health conditions. College Provost Joseph Helble warned in an email Wednesday that if the positivity rate for cases continues to rise, more restrictions on outdoor activities may be necessary. However, according to associate dean for student life Eric Ramsey, there have not been any changes as of yet in the offerings of outdoor activities.

“We are continuing to plan to offer those opportunities if public health conditions permit, and will continue to work with students in this ever-evolving context to support the best student experience possible,” Ramsey wrote in an email statement. “I would encourage all students to sign up for the campus events Listserv and log in to Engage for up-to-date program announcements.”

Silverman stressed that the departments organizing student activities are “trying to be as flexible as possible” in order to adjust to any changes in guidelines during the term. He added that rental staff is working seven days a week this year, up from the normal six, to ensure that students can get outside and enjoy the winter. 

“The students are our number one concern,” Silverman said. “We want it to be the best experience that they have had, and go way over what is called upon us to do to actually make [the winter term] a good experience.”

Teplitz added that the Outdoor Programs Office has yet to decide whether or not it will continue to offer these outdoor opportunities for future winter terms. 

“We’re excited to make these opportunities available, and we will use our experience this winter to inform whether we think we should continue with something similar in the future,” Teplitz said.