By Erme Catino
Published: January 17, 2011
Southern Vermont has been on the receiving end of some impressive early winter snow storms. Classic NorEastah's have been slamming the East Coast, immobilizing major cities and sending skiers into a powder frenzy. Last week's storm was no different, so after cashing in Wednesday on some unexpected powder at Stowe Mountain Resort, my wife and I decided we would hit up Vermont's newest lost ski area Thursday morning.
ESPN Freeskiing reported earlier this fall that Mt. Ascutney was closed for the season ("One Vermont Ski area won’t operate this winter”). Ascutney is a small ski area in the picturesque sleepy town of Brownsville, Vt., made up of about 50 trails, but financial troubles forced it to shut down for the season. With our hopes set on uncrowded slopes and pow, we geared ourselves up for a dawn patrol skin up. (Sidenote: The remains of Charles Bronson lie somewhere at the foot of Ascutney, according to Wikipedia).
Having already had a run-in with the town sheriff on an earlier trip (something about trespassing, with a nod to Mr. Bronson), I hesitantly rallied my Subaru up the deserted access road. While booting up, my concerns seemed to manifest: An ol’ Vermonter approached us in a large pickup. And despite the large “No Trespassing” sign, the man advised us where to park to avoid any further trials. With respect to skiing the closed resort, he said, "I don't know anything about that. Have fun!"
As we skinned up, the sun was casting light onto the valley below—a landscape replete with red barns and white church steeples. It was also quiet. That, combined with the already overgrown grass and scrub, made it easy to see that Ascutney has already transformed into a ghost town. Perfect. Just us… and Bronson.
The skiing was a blast; nothing too intense, just fun pow on abandoned grassy trails. We lapped the best trail we found: The one with the most snow, shortest overgrowth, and fewest rocks (a lot to ask for the lost East Coast). After having our fill, the mountain all to ourselves, we cruised back to the car.
Hopefully Ascutney will be able to return to the ranks of vibrant ski-area operation, as I know the Vermont Ski Areas Association and local economy greatly welcome it. But for now, it remains an earn-your-turns resort.