Dublin Nordic Center at the Dublin School
In early January, after the Christmas rains had washed away all two feet of that hearty December snow storm, the cross country skiing opportunities in the greater Monadnock Region were nil. That is, except for the snow-making loop at the Dublin Nordic Center in Dublin. What a gift this network of trails has been to the Nordic skiing community throughout central New England and to residents of the Monadnock Region! Generously, the Dublin School opens these trails to the public when they’re not being used by the school and other local teams for training and races.
The Nordic Center is located on Dublin-Harrisville Road, about a mile north of the center of Dublin. Take a left off Dublin-Harrisville Road (nice sign here), and drive up the hill, passing the parking area and kiosk for the Beech Hill trails managed by the Monadnock Conservancy. From the parking lot, you can access the trails from the stadium — a short walk up the hill from where you’re parked. Or, you can exit directly onto the trails at the far west end of the parking lot.
To get started, I recommend going this way and starting out on the Watkins trail, which is a mostly flat warm-up/beginner trail about 0.5 kilometers in length. Once you’ve done this, head up onto the main trail network (assuming there’s enough snow and all of these are open). If natural snow is fairly meagre, head up to the stadium — basically just a large meadow with a yurt, a race officials’ station and a couple of sheds — where competitions commence. You can access the snowmaking loops here. They’ve recently been expanded to about 2 kilometers.
These sections of trail are groomed most every day and the skiing is remarkably nice with manageable ups and downs. And though wildlife sightings are not common, my wife recently glimpsed a bobcat not far from the snowmaking loop.
The balance of the trail network: About 8 kilometers in all, it stretches up the flank of Beech Hill to a high point of almost 1,800 feet. The trails are named after famous Olympic venues — Sapporo, Lake Placid, Oslo and Chamonix. Except for Lake Placid, all of the trails involve some short, steep climbs and, in fast conditions, quick and twisty descents. Don’t try Chamonix and Oslo unless you can execute a sturdy snowplow. Because the whole network is above 1,500 feet, there’s usually more snow here than at many other Nordic ski areas. Sometimes, when it snows two or three inches in Keene, it snows a foot in Dublin.
For competent skiers, here’s an hour-long, approximately 5-kilometer loop I recommend… Head out the west end of the parking lot and do a quick turn on the Watkins trail. Then come back to where you started and take a bit of a connector trail to join the Sapporo trail. Take a right. You’ll do a quick hairpin climb and then a gentle downhill back to just above the stadium before doing another hairpin and climbing to the major juncture of Sapporo, Lake Placid and Oslo. Bear right and start going back downhill on mellow Lake Placid, which ambles quietly through the woods. Back at the aforementioned junction, now head uphill along Oslo. If you’re competent and ready for a couple of steep, downhill hairpin corners, do all of Oslo, which takes you up to the highest point in the system, near the top of Beech Hill Ridge.
If you don’t want to face the hairpins, cut off the upper section of Oslo. When you get back on Sapporo, head to the right and enjoy the long downhill with a few bendy turns. Thankfully, the trails are wide enough to allow for easy snowplow negotiation. You’ll eventually wind up back at the stadium. Stay on Sapporo back up to the connector trail down to your car. Once you become familiar with the trail network, ask around about the trails on the other side of the road and the challenge of going from the topmost point of Oslo down to the Dublin General Store… an over-the-river-and-through-the-woods adventure.
The whole trail network is one-way so try to honor that. Also, understand that all of the trails bend back on themselves and there are lots of confusing little connectors and cut-offs, so don’t be concerned if you wind up going the wrong way for a while. When there’s a good, deep base, there will be tracks set for classic (as opposed to skate) skiing. These tracks are always on the right side of the trail, so keep the tracks on your right and you’ll be skiing in the correct direction.
It’s expensive to make snow and groom the trails so if you use the snowmaking trails, Dublin Nordic asks you to pay a daily or season rate — visit dublinschool.org/dublin-school-nordic-center for more information.
During the week, Dublin, Keene High and ConVal Regional students are on the trails from 3:30 to 5:45 p.m. Avoid being on the trails at this time for COVID reasons and to avoid humiliation when these sleek young men and women zip by you. On the weekends, the trails are closed from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. because of training and competitions. So, it’s fine to ski outside of that time, and you can even ski at night, as the center is just finishing up lighting the snowmaking loop. If you’re interested in training or racing, the Dublin Cross Country Club (Dublin XC) has programs for youths, juniors and masters (that means old people, like me). Learn more at dublinxc.com. Before you go, fill out a simple waiver form at the website.
Finally, there are all of those necessary COVID-19 parameters. They include: don’t enter any of the buildings; wear a mask in the parking lot and in the stadium area; maintain social distance. Enjoy the remarkably informative daily blog (at dublinschool.org/dublin-school-nordic-center) that updates you on snow amounts, grooming and upcoming competitions. But above all, appreciate that this remarkable ski resource exists right under our noses.
After your trip, if you’re in the mood for a snack or some dinner take-out, you’re in between two great stores: Dublin General and Harrisville General. There are great sandwiches to eat on the porch and intriguing take-out options at both. My son really likes the curried chicken salad sandwich in Dublin; I think the Harrisville Breakfast Sandwich in Harrisville is unequalled; and ask for a side of green salsa. Or, if you’re there for lunch, the burger on ciabatta is great.