Changing of the guard at the Skiway

  • Doug Holler, director of the Dartmouth Skiway works at his desk on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in Lyme, N.H. Holler announced he will retire in May of 2020. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Doug Holler, director of the Dartmouth Skiway announced he will retire in May of 2020. Holler walks back to his office on Wednesday, Oct. 2 2019, in Lyme, N.H., after checking on the stabilization pond at the skiway. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 10/5/2019 10:43:43 PM

LYME CENTER — Winter is coming — and with it a changing of the guard at the Dartmouth Skiway.

The 2019-2020 season will mark the last winter as general manager for Doug Holler, who last week announced that he will retire in May, and the first as director of mountain operations for Upper Valley native Gerren Goodwin.

“I started on Oct. 1, 2001, 18 years ago yesterday,” Holler said in his office at the Skiway on Wednesday. “I inherited a great staff and a great facility in great condition.”

Starting on Oct. 14, 2019, he’ll rely on the 34-year-old Goodwin to keep the trails and the lifts and the snowmaking equipment in shape. Last week, Goodwin still was wrapping up several such projects at the Suicide Six ski area in South Pomfret, his working home of the last nine winters.

“We’re installing a new pump station for snowmaking,” Goodwin said by cellphone on Wednesday from one of the Suicide Six slopes. “And I’m helping get things ready for lift inspections. There’s always a gigantic list to check off this time of year.”

While Goodwin’s predecessor at the Skiway, 12-year veteran Dave Mosher, took care of many such projects before retiring last week, Goodwin expects to find plenty to do between his first day of work at the Skiway on Oct. 14 and the first night of snowmaking.

“I sometimes skied there when I was a kid, but I’m excited to see it now when there’s grass,” said Goodwin, a 2003 graduate of Hartford High School. “It makes grooming completely different, knowing the lay of the land underneath.”

Goodwin said that working briefly as a youngster with longtime Suicide Six mountain manager Bruce Maxham helped inspire him to go to Lyndon State College to learn ski-resort management.

“I was an all-right student in the classroom,” he said, “but when it came to the mechanical stuff, it made sense in my head and made me happy.”

Goodwin eventually went through an apprenticeship program, then “cut my teeth in the industry” with jobs at Lake Tahoe and Squaw Valley in California. After marrying fellow Upper Valley native Shauni Burke in 2010, with whom he now has a two-year-old son, Sage, Goodwin moved back to the Upper Valley, and the position at Suicide Six.

Those years in the trenches helped Goodwin’s cause during the search for a successor to Mosher, who is leaving to start a distillery in Essex, Vt.

“We had a very good pool of candidates, but in the end Gerren stood out,” Holler said on Wednesday. “He’s got some great experience.”

In his office with a 150-degree view encompassing the bases of Holts and Winslow Ledges, Holler reflected on his 18 years of experiences there, which ranged from overseeing the alpine portion of the 2003 NCAA skiing championships to the renovation of the base lodge and the acquisition of safety netting for the race courses.

“There have been challenges, especially the changeable weather, but overall it’s been a great situation,” Holler said. “The only real drawback has been that my wife and I both love to ski, and there are lots of places we haven’t been able to ski because I’ve been busy here every season.

“It doesn’t quite count as skiing when I’m out there with a shovel or a pickaxe or a couple of five-gallon buckets of water.”

Those efforts paid off for skiers ranging from recreational alpinists and snowboarders to ski racers for Hanover High School, Thetford Academy, the Ford Sayre youth program and Dartmouth College.

“The biggest thing for our program was the major trail improvements under his tenure,” said Peter Dodge, longtime coach of Dartmouth’s men’s team. “There were two rebuilds that brought them up to international standards. Then there was the safety netting he brought in, both for the race courses and the training venues, which went from no protection to really well-protected. It takes a lot of ingenuity to put all of that up and take it down every year.

“That was huge for us, a game-changer.”

What hasn’t changed much, during Holler’s tenure, is the size of his staff: He relies on five year-round employees and, in season, around 15 as attendants and operators of the lifts and about 65 members of the ski patrol. And he’d still like to beef up the number of people working at the ski school to closer to 35 or 40 than the current roster of about 30.

As for the weather? Well, one can bolster snowmaking for the cold nights, but some years in Holler’s time, he’s only been able to open the mountain as few as 62 days.

“That year we couldn’t open until mid-January,” Holler said. “On average, we probably open between 95 and 100 days a year, but sometimes there’s only so much you can do.”

Another hurdle for Holler, and for his successor — for whom the college is about to start searching — is alerting recreational skiers that the Skiway is more than a racing venue.

He acknowledged that the phenomenon of bigger ski areas sharing skiers through pass systems — such as Epic from the Vail Resorts system, which include Vermont’s Stowe and Okemo Mountain Resort and New Hampshire’s Mount Sunapee Resort — “does make competing for the same skiing-dollar a challenge for smaller areas.”

At the same time, he added, such passes “can also have some odd backlash —Arapahoe Basin dropped out of honoring a pass program … as their regular passholders were upset by the crowding! I have heard some similar anecdotal info from folks at Sunapee: hard for the locals to adjust to the greater number of users. I’m not sure we can measure the impact on our visits.

”We will have to see what any long-term ramifications are — good, bad or non-issues.”

Holler, 61, can confirm that he and his wife, who will continue to live year-round in Grantham, look forward to skiing as civilians at the Skiway, as well as other mountains around the Northeast. He also can foresee doing time on the ski patrol.

Till then, he’s making his way through a gigantic list of his own, and not just for this winter.

“Just keep doing what we’ve been doing,” Holler said. “I’m still working on stuff for four or five years in the future.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.




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