Prospect Mountain Ski Area Preserves its Character and Looks to the Future
March 05, 2020
The winters are long at Prospect Mountain Ski Area.
That’s because Prospect Mountain, located off Route 9 in Woodford, has elevation in its favor. The rugged, small town of Woodford in Bennington County has the highest elevation of any Vermont community. At Prospect Mountain, the base elevation is 2,250 feet—the highest base elevation of any alpine or cross-country ski area in the state.
The mountain began as a Vermont alpine ski hill in 1938. More than 80 years later, the southern Vermont mountain is thriving as a small, beloved cross-country ski area.
Its future is in good hands, thanks to an agreement for the Prospect Mountain Association (PMA) to purchase the ski area from Steve Whitham and Andrea Amodeo, who had owned the ski area since the 1990s (Whitman still serves as the mountain manager). With help from Don Campbell of the Vermont Land Trust, the property is also protected from any future development.
When the ski area came up for sale a few years ago, the outlook for Prospect Mountain was uncertain. But major funding for the purchase came through from Williams College ski alumni, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, and the Vermont Land Trust. Additional fundraising efforts by the PMA, a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization, helped finalize the deal.
“Prospect is a very relaxed and friendly place,” says Dave Newell, president of the PMA Board of Directors. “Folks love that about Prospect, and they want that to continue.”
What Makes Prospect Mountain Ski Area Special
In southern Vermont, several alpine ski areas have closed over the past 30 years—including Snow Valley, Timber Ridge, Maple Valley, and Hogback. Some reinvented themselves, such as Dutch Hill in Readsboro, which closed in 1985 and reopened in 2017 as a backcountry ski destination. Prospect Mountain never closed. Instead, it pivoted.
The 144-acre ski area includes 30 kilometers of trails on U.S. Forest Service land, private property, and land owned by PMA. The mountain offers terrain for all ages and abilities for Nordic skiing, as well as snowshoeing, and alpine touring trails. College and high-school teams—including the Williams College Nordic ski team—train and race at the mountain.
The base lodge dates back to pre-1950, Newell says, adding that Prospect’s Nordic trails were first installed in 1982. Prospect offered alpine and Nordic skiing until 1992, when Whitham and Amodeo bought the mountain and decided to shut down the alpine operation.
On a recent weekday afternoon, the ski area’s parking lot was dotted with cars from New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Vermont, and Massachusetts. A storm had passed through the area two days earlier, delivering several inches of fresh snow. Inside the lodge, skiers enjoyed everything from beef chili and cheeseburgers to cookies and hot cider from the lodge’s kitchen.
“It’s a loveable place, and it has a homey atmosphere,” says David Dethier, a PMA board member and retired Williams College professor.
A Ski Area with Character
Dethier worked with a group of Williams College Environmental Planning students last fall to create a proposal titled “Greening of Prospect Mountain.” Ideas were gathered from a survey that received 154 responses and included 17 interviews with stakeholders and subject-matter experts. Suggestions in the report include installing solar panels on the roof of the base lodge, hosting events in the summer, and ramping up marketing efforts to promote the mountain. The PMA will review the report and take suggestions into consideration.
Updates are already underway at Prospect Mountain Ski Area. A new septic system was completed last fall, and there are plans to expand some trails and explore snowmaking options. Old T-bar towers that extend up the mountain will come down this summer.
And while this winter hasn’t been the snowiest, Prospect Mountain is holding its own.
“The mountain tangibly holds snow better than other places because of its high base elevation,” Dethier says. “We’ve got a rustic lodge that people love, and this is a place that is beloved by the community—from southern Vermont to northern Massachusetts to New York’s Hudson Valley.”
Learn more about Prospect Mountain Ski Area