Last updated: February 18, 2021
Located off Routes 8 and 100 in southwestern Vermont, 2,470 foot Dutch Hill was once home to one of the most popular ski areas in Southern New England. The name was allegedly derived from a carriage road that cut across the ski area, which was used by Dutch settlers during the 18th century. More recently, the former ski area was redeveloped as a backcountry ski facility.
The Dutch Hill development dates back to the summer of 1944, when North Adams Ski Club members Webster Ottman, David Allen, James Lockwood, and Harry Short announced plans to develop a ski area in the mountains north of North Adams. Ottman was a local businessman and city councilor who had served as president of the ski club. Allen, a draftsman with the James Hunter Machine Company, was the club's vice president.
A 30 acre parcel of land was acquired and a 1,000 foot long rope tow was planned. While the area did reportedly open during the winter of 1944-45, little is known, as operations were contingent upon World War II restrictions.
Following victory in World War II, wartime restrictions were eased and many local skiers returned home. For the 1945-46 season, Dutch Hill advertised a 1,100 foot rope tow serving 5 trails and open slopes. In addition to the original partners, other North Adams Ski Club members worked at the development. Madelon Mulroney, an accomplished ski racer and co-developer of Bernard's in the Notch ski area with Ottman, Allen, and others, took charge of publicity and assisting in management. James Hadley, another James Hunter Machine Company employee, would join the ski patrol. As an early member of the National Ski Patrol (number 472), Hadley recruited for and served with the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.
Following the 1945-46 season, Lockwood and Short's shares were bought out. Edward Dondi and John Pedercini became partners around this time, as Ottman and Allen planned a major expansion. A native of Italy, Dondi lived in North Adams and owned restaurants. Pedercini was a lifelong resident of North Adams who owned Pedercini Coal Company and was involved with North Adams Hoosac Savings bank.
Dutch Hill Becomes a Major Area
After flying under the radar for two years, Dutch Hill moved to major area status for the 1946-47 season. Using horses, a 2,000 foot long Constam T-Bar was installed to the top of the hill, running twice the length of the original rope tow, which was relocated to a novice slope. Five trails ranged from "a novice run of over a mile" named the Dyke Trail to "an expert slope, with a breath-taking pitch" originally named Death's Holiday. Meanwhile, the Dutch Boot cafeteria was constructed at the base of the new lift. The ski area opened on December 31, with the T-Bar going into operation in early January. Enjoying ample snowfall, Dutch Hill operated 102 days during the 1946-47 season.
The Dutch Hill T-Bar
The popular Dutchman's Holiday trail was likely added for the 1947-48 season, as well as more parking. Gordon Lowe served as ski school director. Around this time, members of the North Adams Ski Club formed the Dutch Hill Outing Club.
The uphill capacity of the T-Bar was increased and skiable terrain expanded for the 1948-49 season, to better handle the growing crowds projected from an improved Route 8. John Henderson served as ski school director. While the area reported a record crowd of 2,000 one weekend in early February, winter snowfall was subpar, resulting in only 38 days of skiing.
Heartwellville Ski Bowl
1948-49 also marked the opening of the Heartwellville Ski Bowl. Located near Dutch Hill, the small rope tow served slope was adjacent to the Heartwellville Lodge, owned by Raymond Crosier. Gordon Lowe directed the ski school with Michael Catrambone serving as his assistant. Michael Catrambone later leased the ski area for the 1951-52 season, installing new lights and directing the ski school. The area was abandoned after that season, then reopened as the Heartwellville Snow Bowl for the 1955-56 season, leased by Edward Cheesbro. A motel was constructed at the bottom of the slope in 1956, putting an end to ski operations. The Heartwellville Lodge burned to the ground in May 1975.
Trails were further improved via blasting and bulldozing for the 1949-50 season. In addition, a road construction project improved Route 8.
Though the season started in early December, rain and a lack of snowfall hampered the first half of the season. In stroke of bad luck, the top terminal bearing failed on a busy late February day, resulting in refunds and rope tow only operations for a few days. March rebounded, producing weekend crowds in excess of 2,000 skiers. Operations likely extended into the first weekend of April.
