It seems that once again ski season is upon us. Long regarded as a favorite New England skiing and snowboarding destination, New Hampshire boasts a hearty twenty-two skiing areas and resorts. Dartmouth, in extension, is consistently ranked as the preferred college for skiers and winter outdoorsman alike. Dartmouth claims 13% of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame and has competed in every Winter Olympic Games since the first games in Chamonix in 1924.
Just how did Dartmouth get to be so popular amongst skiers? Well, our new exhibit, Innovation on the Slopes: The Early Years of Skiing at Dartmouth explores the beginnings of this cozy relationship, on display in Baker-Berry Library this week through March. One of our favorite items from the exhibit is Fredrick Bryon Tomlinson's design and computation sketches for the J-bar at the Oak Hill Ski Area. The Oak Hill Ski Area opened in 1935 right off Reservoir Road in Hanover. When it debuted, the "Dartmouth Ski Tramway," as it was termed, was credited as the nation's first overhead lift. The tow transported 600 skiers per hour up 350 feet. The design included an 80 horsepower engine and a 6-foot wheel weighing 1,600 lbs. As the story goes, in the early 1930s, Dan Hatch, who was the General Manager of the Dartmouth Outing Club got the idea for the lift from a winter sports pamphlet on the J-Bar lift at Davos, Switzerland, patented by Zurich engineer Ernest Constam. He then commissioned F. Bryon Tomlinson '35 Th '36 to design the Oak Hill Ski Tow under the direction of Professor William P. Kimball, then Dean of the Thayer School of Engineering. Though the project was eventually passed on to the Split Ballbearing Corporation in Lebanon to pioneer the actual implementation of the job, the Oak Hill is considered the first U.S. lift with power from the rear instead of traction from the front. Of course, it wasn’t soon before improved ski-lifts appeared all over the Eastern ski region, but according to the DOC website, Oak Hill continued to be Dartmouth's primary alpine slope until the Dartmouth Skiway was established in the mid-’50s. The sketches are just a few of the many interesting items in the exhibit, including a trailer from the upcoming documentary on Dartmouth ski culture, Passion for Skiing.
If you want to check out Tomlinson's designs for yourself, ask for Manuscript 936940.3. For more information on Oak Hill, ask for either the Oak Hill vertical file or the Oak Hill photo file. And be sure to stop and check out the Innovation on the Slopes exhibit now on display through March in Baker-Berry Library.