T-bar lift houses at Prospect removed

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WOODFORD — A pair of long-inactive T-bar lift houses at Prospect Mountain Ski Area have been removed, creating additional space near the site's base lodge for Nordic skiing races to start and finish.

David Dethier, a board member of the Prospect Mountain Association, the community-based nonprofit that purchased the ski area in 2018, said the removal of the "decaying" structures, along with thousands of feet of cable, was largely the work of current mountain manager and former owner Steve Whitham. Additionally, on a recent weekend, volunteer Trevor Mance used his excavator to finish the job and brought the metal to a scrap yard in New York.

The lifts, installed in the 1960s, have not operated in about 30 years, but many people in the Bennington area still have fond memories of skiing downhill "under the lights" at the site, Dethier said. Those lights, he added, also have not functioned for decades and are "gradually" being pulled down.

After the ski area completed its transition from Alpine to Nordic skiing in the 1990s, the lift houses remained on the property "in the way," serving as "a temptation for young skiers to climb on" and "a relic of the time," Dethier said.

Towers situated uphill from the lift houses they once served are still standing. Dethier said it's his hope to remove those structures, too, over time.

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Prospect's ski season this year ended in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic and a dearth of snow, according to Dethier, who said the mountain often serves skiers until mid-April or later because of its high base elevation. After a cold April and first part of May, dry weather allowed the association to get started on a series of improvement projects at the ski area, including the removal of the lift houses.

With help from volunteers, the association is also converting its gift shop into a "mini lodge" that can be used on busy days, Dethier said. The building, which now sports a new roof and siding, will be named Nancy's Nook in honor of Nancy Steffen, a longtime promoter of cross-country skiing in the area.

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"It's going to be pretty spiffy when it gets going," Dethier said of the mini lodge.

In a project that started last fall and extended into the winter, the association installed a new waste treatment system at the site. This summer, it intends to begin replacing unsound, '60s-era drainage pipes at the base of the mountain, Dethier said.

Whitham, the mountain manager, will be working on trail improvement projects this summer, Dethier said.

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Longer-term goals of the association include rebuilding and enlarging some of the mountain's racing trails and ramping up its snow-making capabilities. This past winter, in a kind of pilot project, Prospect used a loaned snow-making system from HKD Snowmakers, of Natick, Mass., drawing water from a renovated snow-making pond at the site.

Prospect hosted the MIAA Nordic state championships this past February, a competition that is expected to return to the mountain next year, according to Dethier. It's also the home course for the Mount Anthony Union High School Nordic ski team and has been used in the past as the host course for the Southern Vermont League championships.

In December 2019, a group of Williams College students presented an array of short- and long-term recommendations for bolstering the ski area, including installing solar panels on top of the base lodge and expanding marketing efforts.

Contact Luke Nathan at lnathan@benningtonbanner.com


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