Dutch Hill circa the late 1950s
Following the 1949-50 season, ski school director John Henderson departed for Sun Valley, while Remy LeClere was recruited from New York. LeClere used a machine called a "Ski Trainer," was supposed to help novices learn how to turn before hitting the slopes. The poor weather carried into the 1950-51 season, which started just before New Year's Day. As with the previous winter, conditions rebounded by the end of February, leading to a new weekend record attendance of 3,500 skiers.
The Sky Lark trail was added for the 1951-52 season, while other general improvement projects were completed. While there were once again early season struggles with snow, a new issue developed later in the winter, when Dutch Hill faced its first ever skier lawsuit. A New York resident sued for $75,000 after breaking both legs in a fall, claiming the trail was not adequately marked or maintained. The suit was later settled out of court.
Trail improvements continued for the 1952-53 season, while base facilities were expanded. The string of poor starts continued, as Dutch Hill encountered its first ever January opening. Adding to its concerns was the proposal to build a tramway on Mt. Greylock. Joining with other Massachusetts-based ski area operators, Dutch Hill opposed the project, disclosing it had lost money in each of its first six seasons of operation and could not complete with a state-operated ski area.
Dutch Hill suffered from its second consecutive January opening for the 1953-54 season, as well as a whimpering end after only 37 days of operation. Around this time, Michael Catrambone began his first stint as Dutch Hill ski school director. A veteran of the World War II Normandy invasion, Catrambone was known for his "fast, smooth, and impressive" style on large skis, despite standing at just over 5'2".
Despite the series of poor winters, investments continued for the 1954-55 season. A short rope tow was installed for novices, while the area's first snowpacker was purchased. The season started early and ended late with 116 operating days, resulting in Dutch Hill doubling its skier visits.
Improvements for the 1955-56 season included widening and resurfacing the Dyke trail, using 10 cases of dynamite. In addition, parking was expanded and base facilities added. The season had a strong start, with a record opening weekend crowd of 1,200 skiers on December 17th-18th. Late season snowpack was so deep that overhead trail signs were at skiers' feet and branches had to be cut to keep trails passable. The April 22 closing day was a new record.
Webster Ottman working in 1955
The 1956-57 off season consisted of 3,412 hours of labor, according to publicity director Madelon Mulroney. Windmill and lower Dutchman's Holiday were regraded and widened, while cafeteria equipment was upgraded. Though the area opened in mid-December, operations ceased before the arrival of calendar spring, resulting in a season of 73 days.
Continuing its multi-year series of trail improvements, the Yankee Doodle trail was regraded during the summer of 1957. A half ton of dynamite was used to remove an 18 foot deep section of ledge, thereby alleviating the notorious "rock garden" section of the intermediate trail. The middle portion of Christiana was also widened and regraded.
The 1957-58 season was another January start for Dutch Hill, though the winter quickly improved. As a result, the area broke its consecutive operating days record when it reached 71. The record stretched to 101 days when it closed on April 20.
Second Base Area
The last major expansion at Dutch Hill took place during the summer of 1958, as the area greatly improved its novice complex. Ottman and Allen, along with local contractor Clarence Long, designed and constructed a new J-Bar lift. Using nearly all locally sourced parts, the lift was installed on an improved Dutch Meadows slope, extending some 150 feet beyond the former rope tow. The engine of that rope tow was overhauled and augmented with a new transmission to power the J-Bar, while the shorter rope tow was kept in place. The swampy base area was filled in to allow for expanded parking, as well as for a separate lodge for beginners named the Dutch Treat. The T-Bar was also overhauled. The new J-Bar lift debuted on December 6. Though mid-winter operations were plagued by icy conditions, Dutch Hill saw larger crowds and posted "one of the most successful seasons we have ever had."
As the 1950s became the 1960s, Dutch Hill had another decent season with 92 days of operation. Webster Ottman told the North Adams Transcript the season was "very good" and that "we were satisfied." Continuing with the series of trail rebuilds, the intermediate Dutchman's Holiday trail was rebuilt for the 1960-61 season, which saw 101 days of operation. Dutch Hill was nearing the end of its peak.
For much of its history, Dutch Hill had numerous competitive advantages. Technologically, its T-Bar was the most advanced lift in the region. In terms of snow conditions, its high base elevation allowed for a longer season with better skiing than others in the region. Geographically, Dutch Hill was much easier to get to than areas further north. Each of these advantages was lost in the 1960s.
