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Prospect Mountain Association President David Newell poses during the recent ski season near a sign for Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center in Woodford. The organization is planning a major improvement project.

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WOODFORD — Bolstered by a successful fundraising campaign, the operators of Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center are pursuing plans for new cross-country trails and installation of snowmaking infrastructure.

The proposal is now before the Act 250 Commission, which could issue a permit decision after June 17 if no objections or comments requiring a hearing are filed by that time.

Kirsten Sultan, the district Act 250 coordinator, has posted a proposed permit for the nonprofit Prospect Mountain Association with a set of project conditions, including obtaining other permits. One of those would be for work near a wetlands.

The Act 250 permit, if granted, would authorize “the addition of approximately 4,800 feet of cross-country ski trails to the existing Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center. The project includes widening of seven existing trail segments, and installation of [snowmaking] infrastructure, including buried and above-ground piping, generator, air-water snowmaker and snowmaking guns,” Sultan wrote.

FUNDING SUPPORT

David Newell, president of the nonprofit group that formed to purchase the 155-acre Nordic facility in 2018, said Tuesday that part of the improvement plan will be undertaken this summer and other aspects could commence, as well, depending on when the permit is issued and the availability of contractors.

He said funding for the improvements got a significant boost from a drive launched in late February, which raised about $880,000.

“We were hoping for about $700,000,” Newell said.

As with a similar drive before the nonprofit purchased the center and upgraded trail grooming and other equipment, a wide array of former high school and college student team skiers, coaches, parents and others who participated in events over the years at Prospect pitched in.

Newell said there were several hundred donors in the second fund drive, which began over the winter.

TWO PHASES

The entire improvement project, expected to take two or more construction seasons, has been estimated at more than $1 million.

Planned work this year to widen existing trail segments is primarily on nearby Green Mountain National Forest land, Newell said, and the group already has permission from the U.S. Forest Service to do that project. The trails to be widened, Newell said, include Easy Way and Woodpecker.

There are concerns, however, about the availability of contractors, as has been the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.

SNOWMAKING

Other phases of the project include improvements to the base lodge; installation of snowmaking infrastructure on 1.1 kilometers of trail around the lodge; creation of a new 3.9-kilometer trail further up the mountain to enhance conditions for certified Nordic races; and eventual installation of snowmaking infrastructure along that new trail.

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Snow has become a concern, even though Prospect Mountain is well-known for having deep and long-lasting snow cover all winter into early spring. But the effects of climate warming have been felt in recent years.

“We’ve had spotty snow at times,” Newell said, “but we have managed it.”

However, snowmaking is considered a near necessity in ensuring Prospect can schedule high school and college Nordic competitions and guarantee adequate snow cover.

In addition, events like the annual Williams College winter festival also require abundant snow cover.

That event is expected to return to Prospect next season, Newell said, after being canceled during the pandemic.

“COVID really held down events,” he said.

Williams teams practice at Prospect, and several alumni of the Williamstown, Mass., school have contributed heavily to fundraising efforts.

Newell said the center has generated steady revenue since the association took over from longtime owners Steve Whitham and Andrea Amodeo, who had decided it was time to sell the business after 26 years.

Prospect Mountain, which began as a small alpine ski area in the 1930s, was converted during the 1990s to a Nordic facility under their tenure. Whitham has stayed on as manager of Prospect Mountain for the association.

The skiing revenue generated by the past few seasons also helped with purchasing of new maintenance equipment, installation of a new lodge septic system; removal of a lift house and towers left over from the facility’s early days; refurbishing a second warming space on the mountain; installation of Wi-Fi in the buildings; and the purchase of rental skies and boots.

The Nordic trail system also has been improved, and snowshoe and alpine touring trails were created. Summer hiking trails also were upgraded.

LODGE RENOVATIONS

The planned lodge upgrades include roof work, new flooring and refurbishing in the kitchen, dining areas and restrooms.

The earliest sections of the structure date to the 1940s, Newell said, adding, “The lodge is really going to look nice this fall.”

No objections to the Act 250 application have been raised from abutters to the facility, Newell said, adding, “The neighbors have been cooperative.”

Jim Therrien writes for Vermont News and Media, including the Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer. Email jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com

Reporter/editor

Jim Therrien reports for the three Vermont News and Media newspapers in Southern Vermont. He previously worked as a reporter and editor at the Berkshire Eagle, the Bennington Banner, the Springfield Republican, and the former North Adams Transcript.


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