By Tim Goodwin Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Sunday, December 23, 2012
(Published in print: Monday, December 24, 2012)
There have been cross-country ski trails on the Dublin School campus for years.
Most double as running and mountain biking routes during the warmer months, but once winter rolls around, they are used by Nordic skiing enthusiasts.
But Head of School Brad Bates, who is an assistant coach with the school’s Nordic team, has always wanted more. And if Mother Nature ever provides the region with a healthy blanket of snow this year, Bates and all the other skiing enthusiasts will have a brand new loop to try out.
It all started back in the spring. Michael Lehmann, son of Dublin School founders Paul and Nancy Lehmann, had seen some of the trail work performed by the school a few years ago and wanted to see more of it.
So Lehmann, who lives in London, made a proposition to Bates. Lehmann offered the use of his 80 acres that abuts the school’s 300 acres to build a new 5 km course that will be one of the best in the Northeast. And Lehmann, along with his sister Nancy Haynes of North Carolina, would pay for the design and construction.
“He really wanted to support cross-country skiing,” said Bates of his meeting with Lehmann. “I quickly understood he had a vision that went beyond mine. He wanted the highest class.”
For Bates, this was a dream come true. Bates, whose father, Buddy, graduated from the school in 1953 and later taught there, is an avid skier and saw what the school’s land had to offer. With varied terrain and acres upon acres at their disposal, Bates knew the possibilities for a course were endless. But there was no way the school could do it.
So when Lehmann made the offer, Bates immediately accepted.
“It took a while to process because it was such great news,” said Dublin School junior Will Utzschneider, who picked up the sport last winter. “It makes me feel really lucky to go here.”
And those affiliated with the school will not be the only ones to benefit. The course will be open to the public.
“What we’re trying to do is get as many people as possible on our campus,” said Bates.
Late in the summer, Bates brought in John Morton of Morton Trails in Vermont. Morton, who grew up in Walpole and is a two-time Olympic biathlete, had designed some of the previous trails on the school’s grounds and is well respected in the world of trail design.
Morton spent a day on the land with his assistant to get a feel for the terrain. He marked the center line of the trail and painted the trees he needed cut down.
“They want this to be really scenic and fun. It’s like a terrain park for cross-country skiing,” said Bates. “I had no idea how complicated it was. There’s a real art and science to it.”
The work done on the new trails also helped clear some of the debris remaining from the December 2008 ice storm.
A forester and environmental engineer took a look and made sure the plan would not affect any of the protected surroundings. There was also a visit from an inspector with the International Ski Federation.
When it is all said and done, Dublin School will be home to a certified Olympic-level Nordic ski course.
“It’s really impressive. There’s a lot of terrain changes,” said Utzschneider, who is from Newton, Mass. “But the thing I noticed was how wide the trails were.”
The project was broken down into three phases. Phase one was to construct a parking area off Dublin Road with a start/finish stadium that will connect the two loops of the 5 km course. The start/finish area will allow for skiers to pass through five or six times during a race, making it spectator friendly.
“You really need a large start/finish area,” said Bates. “You basically need a small soccer field for it.”
Both of those projects have been finished and the hope is to have phase two completed soon. The second part of the project was to log, excavate and mold the first of two 2.5 km loops. The first loop is now finished and ready to ski. “It will be fun to have one loop to ski on,” said Bates.
Now all they need is some snow. Not only will snow allow for skiers to use the first loop, but it will also allow for the start of phase three: the second loop. Snow will insulate the ground and allow for work to continue further into the colder months.
“We’ll go until the ground freezes and then pick it up when it thaws,” said Bates.
At the completion of phase three, which is expected by next winter, the ski course inspector will be brought back to give final approval.
The students and faculty will help by keeping the trails clear.
“I really want to help out with this because I plan on using it a ton,” said Utzschneider. “So many people will use it.”
So far, Bates could not have asked for a quicker result. The only slight hold up to date was with the logging company, who had to finish another project before starting at Dublin School.
By the start of next winter, the school would like to be known as a hot spot for cross-country skiing. They want everyone to know about the course.
“I think it’s going to be the best trail in New England when it’s done,” said Bates.
But right now, all they need is a December snowstorm.