Chairlifts were installed at Catamount, Mt. Tom, and Thunder Mountain for the 1961-62 season, followed by Bousquet and Petersburg Pass in 1962-63, Butternut in 1963-64, and Brodie and Jiminy Peak in 1964-65, while Dutch Hill remained a surface lift area. Snowmaking became the norm, while Dutch Hill relied on natural snow. Interstate highways stretched north into the Adirondacks, Green Mountains, and White Mountains, making much larger resorts a comparable drive from major cities.
Ski school director Michael Catrambone departed Dutch Hill to become general manager of Carinthia for the 1961-62 season. Alan Dunklee took over the ski school for the 1961-62 season, followed by Russ Morey for 1962-63. Snowfall late in the 1962-63 season was noteworthy, as Dutch Hill was forced to close at one point due to seven foot drifts blocking the top of the T-Bar. While 1961-62 had been plagued by weeks of ice, Dutch Hill recorded 207 inches of snowfall and 106 days of operation in 1962-63, setting an attendance record.
Business was expected to grow for the 1963-64 season, as Routes 8 and 100 were rebuilt. $65,000 was spent renovating the Dutch Boot lodge, adding a new sun deck, and improving the Dutch Treat lodge. Multiple trails were widened and excavated, including Dutch Meadows. With a season again stretching into April, Mulroney told the North Adams Transcript that "business was better than usual."
Dutch Hill co-owners Edward Dondi and John Pedercini reportedly purchased 330 acres across the road from the ski area in 1950, leaving it undeveloped for many years. Pedercini moved forward with a 100 acre housing development in 1964. Meanwhile, Dutch Hill reportedly installed new, faster motors on both the T-Bar and J-Bar. Unfortunately, the 1964-65 season was subpar, with a late December start and stretches of poor or no skiing.
Michael Catrambone returned as ski school director starting with the winter of 1965-66 season, following his time at Carinthia and a few seasons at Petersburg Pass. For the sixth season in a row, Dutch Hill operated into April.
Original Ownership Comes to an End
Mildred Ottman, Webster's wife of 43 years, passed away at the age of 65 in September 1966. No major projects were undertaken that off season. As the 1966-67 season approached, Ottman announced that Dutch Hill was for sale because he and his fellow owners wanted to retire. The ski area remained in operation, with the season extending into April once again. "Mixer Days" were introduced, in which lunch was included with the purchase of a lift ticket on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Shortly after the last day of the 1966-67 ski season, Webster Ottman married Madelon Mulroney. Involved with Dutch Hill from the beginning, Mulroney had become one of the most accomplished people in New England ski industry history. In addition to her core job of publicity director, Mulroney had worked alongside Ottman for decades, even operating a bulldozer and assisting with dynamite operations. Mulroney was recognized as the first woman to operate a snow cat and was one of the first members of the women's division of the National Ski Patrol.
Another untimely death hit Dutch Hill in October 1967, when owner John Pedercini passed away at the age of 64. His relationship with Ottman was evident, as Webster served as a pallbearer at the funeral and was bequeathed a portion of Pedercini's stake in Dutch Hill.
As the 1967-68 season arrived, Dutch Hill garnered the attention of multiple suitors, including local businessman John Tietgens, as well as soon-to-be-Hall-of-Fame quarterback Y.A. Tittle. Meanwhile, Edward Dondi and John Pedercini's land across the road from the ski area was sold to Joseph Dewhirst and Royden Gilleo. The Connecticut businessmen would soon sell the tract to Harry Patten.
On August 15, 1968, Mel Bredahl and Walter Korder of Connecticut purchased Dutch Hill for $160,000. Co-owners of Chain Engineering Co., the pair considered the area to be an investment opportunity.
Meanwhile, Harry Patten had partnered with Tony Cersosimo, founder of Cersosimo Lumber Company, to develop a 200 house development across from Dutch Hill. Cersosimo soon made an offer to the new Dutch Hill owners, resulting in Tony Cersosimo and Harry Patten obtaining a lease to purchase agreement.
