Lost Ski Areas of Southern Vermont – Unofficial Ski History
Hang around a ski town for long enough and chances are you will run into an old-timer reminiscing about the good old days; a time before high speed lifts, condo developments, mega resorts, and a time when their favorite ski area was still open. We all know the ski business is tough, and we’re not surprised when ski areas shut their doors. What we don’t always remember is that these ski areas don’t simply vanish. They remain skiing ghost towns, complete with rusting lifts, dilapidated lodges, and overgrown trails.
The New England Lost Ski Area Project (“NELSAP”) estimates that there are 29 lost ski areas in Southern Vermont. These lost ski areas range from neighborhood rope tows to once proud resorts. Today they are used for a variety of different outdoor activities and a few have been given a new life and revived. Some of our favorites are listed below.
Technically located in Central Vermont, Ascutney is one the newest lost ski areas. Founded in 1947, the ski area operated until 1991. It was revived in 1993 and made a run at becoming a “mega resort”. In the year 2000, these efforts culminated in a new high speed quad and expanded terrain. Unfortunately, the increased operating costs of the new chair and additional terrain, combined with the great recession, forced the mountain to shut down in 2010.
Today the mountain remains dormant. During the winter of 2012, the high speed quad was sold to Crotched Mountain and the lodge and lifts are slowly falling into disrepair. Those who own condos on the base ski at nearby Okemo Mountain Resort. While they ski, the grass continues to grow at Ascutney as nature slowly reclaims the trails.
Hogback first opened for the 1946-47 season. In the 1950’s, the mountain advertised the highest T-Bar capacity in the east. Hogback sported four T-Bars during the mountain’s prime. New management took over in the 1970’s. Unfortunately, in the early 1980’s, a few bad snow years forced temporary closures which eventually turned into permanent closure after the 1985-86 ski season.
Today the mountain is part of the Hogback Mountain Conservation Area. The lodge and the remains of the T-Bars can still be found on the site. Meanwhile, locals who use to ski Hogback now rely on Mount Snow as their local mountain.
Maple Valley may be one of Southern Vermont’s best known lost ski areas. Located directly off Route 30, the mountain is visible to the thousands of skiers who travel north from Connecticut and Massachusetts each winter. The mountain was founded by Terry Tyler in 1963 and was a popular family mountain, providing a lower cost alternative to mountains farther north. The resort advertised a vertical drop ranging from 841’ to 1,017’ depending on the year. Unfortunately, the mountain was never able to compete with the bigger nearby resorts such as Mount Snow, Stratton, and Bromley. Maple Valley closed its doors in 2000.
Maple Valley was listed for sale for many years. It was reportedly bought by Nicolas Mercede at an auction for back taxes. Mr. Mercede has plans to reopen the ski area for a variety of outdoor activities. For now, the ski area presents as a skiing ghost town with abandoned lifts, snowmaking machines, even a groomer scattered about.
Founded in 1963, Timber Ridge was originally referred to as Glebe Mountain. It operated for nine years off a small T-Bar. In 1972, a double chairlift was installed. The mountain attempted to expand but eventually shut down in the early 1980’s. In 1987, the resort was purchased by Magic Mountain (see below) which occupied the north side of Glebe Mountain. Post-acquisition, Timber Ridge was renamed Timberside at Magic. Unfortunately, after a mere four years as a “mega resort,” the site was abandoned in 1991, a casualty of Magic’s bankruptcy. After closing, the double chair was sold to nearby Smugglers Notch and today only concrete foundations remain. Needless to say, the mountain did not re-open when Magic re-opened in the late 1990s.
In the year 2000, Tim Waker purchased Timber Ridge. Since purchasing the property, Mr. Waker has renovated the lodge, reclaimed over grown trails, and even added some small snowmaking equipment. There is no lift service and the area remains private (although certain areas are used as part of the VAST trail network). In fact, Mr. Waker improved the area so much that the 2009 Snowboarding World Quarterpipe Championships were hosted at Timber Ridge (http://www.yobeat.com/2009/
Snow Valley is thought to have opened in 1942 as a T-Bar area. However, there are some reports that it may have opened as early as 1936. In 1976, a double chair was added and the ski area sported a 900ft vertical drop. After the difficult winters of the early 1980s, the resort was forced to close. Although unclear, it’s believed that Snow Valley shut down after the 1983-84 season.
In the year 2000, Snow Valley’s trails were re-cleared. Due to the re-clearing of trails, Snow Valley’s slopes can still be seen from some of the busiest ski areas in the region. Snow Valley is currently owned by a private individual who intended to renovate the lodge (pictured below). In 2011, the lodge burned down. We’re not sure if that was a blessing or a curse.
LOST BUT NOW FOUND!!!!
Haystack’s lower mountain first opened for the 1964-1965 ski season. The following winter (1965-66), the upper mountain opened with the installation of the Oh No Double Chairlift. The mountain had a long history of financial problems and, like many of the lost ski areas, experienced closures in the early 1980s. In 1991, Haystack entered bankruptcy, and Mount Snow leased the mountain. Mount Snow eventually bought Haystack in 1994. Haystack was later only open on weekends and holidays. In 2005, Haystack was sold to Tyringham Ride, Inc. for $5 million. The mountain remained dormant for five years before briefly reopening in 2009. However, a lawsuit from Mount Snow forced it to close after only two days of operation.
An initial effort to turn Haystack into a private club failed. However, in October 2011, Haystack was sold to Jim Barnes of The Hermitage Inn for $6.5 million. Mr. Barnes is spearheading a second attempt at converting Haystack into a members-only club “The Hermitage Club”. The mountain opened last year, and the Brattleboro Reformer reports that they are gearing up for the 2012-13 season. The club’s website advertises a new four passenger ski lift from the inn to the ski resort. The website goes on to describe “an obsession with snow surface” plus the construction of a new lodge. One interesting aspect of the club is a focus on “dual” season activities with an emphasis on golf in the summer and skiing in the winter.
Magic Mountain Vermont
Founded by Hans Thorner, Magic recently celebrated its 50th Birthday. Back in 1962, Mr. Thorner modeled the ski area after a Swiss Village complete with five hotels and a mountainside neighborhood. Through the 1960’s and 70’s, Swiss-trained ski instructors taught customers how to navigate the difficult terrain. By the late 1980’s, Magic had acquired Timber Ridge and the ski area had grown to become one of Southern Vermont’s largest ski resorts. Unfortunately, increased size did not translate into increased profits, and the mountain went bankrupt in 1991. Shortly after the bankruptcy, lifts were foreclosed on and sold. A Hall Double Chair was sold to Mount Tom and a Poma Triple to Berkshire East.
Magic reopened without Timberside (formerly Timber Ridge) in 1997. In 2006, James Sullivan leased the mountain and continues to operate it today. Magic has received a number of upgrades over the past few years, including the repair of a triple chair, repainting of the red chair, and increased snowmaking. The mountain has also benefited from a backlash against mega-resorts. Today, Magic offers steep, natural terrain on classic Vermont slopes.