Oxford Hills High School
Ben Barrows Hill
Ski Fertile Valley

Hebron, ME
Before 1

Thanks to Galen Crane, we first heard of this area that operated in Hebron. First run by the Hebron School at some point in the 1960's, it was taken over by Oxford Hills High School in 1967. Here are his details which best describe this area: 

"On weekends in 1983 and 84, some of us used to walk with our brand-new wooden Burton snowboards from campus (Hebron School) to what I think is called Ben Barrows Hill, about a mile and a half north of Hebron.  Here, near a house on a slope in the woods, was the old Oxford Hills High School ski hill, which had one lift and one or two trails.   It was real grown-over then, so I imagine it's all but undetectable now, but worth a look nonetheless.  I can't remember where we got that information (that it was Oxford Hills's ski hill), but that was the consensus.  OH is the HS in Norway/South Paris, the nearest big town."

Here's a topo map of the area, showing the rope tow on Ben Barrows Hill.


An aerial view of the area, 1998.

Loafasaur remembers a lot of details on this area:

The rope tow on Ben Barrows hill was a hand-me-down from Hebron Academy--HA no longer needed it when they put a new rope tow on the side of Little Singepole.  The Oxford Hills ski team, under the energetic leadership of Coach "Big Al" Wescott,  took over operation in 1967-68 and ran it for three years, through 69-70.  We had several days of fall ski team "training" cutting brush on the trails--the place hadn't been operated for a few years.  We also had the annual rituals of pulling out the rope and hoisting the counterweight each fall and reversing the process each spring.  The rope tow was powered by an old tractor engine in a hut at the top of the tow.  The rope itself was actually quite nice, soft and easy on gloves and clothes.  There were two fairly wide trails on either side of the tow and one narrower one next to it.  The terrain rolled and was quite steep at the bottom.  In particular, the trail on the left as you looked up the hill had a very steep final pitch with a pronounced lip (we called it Lovers' Leap) and a quick transition at the bottom.  We had one race that came down over the Leap, but its use was discontinued after an unfortunate with a high bib number lost control over the lip and ended up doing a face plant in the transition.  There was a large, long groove in the snow from his helmet, punctuated in the middle by a smaller groove that his nose made.  After that, we mostly used the Leap to see who could make it down standing up on cross-country skis.

(cont.) There was also a woods road leading up the mountain from the top of the tow that we used a couple times for GS courses.

The most colorful character I ever saw on skis lived a hundred yards down the "access road."  Teddy Carver cut a little wood now and then to buy booze and other necessities.  The OH Ski Team was into Red Man chewing tobacco (We weren't allowed to smoke, you see.), and Teddy was always pleased to take a hefty dip out of somebody's Red Man pouch.  He'd come out once or twice a week when we were practicing, ride the tow, and ski with us.  He had a pair of incredibly ancient (even then) ridgeback hickories with leather straps, and skied with one eight-foot alder sapling for a pole.  When Teddy wanted to turn right, he put the pole under his right armpit and pulled up on it.  When he wanted to turn left, under his left armpit.  And when he wanted to stop, you guessed it.  He's the only person I've ever seen seriously use this technique.  He was pretty good at it!

The only grooming was what we did with our skis.  After a big storm, the entire team, boys and girls, would spend an entire practice just sidestepping/packing in "wing formation."  It might not have been much for our ski technique, but it was a helluva conditioning tool.  We were pretty good at x-c races, the more rugged the track, the better.

The swan song for the OH slope was Winter Carnival in February 1970.  We hosted a regional meet, and pamphleted the high school and community to get out a crowd.  The weather cooperated, and there was a good turnout.  Don't remember details, just that the OH team did well.  After the meet, we wowed the crowd by using the lip of that last pitch on the rope tow track for an impromptu jumping demonstration featuring spread eagles, daffy's, etc in the 30'-50' range.  No 360's or flips, but my skis were 208 cm, and everybody else's were similar.  The crowd was suitably impressed in the late-afternoon, late-winter sunshine.

And that was it.  Oxford Hills practiced at Mt. Abram starting in 1970-71.  The old slope on Ben Barrows Hill was used no more.

Incidentally, we never called it the Oxford Hills slope.  That's a name from your Hebron alumni contributors.  We had a few names for it, but the most used was "Ski Fertile Valley" in honor of the OH Ski Team, the self-styled "Fertile Valley Ski Squad."  Probably the most authentic name would be whatever Hebron Academy called it before they developed their "new" area.  It looked like it had been there since the 1930's--Teddy probably had been there that long, too.

Does anybody else remember this lost area? If so let us know.

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