While the Ottmans had offered to remain at Dutch Hill for a time, they announced their retirement in November 1968. The couple was quickly hired by Jiminy Peak.
Twenty-three year old ski instructor and salon owner Philip Grande was named general manager of Dutch Hill for the 1968-69 season, which saw the first November opening in its history. Formerly a competitive free style skier, Grande had started teaching at Dutch Hill's ski school when he was 12. Stanley Eames was hired as maintenance manager, while Michael Catrambone continued as ski school director. In early March, Tony Cersosimo and his brother Dominic Cersosimo purchased Dutch Hill from Bredahl and Korder for $102,000. Days later, Eames replaced Grande as general manager.
Cersosimo followed up his acquisition with the purchase of an additional 100 acres on Dutch Hill for $40,000 in May. Other notable transactions in this timeframe included James and Nancy Voris acquiring the Kiora Inn (and renaming it the Dutch Hill Inn), as well as teaming up with Harry Patten to purchase the Heartwellville Lodge. Patten had plans to reopen the former ski slope at the lodge to attract families. Meanwhile, Cersosimo had plans to construct a new lodge and install chairlifts at Dutch Hill.
Former Dutch Hill owner David Allen passed away in August 1969 at the age of 81.
Initial work was underway in early 1970 for the development of houses on the north face of the mountain, which were expected to drive a sizable expansion at the ski area. The first phase included a new novice trail accessing the development, while a second phase called for trails and lifts on the backside of the mountain.
While the ski area retained its charm, including having the Ts on the T-Bar painted difference colors, it was quietly entering a period of decline. When asked in the early 1970s why the area hadn't installed snowmaking, manager Stan Eames remarked, "we've never had to make snow." Midweek operations were discontinued, which was advertised as a way to keep weekend conditions at their best.
Former Dutch Hill owner Edward Dondi passed away in July 1970 at the age of 70.
While it seemed like Dutch Hill was about to be modernized and expanded, new zoning regulations, including Vermont Act 250, resulted in the second phase being cancelled. Patten soon pulled out of his proposed Vermont projects, choosing instead to focus on developing 400 acres along the Mohawk Trail in Florida, including a proposed theme park. Stating his frustration with the roadblock, Patten stated, "Ski area expansion is almost wholly dependent on real estate operations. All we're going to do now is continue reselling lots for owners in Alpenwald. Otherwise, we're going to stay out of Readsboro entirely." Cersosimo decided to divest his Dutch Hill holdings.
Dutch Hill made the news in February 1972, when former Red Sox slugger Tony Conigliaro took a lesson with ski school director Michael Catrambone. Catrambone noted that Tony C. was "a natural."
Though the 1973-74 season was horrible across New England, it hit Dutch Hill hard, as the area only operated 16 days.
After seeking a buyer for a few years, Cersosimo sold Dutch Hill to Connecticut businessmen Gus Kronberg and Felix Callari in September of 1975. A native of Sweden, Kronberg had been acquiring property in the Dutch Hill area since the late 1960s. Callari owned a growing auto dealership empire in Connecticut. Both were Dutch Hill skiers. Rudy Vazzano, also of Connecticut with holdings in the Dutch Hill area, may have been part of the ownership group at the start.
Dutch Hill circa the mid 1970s
As the 1975-76 season approached, the new owners announced Dutch Hill would be renamed Dutch Mountain. Local ski writer Lee Leahy opined, "Nobody talks much about Dutch Hill anymore, so I don't suppose it makes much difference if the name is changed."
The ski area remained a weekend and holiday operation, with the new owners commuting from Connecticut to Vermont each Friday night. A new powdermaker was procured, while a first-hour-free ski guarantee was instituted since, according to Stan Eames, "if our snow doesn't measure up to expectations, it is a simple matter to be standing in a ticket line at another area in less than half an hour." In addition, the area procured a liquor license for apres-ski spirts.
Following the first season of operations, the new owners looked to diversify their offerings. Initial plans were made to purchase an alpine slide, though they did not proceed. A cross country ski operation was developed, however, featuring a five mile network of trails based out of the basement of the Dutch Treat lodge. Noted ski writer John Hitchcock managed the operation, which opened in November 1976. The downhill ski season was not as strong, as poor snowpack prevented the lifts from opening until January 8. Following the season, longtime ski school director Michael Catrambone retired.
