A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about how the recently revitalized Ascutney Outdoors was opening a new hiking trail called the Ascutney Discovery Trail. On September 5th, they opened it to the public.
This past weekend, I took the relatively short drive up to Vermont to check out Ascutney Outdoors for the first time.
The trail features eight distinct signs that display the natural and ski resort history of the area. My favorite one was the display that discussed the early history of the mountain. I learned that Ascutney was the first to use snowmaking equipment in Vermont, and also ran a super unique chairlift called the Larchmont for one season, which had a track horizontal to the chair.
Ascutney Outdoors has a unique and frequently turbulent ski history. The CCC and the Windsor Outing Club created the first ski trail in 1933, and the first lifts opened in 1946. After bankruptcy and an ownership change, snowmaking was installed in 1957, and chairlifts, T-Bars, and night skiing were installed in the following years. The next major changes came during the ’80s with three new triple chairlifts, one hundred condos, and new snowmaking and grooming equipment.
Bankruptcy happened again in 1991 which shut the hill down and was bought again in 1993. The big change happened in 2000 when a detachable quad was built to go up to a new summit area.
The debt accumulated over the 2000s though, which led to foreclosure and the liquidation of the mountain following the 2009-2010 season. The various chairlifts remaining were sold to Crotched Mountain and Pats Peak.
The town of West Windsor voted to purchase the hill in 2014 and began the revitalization efforts. Today, the mountain boasts a T-Bar and rope tow for skiing, a new base lodge following the old one burned down in 2015, a rope tow for snow tubing, hiking and mountain biking trails, and various equestrian activities. A Holiday Inn is also located in the base area, which was a major contribution to its revival.
Honestly, the Discovery Trail is a very easy hike that anyone can walk through without much trouble. While there are some steep sections near the beginning, most of the stations have benches or chairs that you can sit on. One station even has an old double chair from the ski resort.
It was so easy that I took another hike, the Ascutney Outdoors Trail, which is a 3.0-mile round trip that ends near the summit of the old detachable quad. I got about 2/3rds the way up that trail before I turned back because of the tall grass in the upper portion of the mountain, increasing the possibility of ticks and Lyme disease.
There were some cool finds along the way through, including the concrete foundations for the summit of the Sunrise Double chairlift, and going above the summit of the current T-Bar.
When I got back down, I noticed a large open-mic concert happening adjacent to the base lodge, with a decent crowd. It’s clear the local community has played a big part in bringing back Ascutney, and they remain vocal and active supporters of the place to this day.
I look forward to coming back during ski season to check out and shred the slopes.
Image Credits: Ascutney Outdoors, Ian Wood, Unofficial Networks