Dover, NH
1949 - c1976 (perhaps a bit longer), Sledding Park Today

Thanks to Dave Hilton, I first heard of this page about this small rope tow area in Dover, NH.  Before the rope tow was installed, the area had a jump. Stillman Rogers received the following three pictures from a friend in California, showing the jump around 1945.

Wide shot of the jump - notice the observation tower at the summit.

A skier takes off!
As does another!

The jump closed several years later, and a rope tow was built on the hill, likely in a different location than above. The following is a direct quote from a homepage dedicated to the history of this hill and its legacy, which tells about the ski area.  Check it out at:

"While Haley failed to capitalize on the Hill in winter with a toboggan run, his concept changed with the times into the City's plans for a municipal ski slope, and in the 1950's and 1960's hundreds of people enjoyed skiing at Garrison Hill (and some of us cringed when we saw how steep the slope looked from the top!), with its two slopes, rope ski tow and warming hut at the base. The Parks Department offered ski the tower was actually classes there in the winter, and the hill and park enjoyed a year-round visitation by the public."

The topo map of the area.

An overhead view of the area in 1998, slopes quite grown in.

"The ski slope was the first to succumb to rising costs and dwindling use at Garrison Hill in the 1960's. Faced with fewer large snowfalls each year, and insufficient funds (and seemingly, climate) for snow making equipment, the municipal ski slope was closed in the 1960's. It, too, felt the ravages of vandals, as its buildings fell into disuse and neglect. The tower did not fare much better during this time period. The City stopped maintaining it in the early 1960's, with the last painting done in the 1950's (fittingly done by the company of a descendant of Arioch Wentworth and a lifetime resident of the Garrison Hill area, James Wentworth). It quickly fell into disrepair, with wooden decks rotting out and, now unprotected, the iron girders beginning to waste away from acid rain and the elements. The legs became bowed due to the effects of rust. Faced with increasing vandalism, the City finally removed the bottom sets of cast iron stairs and fenced the tower off in the 1970's. "

The Committee spearheaded the renaming of Ascension Avenue to Abbie Sawyer Memorial Drive in the spring of 1979. In early 1980, the Committee was made "partner to the Garrison Hill Commission, which was made up of representatives from various City Boards and was charged by the City Council to develop specific recommendations for use of the park. Its findings suggested passive recreational use of the Hill, restoration of the ski area for use by sleds and toboggans (did Harrison Haley hear that?), and cooperation with the Town of Rollinsford in both land use planning and recreation in the area. It supported naming the tower to the National Register, use of local tax dollars to expand the recreational use of the hill but not for restoration of the tower, continued maintenance of the tower, and more responsible investment of the trust funds. Finally, the Commission recommended using the income from utility leases of the top of the hill to offset park expenses, and clearer delineation of responsibilities of the Park and Recreation Department over use of the Park. It is a tribute to the Commission's foresight that fourteen years later many of the recommendations in this report have been implemented, though several remain only on paper. "

"Skiing came to this great hill, And many came to take a spill. But soon it came to a sad end, When the city refused to bend."

Jim Voyles has more information: 

My name is Jim Voyles, and I've been a PSIA instructor at Waterville Valley, NH for the past 16 years, but I'd like to tell you about my experiences with Garrison Hill in Dover, NH, 30 years ago.  In 1972 I moved to New Hampshire from Florida with my wife and two young daughters, and we rented half of a duplex on the other side of Garrison Hill (That's the actual name of the hill the ski area was located on.) from the ski area.  When we first moved to Dover we didn't know how to ski of course, but we wanted to learn, and we bought several snowmobiles to enjoy the winter in the interim.  Somehow I got connected with the Fisher family, who was running the ski operation at that time, and it was arranged that I would pack out the ski slopes with my snowmobile after each snowstorm, and in return, my family would receive season passes to the area!  Pretty good deal for me.  I got to ride my snow machine, and got to ski for free in return!  I think season passes were $10 at the time, and it cost $2 for a one day (or night) pass.

Free ski lessons were offered, and I learned how to snowplow down the hill.  Looking back, as a ski instructor, I can see now that the lessons were pretty basic, and they certainly didn't follow the American Teaching Method we use now, but it was still a LOT of fun, and it was the start of our new lives as outdoor winter  enthusiasts, which we enjoy to this day.

The end of the line at Garrison Hill was a painful time.  There was, and still is, a road running across the bottom of the area just above the warming hut (You couldn't call it a lodge!), connecting Central Avenue in Dover, by the hospital, and Rollins Rd. in Rollinsford.  Four wheel drive trucks began coming into the ski area in the summer and fall, and clawing their way up the ski slopes, which got quite steep at the top.  The tracks they dug out became heavily eroded by the rain, and over the space of a couple of years had become 3-4 ft. deep gullies, right down the slopes!  At first, we tried to fill them with hay, but that wasn't enough after a year or two, and the area was forced to close, due to the selfish actions of just a few idiots.  A new trail had been cut just to the left of the area, that never had a chance to get used.  I think the last year Garrison Hill still operated was the winter of '75-'76.  My wife and I hiked in along the road 4 or 5 years ago, and I was stunned at the amount of vegetation that had grown in.  I'm glad to hear that someone has taken the initiative to clear it out to be used once again.  It's a marvelous resource, that should be used.

Paul Kageleiry believes the area lasted a little longer than 1976: As a Dover NH native I grew up skiing Garrison Hill. It was local (parents didn't ski), and cheap ($1 a day). But I am quite sure the Hill did not close until 1975 or 76. I remember skiing through the 6th or 7th grade, the time frame I mentioned.

More from Stillman: Glad to see that you have this one. It was where I first put skis on in the late '40s or early '50s. While I was in Dover High School my friends and I skied there often. One of these, Paul Flayhan, short, and built like a small tank, preferred to schuss the slope. It was his belief that turns only slowed you down so why do it. During one of these runs Paul got to the bottom of the hill and couldn't stop. Since he had never learned how to turn he couldn't turn either. The warming hut stood at the foot of the hill and inside there were several kids drinking hot cocoa. When Paul hit, it knocked the hut off of the cinder block base sending everyone inside into a cocoa covered heap. Paul picked himself up and decided he had probably learn how to make turns.

Garrison Hill Summer 1999 (photos by Jeremy Davis)

The view of the bottom rope tows, disapearing fast into 30 years of growth.
Looking up the old rope tow line. Still generally smooth, with only a little brush growing in.

During 1999, the trails were cleared (after my visit) and will support sledders and snowboarders. For details, check it out here.

Laurie P visited the area during March, 2003 and took the following pictures.

A view of the same rope tow line today, much clearer.

Sledding on the old, now cleared ski slope.
A sign for the area.

Last updated: Jan 19, 2006

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