For the mid-Atlantic snowsports enthusiast family on a New England winter vacation who desires a smaller place, off the beaten path, invariably uncrowded, with great snow, and a wonderful school ambiance, Dartmouth Skiway may be a good choice. It’s a place where you can still leave the kids to run around like in the old days and feel safe.
This smallish-to-medium ski resort is nestled in the piedmont of the white mountains in the town of Lyme, New Hampshire. It is owned and operated by one of the most prestigious universities in the US, Dartmouth College, which has produced 155 Olympian skiers going back well over a hundred years of competitive winter sports.
As a college with an operating budget roughly comparable to Arlington County, VA, Dartmouth College can fund a vigorous recreation and sports program which, besides forming leaders in sports, provides the surrounding community with lower-cost, top-notch outdoor programs. And one of these is Dartmouth Skiway.
Dartmouth Skiway is no shrinking violet in the world of ski resorts. It has wonderful groomed runs, and challenging steeps, but most of all, what makes it stand out from the other resorts is the chill ambiance that is present at the ski resort. Spending a day here reminisces of our old college days. Even the ski runs have academic-evoking names like Post Doc, MD, Pass/Fail, Final Exam, and Cum Laude, and the bailout run out of one of the ungroomed runs is aptly named “Drop Out.”
Skiing at Dartmouth Skiway is simply fun. As its web site states, its goal is to “return to the simple, unvarnished New England ski experience with that quintessential Dartmouth character”. And the resort does that extremely well.
Dartmouth Skiway traces its history back to the early 1900s when students used a nearby hill, now the Hanover Country Club, as their practice site. Several of them represented the US in the 1936 Olympics. In 1956, the land where the Skiway is located today was developed into a ski resort. It has been improved throughout the years to what it is today. The tight-knit alumni community at the College has donated considerable sums of money towards enhancing and improving the site.
>The main lodge at the ski area, the McLane Family Lodge, was in great part a donation from an alumni family. The area’s snowmaking system was donated by the three Dupree sisters, all alumna of the College, in memory of their father, the founder of HKD Snowmakers. Sitting on one of the chairs at the Holt quad, one will see brass placards commemorating a particular contributor. It is indeed inspiring to see the pride and care of their alumni towards improving the Skiway so future generations can enjoy it.
Getting to Dartmouth Skiway requires confidence in the abilities of one’s GPS. Coming from Boston or points to New England’s Southeast, Exit 18 on I-89 will take you through the northern part of Lebanon on Route 10 and then up the jaw-droppingly beautiful Etna Road, through pastoral Etna and the centuries-old country mansions of Hanover Center and Lyme, before making a right turn towards the Skiway. Arriving from Southern Vermont, I-91 North will take you to Exit 13 and then Vermont Route 113, crossing into Vermont, towards Lyme, and then on to the Skiway. It is important to note that numbered routes may have turned away from the traveled road, so going straight in every case may result in getting lost.
Arriving at Dartmouth Skiway, ample parking is available short of the McLane Family Lodge, both of which are on the Winslow side, while across the seldom-traveled highway, the Holt side sports visibly steep runs and race courses. The Skiway has a vertical drop of 968 feet, with 21% beginner runs, 50% intermediate, and 25% advanced, with one double black diamond. The total skiable terrain is 107 acres.
While there are outside ticket windows, oftentimes they are open only on weekends, so entering the lodge is necessary to obtain tickets.
The McLane Family Lodge looks more like a country club lodge than a ski lodge, but the difference is welcome. The round porthole doors, the turret, and the stonework in front lend an air of old-time elegance. And going inside, it becomes obvious it’s a place for relaxation and fun.
Entering the first floor of the lodge, the rental center and ticket offices are located to the left, while the varsity offices, team rooms, bathrooms, and a few changing rooms are located to the right. In the center, a massive staircase displays the tremendous historical legacy of Dartmouth College in snowsports with lists of Olympians, ski team captains, and trophies.
Upstairs, turning right will lead to the cafeteria and some seating areas. To the left, a large nave with a huge stone fireplace and numerous tables welcomes visitors.
