Former ski area site part of logging, trail-building plans

Dutch Hill

A skier takes in the view at Dutch Hill ski area in the Heartwellville area of Readsboro, likely in the 1950s. Photo courtesy of nelsap.org

READSBORO — The U.S. Forest Service is ready to move ahead on a multiyear plan for logging and trail work on some 67,000 acres in six southern Vermont towns now that it has cleared an environmental review.

The first phase of what is called the South of Route 9 Integrated Resource Project includes reopening trails for recreation at the site of the former Dutch Hill downhill ski area in the Heartwellville section of Readsboro. It also calls for hiking, snowmobiling and ATV trails primarily in Readsboro and Woodford.

The Forest Service envisions a five- to seven-year effort.

David Francomb, Manchester District ranger in the Green Mountain and Finger Lakes National Forest region, signed off Oct. 25 on the long-planned series of projects in an area that extends into six towns: Readsboro, Stamford, Whitingham, Pownal, Woodford and Bennington.

The projects are all planned for Green Mountain National Forest land, while the entire project area includes privately owned land and parcels owned by towns or the state.

An environmental impact review found no significant negative impacts would result from the work, and a subsequent appeal period produced no objections.

Francomb said the Forest Service will now put together an implementation planning team to decide how to proceed with the first phase. That will involve working with a number of organizations and recreation groups, which in some cases will share the cost of projects or perform work on trails and other improvements.

Dutch Hill

A 1964 trail map for Dutch Hill. Photo courtesy of nelsap.org

At the former Dutch Hill site off Route 100, Francomb said his office has heard from ski groups and trail organizations interested in partnering in the creation of a year-round recreation trail system. The project does not involve private developers, he said.

Dutch Hill was one of the region’s early small downhill ski areas, operating from 1944 to 1985, before closing amid a series of mild winters and growing competition from larger areas like Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts that had chairlifts, more and longer trails, snowmaking and resort amenities.

The groups expected to participate in the variety of forest management projects across the area include the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers, the Bennington Area Trail System, the Vermont All-Terrain Sportsman Association and the Catamount Trail Association, Francomb said.

Dutch Hill

Looking down Dutch Meadow trail at the former Dutch Hill ski area in 2001. Photo by Jeremy Davis/nelsap.org

Other planned projects include timber harvesting and timber stand improvements; soil and water quality improvements; fish and wildlife habitat enhancement; improvements to existing hiking or vehicle trails or to shelters and trailhead parking sites; forest bridge work; relocation of Seth Warner Shelter on the Long Trail/Appalachian Trail; new trail marking and trail section relocations.

The logging project in Readsboro will, like other timber projects in the Green Mountain National Forest, provide some of the funding for work on the other projects, he said.

Francomb said he will likely update town officials on the pending projects by March. The first timber harvest will involve about 1,000 acres around Mud Pond in Woodford and Readsboro.

“Most of these partners and project proponents will be the towns, trail associations, volunteer groups and other nonprofit organizations,” Francomb said. He said the work will be implemented through a variety of agreements and funding mechanisms still to be determined. “We are in the initial stages of meeting with our partner organizations and user groups, who were engaged with the Forest Service over the course of the planning process,” he said.

He added that meetings are being scheduled with off-road vehicle groups and backcountry ski groups to discuss some of the specific proposed activities that were part of the South of Route 9 environmental assessment.

A detailed description of all the projects can be found here.

Jim Therrien

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  • Doc LeDuc

    Dutch Hill, Prospect and Hogback in S. VT along with Chickley Alps and Snow Basin just south in Mass.were the not-so-major ski areas that we “mere mortals” of the working class could afford to family ski at. How I miss being able to skirt the NY crowds on a Sunday while being able to ski among a local crew of folks and friends that I knew and/or recognized for 20 bucks!!. Surely by now (here in the age of 16 MB laptops and stealth jets) we’ve developed a “stealth ski tow” in the form of a Prius that can just pull up to a line of towers, wrap the tow rope around the front wheel, and cost-affordably pull some kids back up Dutch Hill before skiing becomes yet another “sport of the elite”!

    • Matt Davis

      The point of the Dutch Hill project is to bring skiing back even further back before the days of rope tows and early lifts, to when you actually had to climb the hill before you could ski down. There is a growing interest in “backcountry” skiing and earning your turns, and public lands are being identified for management for this form of skiing by local groups. The reality of bringing back small ski areas in a form that they used to operate in is unrealistic due to insurance costs and the need for consistent snowmaking to turn a profit.

      • Joe Peters

        Operating the “old time” ski hills like this is not imposable, very difficult, yes. Two areas that I know of Northeast Slopes in Corinth, I believe, and Lyndon Outing Club in Lyndonville, are still run by volunteers on shoestring budgets to provide cheap, fun winter activities. They both started in 1936 and at least the LOC has been run continuously since then. In Littleton NH., an old “town” ski hill is being revived to be operational again by volunteers and donations. I have been a director at the Lyndon Outing Club for almost 30 years and have seen a steady decline in attendance year after year. When I started, we would get 100+ people on a good day, half of what there would be 50 years ago. Our ticket price is $15 or less for a half day or night skiing, no lift lines, all natural snow, and $3.00 hamburgers in the lodge. My point being, even with prices this low, we still don’t get the crowds from 40-50 years ago. Still the same skiing experience, just a different culture today.

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