Out & About: Ascutney Outdoor Center Celebrates Opening

  • The Ascutney Outdoor Center in Brownsville. (Courtesy photograph) —Courtesy photograph

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/19/2018 10:10:00 PM
Modified: 9/19/2018 10:10:15 PM

Brownsville — The transformation is almost complete and now it is time to celebrate.

On Sunday beginning at 1 p.m., Ascutney Outdoors is inviting the public to an open house at the recently completed Ascutney Outdoor Center, the centerpiece of a years-long effort to remake the former ski area into a four-season community recreation area.

“It has been a very busy 18 months, but now it has come to fruition and it’s great,” said Steve Crihfield, a member of Ascutney Outdoors, the nonprofit that manages the property at the base area of Mount Ascutney.

“I think what is really special is that we are finishing the outdoor center and are on track to install the T-bar (to service ski trails) and tubing lift,” Crihfield said. “We are really building out what we expected to do and creating a gathering space for the community.”

Festivities on Sunday on Ski Tow Road will include a guided hike, a mountain bike ride and outdoor yoga class. The event will also include live music and food and will continue until 8 p.m.

Families and young children can enjoy some guided nature play and exploration with an outdoor educator. There will also be opportunities to walk the property and view the facilities, including a new sculpture donated and installed by Herb Ferris recently. The space will be available for a variety of uses from musical performances and educational talks to private parties and weddings, or just relaxing after some outdoor fun on the surrounding trails.

“After more than a year of planning, construction and landscaping, and a long list of skilled and unskilled volunteers donating their labor, the Ascutney Outdoor Center (AOC) is ready to open its doors,” the organization said in a news release.

The two-story center with a large, covered patio area was constructed on the foundation of the former base lodge of the resort which closed in 2010, creating a lot of uncertainty about the future of the roughly 470-acre property. But rather than sit on the sidelines and hope for the best, the Selectboard at the time took a proactive approach when it became clear the resort would not reopen and began working toward purchasing the property. Community support — financial and otherwise — along with the Trust for Public Land taking the lead, money was raised to complete the purchase of the ski area in late 2015.

A capital campaign then raised more than $1 million to demolish the old lodge, which burned in early 2015, build the outdoor center and make other property improvements, including the tubing lift.

When combined with the abutting town forest, there is about 1,600 acres for a range of outdoor activities including mountain biking, hiking and skiing.

Also planned for the open house will be an opportunity to name the new T-bar lift, which will service about nine trails for skiing and snowboarding.

Crihfield said installation of the tubing lift is underway and he expects work on the T-bar will begin later this month or in early October. The anticipated reopening of the former general store in the village under new ownership and a new name, the Brownsville Butcher and Pantry, ties in nicely with the rebirth of winter activities on the mountain, Crihfield said.

Editor’s note: For more information, visit Ascutneyoutdoors.org.

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