Behind the Skis: A Look at the College’s Golf Course Cross Country Skiing Operation

The Outdoor Programs Office works year-round to bring cross country skiing to Dartmouth.

by Arielle Feuerstein | 1/19/22 2:11am

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by Novi Zhukovsky / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Even in the coldest months, it seems that Dartmouth students can’t get enough of the outdoors. When winter comes, the grassy golf course transforms into a maze of snowy nordic ski trails for students to enjoy. Outdoor Programs Office Director Coz Teplitz and Outdoor Programs Office Coordinator Elliot Ng ’21 shone some light on how they make that transformation happen. 

Preparing the golf course, along with adjacent cross country trails on Oak Hill and Garipay Field, is a “year-long endeavor,” according to Teplitz. 

“​​As soon as mud season ends, the work begins: removing rocks raised from the freeze-thaw cycles; reseeding areas with new grass; improving drainage; trimming trees and brush to ensure snow falls to the trail; mowing, and more,” Teplitz said. 

Once enough snow falls on the golf course, the trails still need to be regularly maintained. According to Ng, groomers venture out onto the course in the middle of the night to make trails for people to ski on. 

The groomers are generally employees of the Outdoor Programs Office, and Teplitz stressed that many of them work part time, in addition to other work.

“I think they all deserve a clap on the back for being willing to stay up all night to get that done and be able to provide good skiing,” Teplitz said.

Teplitz noted that Hanover is a “relatively low-snow area.” In order to compensate, the Outdoor Programs Office sometimes needs to find additional snow elsewhere to bring to the golf course. One such source comes from the ski trails at Oak Hill.

“We try to keep those trails open now because we use them for snow harvesting. … If we have to get a good dump of snow, well, you take the equipment and push the snow down from those ski trails onto our current ones and then that way we’ll have a little more depth that we can work with longer into the year,” Teplitz said. 

Teplitz highlighted that the Outdoor Programs Office doesn’t operate alone; the job requires cooperation with other College offices. For example, the Facilities Operations and Management Office worked closely with the Outdoor Programs Office when planning trail routes to ensure that the nordic trails stayed off of the golf course greens. They also work closely with Dartmouth Athletics, Pine Park, the Town of Hanover and the Hanover Improvement Society, according to Teplitz.

“There’s all this back and forth [between offices] that goes into making sure that those tracks are in the right spot and they’re going to be enjoyable for skiers, and we really appreciate all the work that goes in from many of our colleagues across the institution,” Teplitz said.

Ericka Asmus ’24 was a competitive nordic skier in high school and is currently a member of Club Nordic. Although she was initially doubtful of the idea of skiing on a golf course, she said that the trails are “well-engineered,” and she has been pleasantly surprised by the quality of the golf course trails.

“I come from a place where there are a lot of woods and I wouldn’t necessarily have to ski on a golf course. If you tell me ‘Oh, like you're going to have to ski on a golf course’ I’m going to be a little disappointed. But I’ve been pretty satisfied with the different terrain on the golf course,” Asmus said. 

She explained how the golf course is a good place to practice her skiing because of its constantly changing direction and elevation. She noted that even though it may seem like a boring course, it is more than meets the eye. 

Asmus also commented that she was impressed with how well-maintained the trails were. 

“The grooming is very well done,” Asmus said. “They are always on top of it, where a lot of times at other places, other trails I’ve been to there should be great conditions, but they didn’t get to grooming it. But the grooming is always awesome [here].” 

In addition to preparing and maintaining the physical trails, the Cross Country Ski Center manages equipment for students to use, which presents its own set of logistical challenges. Ng emphasized that there are a lot of “moving pieces” that must come together in order for the ski operation to be successful. 

“There’s a lot that I think students don’t realize goes on behind the scenes,” said Ng. “On the operation side of the center itself, it’s always maintaining all the equipment, communicating to passholders and students what's available and what's likely to come in, … making sure that things are good enough to ski on and up to date.”

Years ago, the College regularly groomed the golf course for skiing, but that operation went on a hiatus for several years before its return last winter. Teplitz expressed that the goal in bringing skiing back to the golf course was to make it more accessible to students, both in terms of bringing skiing closer to students and making it more affordable. 

“We really wanted to make it as easy as possible for students to participate in outdoor activities,” Teplitz said. “And we thought that bringing [skiing] within walking distance was a big deal … I was really excited and gratified to see the number of students who really responded to that last year.”

Teplitz also stressed that the Outdoor Programs Office was attempting to remove any financial hurdles that could stand in the way of students taking advantage of the skiing. 

“It seems like removing financial barriers has been important and encouraging people to even come down and try it out, maybe come back again after class one day,” Teplitz said. “That is something that we're hoping to continue as long as we can.”

Asmus feels that the close proximity of the golf course has encouraged her to ski more than she otherwise would have if she needed to drive, since her car is parked in A Lot. 

Neither Teplitz nor Ng could say for sure whether skiing on the golf course would remain a permanent fixture at Dartmouth, given the uncertainty of the pandemic. But, Teplitz expressed that he will continue to push for accessible skiing.

“I think that it’s well recognized that having these opportunities so accessible has led to more engagement and we’ll continue to be advocating for that, but who knows what the future will entail,” Teplitz said.

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