‘Coach’ Christopher Easton of Waterford enjoyed his retirement party at Robert Farm Preserve in Norway this past July. Map of the new Coach’s Loop for night skiing at Roberts Farm Preserve. Photo courtesy of Oxford Hills Ski Alums.

NORWAY — This past spring, Oxford Hills High School Nordic ski coach, Christopher Easton, announced his retirement after four decades with the team. To honor Coach Easton, ski team alums contacted the Western Foothills Land Trust (WFLT) regarding the Trust’s upcoming ski season project list for Roberts Farm Preserve. The result was the creation of “Coaches Loop,” a 2-kilometer solar LED-illuminated ski trail slated to open during the 2024 ski season at Preserve in Norway.

Four decades of Oxford High Viking alums and their grateful parents quietly raised $4,000 in Coach Easton’s honor to support the project. In July, over fifty former skiers and parents surprised Coach Easton at the Roberts Farm warming hut with a retirement party and map of ‘Coaches Loop’. Coach Easton was delighted to see generations of skiers, many with families of their own, recalling his athleticism, humor, and balanced approach to coaching.

A second surprise came just before Thanksgiving when WFLT learned it had been awarded a $4,500 grant from the L.L.Bean Maine Land Trust Program, administered by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. This grant, combined with the donations raised by ski alums and the hundreds of volunteer hours needed to install the lights, will be enough to flip the switch this winter!

The LED lights have motion-activated occupancy sensors that will turn on as a skier approaches and turn off after they have skied by. Coach’s Loop will provide the SAD17 ski teams, WFLT’s after-school ski programs, and working adult skiers extra hours of safe ski time during the darkest weeks of the winter season.

The warming hut and ski/snowshoe shed at Roberts Farm Preserve will be open seven days a week during the 2024 winter season with an anticipated opening date of 12/30/23. Warming hut hours, (subject to change) are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and 1- 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

WFLT anticipates Coach’s Loop to be in place by January 2024 and will extend warming hut hours to include 4-7 p.m. on Fridays for ‘Friday Night Lights,’ aimed to encourage families and individuals to come and enjoy patrolled evening skiing on Coaches Loop with cocoa and s’mores. Nordic ski boots, poles, and skis are free for the public to use during warming hut hours.

Donations are welcome to help with the costs of trail maintenance, grooming, and equipment purchase and repairs.

Western Foothills Land Trust is dedicated to the conservation and protection of native ecosystems, farm and forestlands, watersheds, and scenic landscapes for the benefit of wild and human communities in western Maine. WFLT protects over 9,000 acres via fee and conservation easements in the greater Oxford Hills region, manages over 35 miles of recreational trails on 8 preserves, and offers active outdoor programming year-round.

To contribute to Coaches Loop, contact Lee Dassler: lee@wfltmaine.org. For more information on trail conditions, call (207) 739-2124 ext. 6. To make a donation or volunteer: info@wfltmaine.org.

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