The upstairs lodge has numerous pegs everywhere to store bags. Yetis of all sizes and ski bags are also piled against the walls, however, the tables are kept clean. There is no angst nor shame nor any problem bringing lunch coolers, given the cafeteria’s hours are relatively short. Most families were seen with their coolers at lunch.
Donning boots, helmets, and goggles, one then leaves the lodge to start a ski day. On the same side of the highway as the McLane Family Lodge, the Winslow lift side provides two beginner surface carpets, appropriately named the Little Kid and Big Kid carpets. The first one is a very gentle incline, and the second one has a little more length and elevation. Near those, the fixed Winslow Quad goes up to its namesake peak.
Turning left upon offloading the Winslow Chair, the farthest two trails (skier’s right) are MD and Herman’s Highway, both of which are nice, fairly narrow, and windy blues which end up at Lower Pass/Fail, a green run. Between the two, some gorgeous glades named NRO (Non-Recorded Option, or sort of like a dropped college course at Dartmouth) sport thinned trees and a variable descent to appeal to a variety of experiences.
Going further left from the top, two beautiful runs, Upper and Lower Pass/Fail (Green) and Howard Chivers (Blue), are wide and impeccably groomed and are usually the most transited at the resort. The next two runs, both Black Diamonds, are Cum Laude and Thomas, this last one ending steps from the highway as Race Finish, also a Black Diamond, and allowing one to take skis off and cross the highway to Holt’s Mountain.
Holt’s Mountain is definitely the more challenging side to Dartmouth Skiway. Taking the fixed double up to the peak, and turning left, the college’s main raceway, Don Warden Schuss, provides a challenging headwall and a steep course to an intersection where it becomes three different trails down to the lift.
Down the centerline of the lift, the Upper and Lower Lift Lines are two very enjoyable blue runs down to the bottom. Off the Upper Lift Line, Kelton’s Gauntlet provides a fun and challenging Black Diamond run. John Meck and Lyme Drop are the two Blue runs that continue off the Holt Lift, and the last one is Big Green, the longest in the resort, a totally beautiful, scenic, and fun cruiser.
For Mid-Atlantic skiers looking for a place to really enjoy, Dartmouth Skiway is a slice of the past with the ski culture, styles, and etiquette of a bygone era. It is a wonderful place to take the kids, or adults, to enjoy a beautiful ski or riding day. It is not a destination resort, but it could be combined with a visit to other resorts in New England, either further north towards Jay Peak or Burke, or crossing the White Mountains on Route 302 towards Cannon, Loon, or Waterville Valley.
There are a few lodging places near Dartmouth Skiway, the most popular being the Lyme Inn, a historic 1809 country inn totally refurbished and modernized, located on an idyllic New England green. The Lyme Inn also hosts Ariana’s restaurant, of regional distinction. The Dowd’s Country Inn is also a comfortable place to stay.
For a mid-day food stop and locally brewed taps, the Latham House Tavern is open for lunch on weekends with hearty lunch faire and a world of microbrews on tap from all over New England and Colorado.
All of these venues are on Lyme Green, which is also a charming place to stroll and admire one of the first towns built in the Upper Valley of the Connecticut River right after the French and Indian War. The beautiful pre-Revolutionary War Congregational Church has one of the very few Paul Revere bells left in the world (there is also one in Washington DC’s All Souls Unitarian).
The Skiway itself, the grooming, the quality of infrastructure, and the location, are reasons to come and enjoy this place. As the Dartmouth Skiway web site states, “At the Skiway, our top priority is to remind our mountain family why they fell in love with skiing in the first place. It’s not because of expensive season passes, cutting-edge equipment, or postcard-perfect conditions… It’s because skiing is fun.”
While actually born in the tropics (Cuba), Lou grew up in New England and went to College in Vermont, where he initially took up skiing. He then embarked on a twenty-two year Air Force piloting career that took him to over 50 countries. He has skied in Europe and America (both North and South). His second career as a senior officer with the Federal Government spanned thirteen years and in 2010, Lou retired to pursue a more leisurely life style.