×

Ascutney Gets New Ski Lift



Valley News Correspondent
Thursday, February 01, 2018

Brownsville — A little more than three years after residents packed Town Hall to vote overwhelmingly in favor of purchasing 470 acres of the former Mount Ascutney ski resort, members of the nonprofit overseeing the development and operation of the property said community support has allowed it to pursue their goals in an accelerated fashion.

The latest development has been the donation of a T-bar surface lift that could make nine ski trails on the mountain accessible.

“It really has been fast forward for me,” said Glenn Seward, an Ascutney Outdoors board member. “It has exceeded my expectations. And it is all based on the community support we have received.”

Steve Crihfield, chairman of the Ascutney Outdoors board, said the nonprofit group’s capital campaign has raised $600,000, leaving it just $100,000 short of the goal. The bulk of the money has come from about 300 individual donors with donations from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation, Holiday Inn (the hotel at the resort) and others, Crihfield said.

“Our local partners believe in what we are doing and they came together really well,” Crihfield said inside the warming hut where a 900-foot tow rope has been servicing a small hill the last few years.

The money has enabled Ascutney Outdoors, or AO, to undertake a number of major projects. These include construction of the new Ascutney Outdoor Center this winter, purchase of a 520-foot tubing lift with installation planned for the spring and the possible installation this year of a donated T-bar that will add skiable terrain.

Seward said AO bought a “first-class” trail groomer from Stratton Mountain Resort, ending an annual $5,000 rental fee for a groomer. AO also announced it has a purchase and sales agreement to sell to the Holiday Inn owner, Orange Lake Resort, the former Cunningham’s Ski Barn on Hotel Road that was donated to Ascutney Outdoors by former ski resort owner Dan Purjes.

“While the purchase price is nominal, it allows use of the property by AO under a long-term license,” Crihfield said in a news release.

Seward and Crihfield said that separate from the capital campaign, they have received $50,000 in donations to add to a $34,000 grant for engineering, permitting and installation of the T-bar. Crihfield said they still have about $15,000 to raise and will try to have it operational next winter.

Seward and his wife, Shelley, purchased the 2,600-foot T-bar from a resort in Quebec and had it transported to Brownsville, where it now sits in a parking lot on the ski area property.

“We had been talking about something like this (to increase skiing) and put some feelers out and this opportunity came up,” Seward said.

The T-bar will allow skiing on about eight or nine trails, Seward said. It will begin near the new Ascutney Outdoor Center, which should be open by late summer.

The 4,000-square-foot, two-floor center is being constructed on the concrete foundation of the former base lodge that was destroyed in a January 2015 fire. At the lodge on Wednesday, Seward said they removed about two-thirds of the foundation and recently completed the interior masonry work on the remaining portion. He anticipates construction of the center will begin late next month.

Crihfield said it is not a traditional “stick” construction but comes in premade sections that can be assemble atop the foundation in just a few weeks.

Ascutney Outdoors said the center will serve the recreational crowd that visits the mountain and be a place for educational talks, musical events, private parties and more.

“It is really going to be multi-use and multi-season,” Crihfield said. “It will be a nice place for the community.”

The Ascutney Mountain Resort closed in 2010 because of financial problems and once it became clear it would not reopen after most of the equipment was sold, town officials and other began a concerted effort to buy the main ski area to prevent it from being developed.

The Trust for Public Land raised most of the roughly $900,000 and when it completed the purchase, it transferred ownership to the town in December 2015. A conservation easement came with the sale and when added to the town forest, created nearly 1,600 acres of recreational property for skiing, hiking, mountain biking and more.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com