Following the Sunday vs. Stratton decision, soaring ski liability insurance premiums threatened small areas like Dutch Mountain. Owner Felix Callari told the North Adams Transcript, "We're a family resort. We can't really boost our prices."
While there were still plans to expand the ski area with a new base lodge, chairlift, and even trails on the back side of the mountain, it was not to be. Instead, facilities, employees, and skiers continued to age out.
Founder Webster Ottman passed away on August 6, 1979 at the age of 76.
Decline and Closure
The rough winter of 1979-80 was particularly devastating for Dutch Hill, as opening day did not arrive until February 17. After only 11 days of skiing, the area closed for the winter, posting a loss of $41,000. As a result, ownership stopped planning for a chairlift and snowmaking and instead announced the 375-acre area was for sale and likely would not operate that winter. Manager Steve Whitham left Dutch for a similar position at nearby Prospect Mountain, an area he would later purchase.
In September 1981, Robert Bamman, a 60-year-old paper executive from Connecticut who also had a home in Stamford area, announced plans to purchase Dutch Mountain. One month later, he and his brother Harvey, a cement company founder in Florida, completed the acquisition. Overshadowed by nearby chairlift developments such as Berkshire East, Brodie, and Jiminy Peak, the Bammans decided to keep the area affordable, reverting back to the Dutch Hill name and abandoning plans for snowmaking and a chairlift. Henry Kennedy was hired as manager, while his 22-year-old son Michael served as assistant manager. The elder Kennedy was a World War II Marine Corps veteran who oversaw Navaho code talkers and later worked as a printer at Arnold Print Works in Adams. The younger Kennedy was an accomplished cross-country skier and marathon runner, having recently won the Ascent of Mt. Greylock race.
Michael Kennedy took over management of Dutch Hill for the 1982-83 season, announcing the opening of the Dutch Hill Inn bunk room across from the ski area and expanded cross country ski trails.
For the 1983-84 season, Kennedy oversaw a $20,000 trail widening program, focused on the expert Christiana and Windmill trails. The widening was supposed to allow the trails to hold snow better and to make more room for skiing. One of the trails was renamed to the Christiana-Everett trail in honor of the project's bulldozer operator, Everett Cole.
1983 trail widening
After three poor winters in a row, the Bammans closed Dutch Hill and placed it on the market for $350,000 following the 1984-85 season.
An idle Dutch Hill (January 1986)
Speaking to the Boston Globe following the closure, Michael Kennedy noted that Dutch Hill "never kept up with the times. People are lazy nowadays. The want to sit in a chairlift. They want a base lodge that has a band and a liquor license. The only thing Dutch Hill had to offer was skiing."
After closing, the lifts were removed and most of the structures burned by local firefighters. The area likely became part of the Green Mountain National Forest in 1999.
Dutch Hill, after being closed for 20 years (2005)
Many key figures associated with Dutch Hill passed away as the 2000s unfolded. Former owner Bob Bamman passed away on July 21, 2001 at the age of 80. Former manager Henry Kennedy passed away on February 11, 2003 at the age of 86. Longtime ski patroller Jim Hadley passed away on December 31, 2006 at the age of 90. Madelon Mulroney passed away on April 20, 2009 at the age of 97. Ski school director Mike Catrambone passed away on June 1, 2010 at the age of 85. Former owner Harvey Bamman passed away on August 14, 2013 at the age of 89. Former nordic center manager John Hitchcock passed away on March 8, 2019 at the age of 93.
Dutch Hill Backcountry Ski Area
Though Dutch Hill's lift served memories faded, the terrain was revitalized in the 2010s. In 2016, the Green Mountain National Forest approved a plan to clear backcountry ski slopes and trails at Dutch Hill. In February 2017, a chapter of the Catamount Trail Association, The Dutch Hill Alliance of Skiers and Hikers, Ltd. ("DHASH") was formed as a Vermont Non-Profit organization. The group began reclearing some of the former ski trails in the fall of 2017, resulting in the reopening of Dutch Hill as a backcountry ski area in the winter of 2017-18. Though there is no lift serve, people can now ski Dutch Hill for free whenever natural snow permits.
