Sunday, January 3, 2016, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
In a "Rope Tow Test Run" post to Ascutney Trails' Facebook page, the recently installed 1,000 foot rope tow appears just about ready to open to the public. According to the page, an opening day will be announced soon, presumably pending additional natural snowfall. The Inaugural Winter Fest & Rope Tow Dedication is scheduled for Saturday, February 6, 2016.
Originally developed as a surface lift ski operation in the mid 1940s, the financially troubled Ascutney Mountain ski area last operated amidst foreclosure proceedings during the 2009-10 season. The high speed quad was removed in 2012 and the triple chairlifts in 2014. The remaining double chairlift is not currently functional. The Town of West Windsor approved the acquisition of the defunct ski area on October 14, 2014. On January 8, 2015, the main lodge was lost to a fire.
Some 460 to 470 acres containing the bulk of the ski terrain were purchased by Trust for Public Land in late 2015, then transferred to town with a conservation easement held by Upper Valley Land Trust.
A 3.38 acre tract at the base of the Screaming Eagle trail was purchased by the town and may not have as many use restrictions. The tract includes the maintenance building and original base lodge.
Snowdance LLC and MFW Associates are expected to retain the 2.19 acre burned main lodge tract and 38.5 acre "Mile Long Field" tract.
Since Federal funds were used, many restrictions are expected to be placed on the property, limiting potential future ski operations. Pursuant to the regulations around the Federal funding and local easement control, commercial ski operations will likely be banned. In addition, maintenance of the upper mountain ski trails may be prohibited. The town however can potentially have alpine skiing below 1,500 feet in elevation, roughly lining up with the former summit triple chairlift mid station.
Ski Area Organizers
A local non-profit group, Mount Ascutney Outdoors was established as a Vermont business entity on September 13, 2015. Art Keating of Brownsville is listed as its President, Linda Stillson of Windsor its Vice President, Brian Quirk of West Windsor its Secretary, and Linda Quirk of West Windsor its Agent. Laura Farrell, founder Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports and the Vermont 50 race, is the Executive Director. mountascutneyoutdoors.org was launched in December 2015.
Free skiing via the 1,000 foot rope tow is expected to be offered in hopes of drawing locals back to the area, which has not operated since 2010. According to a local property owners organization, some $20,000 will need to be raised in order to open the rope tow operation this winter.
Three trails would be served by the lift this winter: Screaming Eagle, Dipsy Doodle, and Easy Rider. Grooming would be provided by volunteers using snowmobiles. No base lodge facilities would be offered, however a tent and fire pit would be in place.
In addition, backcountry skiing would be permitted on the upper mountain.
According to a local property owners organization, 2016-17 plans call for a chairlift to be installed, terminating just above the former summit triple mid station, serving trails below 1,500 feet in elevation. In addition, the roughly 700 vertical foot lift would serve mountain biking terrain. Snowmaking is also in the plans, as is a tubing facility.
Volunteers in front of the rope tow
Proposed Mt. Ascutney rope tow map
Proposed Mt. Ascutney rope tow USGS map
Mt. Ascutney Trail Map with 2015-16 proposed lift served area in orange