Do you enjoy getting outside in the winter — exploring beautiful landscapes while breathing fresh mountain air and getting a bit of a workout? You’re in luck!! Our corner of southwestern Vermont is very fortunate to be home to Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center. Prospect Mountain maintains more than 30 kilometers of groomed trails for both beginner and expert skiers. The best part is this beautiful winter wonderland is only eight miles from downtown Bennington.
Prospect Mountain has been attracting winter-loving visitors since the 1930s, and while there have definitely been changes over the years, this beloved mountain is still a favorite spot for skiers, snowshoers, and winter adventurers. If you’ve yet to visit Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center in Woodford, now is the time to check it out.
A brief history of Prospect Mountain
The Prospect Mountain Ski Area was born in the late 1930s when a rope tow pulled local skiers up the mountain. World War II put operations on hold, and they resumed in the 1960s with T-bar lifts and alpine ski trails. In the 1980s, nordic trails were added to the ski area. The lack of natural snow was hindering downhill skiing at Prospect, but cross-country trails were still a viable option. It wasn’t long before lift access stopped, putting an end to downhill skiing altogether.
Steve Whitman and Andrea Amadeo bought the property in the 1990s and successfully ran Prospect Mountain as a cross-country ski center for 26 years. When the two decided to sell after decades of success, the community was filled with uncertainty about the future of their beloved mountain.
The Community comes together to save Prospect
The local community of cross-country skiers is a tight-knit group, and it wasn’t long before a core team of dedicated folks came together to take the next steps to save cross-country skiing at Prospect Mountain. The Prospect Mountain Association (PMA) was formed in 2018 in hopes of raising the money necessary to purchase the mountain, including 144 acres of land, five buildings, and grooming equipment to maintain the trails.
With the help of numerous community partners, including the alumni of Williams College, the Vermont Land Trust, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and local donors, the group was able to close on the property in the fall of 2019.
Brad DeBoer, who is a PMA board member, has been happy with the transition so far. “Challenges with the transition have been thankfully limited and not unexpected. Most importantly, Steve Whitman has remained with Prospect as the Mountain Manager. We (the PMA Board) and Steve have certainly had to learn to work together, but we are blessed that he has stayed on – he’s a tremendous asset and it is safe to say that the first year would not have been as successful as it was without him.”
Conserving the Land
After purchasing the mountain, PMA took an additional step to ensure the land would be preserved for future generations of skiers and outdoor lovers as well as wildlife. They partnered with the Vermont Land Trust to protect Prospect Mountain from development with a conservation easement.
Prospect Mountain is part of a large tract of wilderness habitat, abutting the Green Mountain National Forest and the George D. Aiken Wilderness Area. The area is a thriving habitat for local wildlife, including moose, bobcat, and deer, as well as a denning and feeding area for black bears.
Continuing the Tradition of Cross-Country Skiing at Prospect Mountain
Mary McGuinness has been skiing at Prospect Mountain since 1976 and it is her favorite place to spend a winter day. “It is a perfect place for Nordic skiers, from klutzy beginners to those sleek, speedy skate skiers. Trails range from the flat Cloverleaf Trail to the 400-foot climb up the Mountain Trail.”
Mary skied both downhill and cross-country at Prospect when her kids were young. “When alpine skiing ended, I stayed with cross-country but mostly at Woodford State Park. One day a group of us skied from the state park over to Prospect where we, of course, encountered groomed trails. Ah, I’d forgotten the joy of groomed trails! For many years now I have bought a season pass, so I feel free to go up for just a few hours or for the day.”
Like most skiers at Prospect, Mary has her favorite trails. “For a quick 2-hour outing we like to ski from the lodge out to Boomerang, go up to Whistlepig, down Holy Smoke, out to Duke’s Loop (maybe a trip up and down Chickadee if the conditions are good), to Beaver Pond Loop, stop for a photo with the decorated Christmas tree, then back to the lodge.”
Prospect Mountain is home to numerous cross-country ski teams, including the Williams College team, the Mount Anthony Union High School team, and Mount Greylock’s cross-country team.
More than 100 local children participate in the Bill Koch Youth Ski League, one of the largest in New England. Quirky landmarks like the Lollipop Tree, a hobbit house, and a decorated Christmas tree entice young skiers to explore the trails, and the Bill Koch organizers encourage further explorations with a mountain-wide treasure hunt each year.
What’s going on at Prospect Mountain in 2020?
PMA has already made some much-needed upgrades to Prospect Mountain since taking over operations last year. These include installing a new septic system, providing Wi-Fi in the lodge, updating the Prospect Mountain website, installing a live trail-cam, and expanding the menu in the lodge.
Brad DeBoer is most excited about the transition to snowmaking at Prospect. “With the help of a very generous anonymous donor, this summer we dredged and reinforced the existing snowmaking pond that was damaged during Irene, and installed a dry hydrant to enable withdrawing water from the adjacent stream.”
Earlier this week, Brad picked up rental snowmaking equipment to begin snowmaking in earnest. “Our snowmaking goals for this winter are to provide good coverage on the bunny hill and the stadium area surrounding the base lodge to support the Williams Winter Carnival in mid-February, and just as important — to begin learning what it takes to make snow successfully. Our hope is to slowly expand the snowmaking system to provide better and more consistent coverage in future years, especially around the base lodge, which is the first area to lose snow and/or turn to ice in mid-winter thaws.”
While snowmaking is certainly the biggest change to come in 2020, Prospect will also be clearing and blazing new snowshoe trails, hosting citizen ski races, and adding rental equipment to their current offerings. They will also be hosting live music and other special events throughout the season, starting this Saturday with Butchers and Thieves from 3 – 5 pm.
Come Ski the Trails and Join the Prospect Family
Whether it’s your first time on cross-country skis, or you have been doing it for years, there’s a trail at Prospect Mountain with your name on it! Because the base elevation at Prospect is over 2,000 feet, they frequently have snow when lower elevations don’t, and The Prospect Mountain website is updated daily with local conditions, so you always know what to expect.
Trail passes are available at day rates for adults, juniors, and seniors. Kids under five ski for free. You can also purchase a season pass, a 10-day punch card, or a weekend pass, depending on your needs. Ski rentals and lessons are also available.
If you’re looking for something special to do with your family, come to Prospect for the moonlight ski and dinner, which happens on the Saturday evenings closest to the full moon. The next moonlight ski takes place on February 8, from 6 – 10 pm, with music by the Prescriptions.
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