The Dutch Hill backcountry ski area (2017)
Click on lift name for information and photos
Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
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|"My father and I skied there in the 60's and 70's. Took my only lesson there! Still can taste Mrs. Ottman's hot chocolate!!"
|Bob Birkby, Feb. 21, 2023
|"I just found this page. I learned to ski at Dutch Hill in the mid-60s. The memories I have are so vivid it’s almost like the events occurred yesterday!"
|John Rossi III, Apr. 25, 2022
|"I began to ski at a very young age my parents were Martin & Geraldine Mullen our entire family spent the entire winters on this mountain along with all families from North Adams,it brings back so many happy memories,can remember skiing past Easter with so many photos from the Transcript,even remember seeing Doris Day in the Ladies room,her husband at the time parents lived in North Adams Melcher"
|Shannon kirby, Dec. 23, 2020
|"It's all good wow! I could here my uncle Mike yelling down up and down follow me great times the simple life been there done it! Good Luck"
|Andrew DiSanti, Dec. 4, 2016
|"Dutch Hill was home away from home for me during the winter months, I would get a pass for Christmas every year from my uncle Mike Catrambone, Mike was the ski school director for many years, growing up on Dutch Hill seemed to be a way of life , I skied there every day it was open and during school vacation, I must say there were many many amazing and expert skiers that learned and skied at Dutch , the challenges of skiing the windmill to te Christie or tucking the whole length of the Holiday ( real leg burner) I could go on and on , I think this is a really great thing to reopen the Mt. I had so many incredible memories there , I still can see all the brown bag lunches on the window sills I think ski lodge and people warming by the fireplace, great I messaged!!!!"
|Silvio DiSanti , Nov. 3, 2016
|"If you could ski the windmill and the Cristina
You could ski anywhere
A special place where we skied from thanksgiving to easter
On 5 to 6 ft of snow a true owner operator family feel
Great memories "
|Ken Kronberg, Oct. 28, 2016
|"Dutch hill was such a great place to ski, As kids,(1960's) we would ski there every weekend and on occasion, we would side step the Christi to pack it down and in return we'd get to ski the whole day for free. Great memories, the best of times."
|Steve Moulton, Oct. 27, 2016
|"I can remember skiing there back in the 50's. I use to ski with the Marra kids. Such happy memories.. too bad that it is gone "
|Faith Durant, Mar. 21, 2015
|"I grew up skiing there every weekend. I started in the mid 60's and the last time I went there was in the early 80's. That was the BEST family ski area during that time, hands down. The only trail I never took was the Windmill, but it was only because of my skill level. The area was like an extension of one's own family. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would end up living smack dab next to the old girl, abutting the area just off Rue Madelline. I still hike and hunt the area, and every time I go there is like old times.......GREAT old times!"
|Tom Decker, Jan. 16, 2015
|"I skied at Dutch hill as a kid and worked there in the early 70's. The owners were totally hands on with Terri my boss running the passes,tickets and the lodges and restaurants (snack bars). The people who got season tix were like family and the years of growth of their kids were measured by the trails they could conquer. The Windmill was a very serious straight drop, and a few of the serious downhillers were send advance scouts out to warn us : 'Terry Davignon is coming, stay on the right side, or 'Dave Casey is coming, stay on the left' It was like front row to a downhill competition, and within a minute you could look up and see em coming, and flash they were gone and down to the bottom. It was civilized and great skiers would ski there."
|Andy Lebowitz, Dec. 26, 2014
|"I first skied Dutch Hill about 1952, my senior year in High School in Putnam County, NY. The trip there tended to be quite cold in my 1951 Ford convertible. After being discharged from US Army in 1959 I skied there again. In the early 70's I took my 2 young sons there and they still have fond memories of skiing there, even in the fog of late spring."
|Oliver Plimpton, Aug. 23, 2014
|"This was our late season Mecca. We would ski our local rope tow hills til closed then go to DH. As a little kid the T bar was mostly an aerial ride til we finally fell off and had to ski the daunting Christiana trail down. Great place. Great memories."
|Jim Adams, Mar. 26, 2014
Dutch Hill Alliance of Skiers and Hikers - official site
Dutch Hill Ski Area - New England Lost Ski Areas Project