- José da Silva
Course Spotlight: Quarry Road
In just one sleep, the EISA carnival circuit is kicking off at Quarry Road, a trail circuit noted for its technical climbs. Right now, the trails are operating almost entirely on artificial snow, made by volunteer snowmakers. In fact, it is volunteers who keep the ski area running –ready to accommodate a high-level event like an EISA carnival – from the aforementioned snowmakers to the race director to the Friends of Quarry Road.
This spirit of volunteerism exemplifies the culture in Waterville, a culture revived by the creation and maintenance of the Quarry Road trails. The area was initially opened for public skiing in 1938 and, until its closure in the 1970s, the 250-foot hill grew to feature a T-bar, snowmaking, lights for night skiing, and a lodge. Many decades later, in 2007, a group of passionate skiers gathered to eventually transform the area into the 12 km of groomed trails that we know it as today.
The change for the area has been noticeable, says Colby Nordic coach Tracey Cote. When she arrived at Colby after grad school, the trails were a woodsy, swampy, area. The coach remembers how it was when she first started: hour-plus rides to Sugarloaf and snowmobile grooming trails on campus. Lacking the facilities, lifts, or trails, Waterville had lost its ski culture, or at least shifted it into the background. “Now we have some of my favorite courses that I've ever skied on, right,” Cote says, “just two minutes from campus.”
The course brought the culture back to the foreground, too. Along with the Colby team, the Quarry Road trails are skied by middle school and high school teams. The Quarry Road Ski Club is composed of over 150 students. Sharing the trails with the Colby squad – having the trails at all – is incredibly valuable for the skiing youths of Waterville. The trails close to home give them a chance to engage with the activity, and the EISA carnival races show the youth teams a potential path forward for their life in skiing.
The Quarry Road trails’ Nordic popularity has prompted a resurgence for Alpine skiing as well. The hill still gets use by those willing to tour up and ski down the glades, and a few years ago the area hosted a snowmobile-powered Alpine day. Soon, after fundraising, campaigning, and a lot of work, Quarry Road will finally have a tow rope up to the top.
The infrastructure is nearly ready. The tow rope has been placed, the operator building is almost built, and most of the snowmaking for the hill is finished. Soon, Quarry Road will have reliable Alpine skiing again.
Dave MacLeary is a Colby graduate, a volunteer snowmaker, and the Quarry Road venue manager. He has also been very invested in bringing Alpine skiing back to Waterville. MacLeary says the rope manufacturer will be finalizing the installation and then, after some regulatory box-checking, the hill will be ready for skiing. “We also have a great group of volunteers coming together for ski patrol and lessons for local kids,” he says.
He also noted that being a volunteer snowmaker is a tough job. A lot of overnight shifts and many, many hours of unpaid labor. But the trails being an outcome of the burden of love and volunteerism creates a community. Being part of that community, says MacLeary, is rewarding.
The Colby graduate noted his part of the fulfillment comes from seeing the trails host high-level races “even when nature doesn’t cooperate,” but said it’s even more rewarding to see his work enjoyed by the younger skiers.
“For me the biggest motivator is coming out here on a Thursday afternoon and the parking lot is full and there are 150 kids in our Quarry Road Ski Club programs just zipping around all over the place and having a ball,” MacLeary says. “We're able to get those kids on snow early in the season and give them a consistent, high-quality experience that will hopefully lead them to be life-long skiers, and that's really what it's all about.”