Last updated: April 12, 2020
Located off of Vermont Route 9 on the eastern face of Mt. Olga, Hogback was once a popular regional ski area. After over two decades of closure, Hogback has seen a new life as a backcountry ski area.|
The groundwork for the Hogback development dates back to the 1920s, when Harold White became interested in area southwest of Hogback Mountain in West Marlboro.
The early years of Hogback Mountain
Circa 1930, the Vermont Division of Forestry reportedly constructed a fire tower on the southwest peak of Hogback Mountain, which was dubbed Mt. Olga after a property owner, Olga Haslund.
Plans for a hard surfaced road from Brattleboro to Bennington emerged in the 1930s, roughly following the route Revolutionary War hero John Stark used to transport a captured cannon. Named after Stark's wife, the million dollar Molly Stark Highway was dedicated by Governor Charles Smith on September 7, 1936, with former Governor Stanley Wilson serving as the day's main speaker.
The focal point of the highway was its highpoint, dubbed the Skyline. Two days prior to the highway's dedication, the Marlboro Tavern debuted there, offering rooms and three meals per day. The development eventually grew to include the Skyline Restaurant, Hogback Mountain Gift Shop, and Marlboro Inn, which remained under the ownership and management of Harold White's children for many decades.
Plans for skiing facilities on Mt. Olga emerged during the winter of 1937-38. Open slopes, trails, and a tow were reported as having been developed on Mt. Olga for the 1939-40 season. It is possible that this development was later incorporated into Hogback ski area.
Following World War II, a new ski project was planned on Mt. Olga for the 1946-47 season. A $50,000 T-Bar development was opened by the Hogback Mountain Company, Inc. (or Hogback Mountain Ski Lift, Inc.) on leased from Harold White, dropping from near the top of Mt. Olga to a bowl below Route 9. Brattleboro Outing Club members John Dunham, Floyd Messenger, and Les Billings served as the company's President, Treasurer, and General Manager. In the days prior to snowmaking, the advertised 1,900 foot base elevation was deemed particularly attractive to skiers. Bus service was provided from Brattleboro. The lift likely opened in January of 1947 and was soon advertised as the highest capacity T-Bar in the East.
The Sugar T-Bar circa the 1950s
For Hogback's second season, the rope tow serviced Practice Slope was added on the Route 9 side of the area. In addition, the intermediate Ripperoo trail was cut adjacent to the T-Bar.
The rope tow was extended for the third season, while the Sugar Slope was added. Though there had been talk of expanding onto the South Face, the project never came to fruition. The 1948-49 season ended up being a struggle, as the lack of natural snow postponed lift operations until the end of January.
After half a decade of operation, the ski area reportedly turned its first annual profit with the 1951-52 season. Around this time, a late-season costume party became an annual tradition.
Expansion on the Route 9 Side
The 1954-55 season was Hogback's most successful to date, as the rope tow started operating in late November. Meanwhile, a new ski area opened nearby at Mt. Snow.
The Whiteway Pomalift
Following the season, Hogback acquired land to the northwest of the existing ski area for an expansion. Workers were hampered by rain as they rushed to cut Great White Way and Molly Stark, resulting in rough skiing until they could finish excavation during the following off-season. The diesel-powered Whiteway Pomalift didn't arrive until later in the fall, which, coupled with poor snowfall, resulted in the lift not opening until early February. Nevertheless, the new trails and lift gave Hogback additional visibility from Route 9 and increased its vertical drop by 50 feet. Even with the late start, the 1955-56 season was one of Hogback's best, as the area operated for 74 days. A thousand skiers would hit the slopes on a good day.
Another attraction was added in 1957, when White acquired taxidermist Luman Nelson's bird museum. The collection became the core of the Nelson Museum of New England Wildlife, which reportedly featured 500 bird and animal specimens. The museum was reportedly the third largest of its type in the country.
The adjacent Molly Stark State Park was developed starting in 1959, when Governor Robert Stafford approved $146,200 for the construction of an access road for a campground development.
The Roaring Sixties
After years of having skiers cross the highway to get food, work commenced on a new lodge in 1960. Named the Alpenglo Lodge, the new structure was completed for the 1961-62 season. Located at the base of the Practice Slope, the facility had a cafeteria, restrooms, and a large fireplace.
Looking down the Practice Slope circa the 1960s
1961 also marked the release of "Instant Skiing on Short, Short Skis" by Hogback ski instructor and 10th Mountain Division veteran Clifton Taylor. Featuring a foreword by Lowell Thomas, the book helped to create national exposure for the innovative skis and instruction developed at Hogback. The concept became known as the Graduated Length Method and led to Clif Taylor being elected to the Ski Hall of Fame.
After experiencing mechanical issues during the 1961-62 season, the original T-Bar was improved for the 1962-63 season, as the 75 HP diesel motor was replaced with a new 100 HP unit.
The practice slope tow was rebuilt with a new diesel engine and rope for the 1963-64 season. The Alpenglo Lodge was also expanded, as it was advertised as "a sensational hit with skiers" including "snow bunnies, novices, and racers alike." A skating rink was constructed adjacent to the lodge.
Hogback's next significant expansion took place for 1964-65, when two electric T-Bars were installed. A twin T-Bar was added to the original part of the ski area, taking some stress off the aging Constam T-Bar. The Alpenglo T-Bar was constructed between the original ski area and the Poma lift served complex, replacing the recently rebuilt rope tow (which in turn replaced the rope tow near the Pomalift) near the newly renovated Skyline Restaurant. A new intermediate trail named Olga was cleared beyond Molly Stark. For the sixth time in the past ten seasons, Hogback turned a profit. A survey of ski areas through 1965 indicated that Hogback had a higher profit margin than Killington, Stowe, Stratton, and Sugarbush during this multi-year period.
Luman Nelson passed away in November 1966 at the age of 92.
Further lift maintenance took place for the 1967-68 season, as some of the original wooden T-Bar towers were replaced and the Pomalift upgraded. As a sign of the times, a Hogback newsletter noted, "It makes us feel kind of old when we look around us and see what's happening on the ski scene." Skiers were happy to see the same staff year after year, including manager Holland Douglas and ski school director Jim Howard.
The Whiteway Poma was replaced with a new T-Bar for the 1969-70 season, further increasing uphill capacity on that side of the mountain. Fully built out, Hogback sported 50 acres of skiable terrain.
On the evening of December 29, 1970, the base terminal of the original Sugar T-Bar caught fire, resulting in a total loss. Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from engulfing the nearby Meadow T-Bar. Though the electric distribution lines were also damaged, the Meadow T-Bar was back in operation later in the week, restoring access to the main mountain.
The charred Sugar T-Bar base terminal was replaced with a new Doppelmayr drive for the 1971-72 season. With large areas such as Mount Snow and Stratton rapidly growing, Hogback attempted to differentiate itself by using the slogan the "biggest little area in New England."
Hogback reportedly came under new ownership and management for the 1976-77 season.
Looking down the Practice Slope in 2006
In the fall of 1978, Hogback was sold to Texas attorney Thomas Barlow. Arnold White remained on board as General Manager. Plans were announced to install a large snowmaking system for the following season, however the project did not come to fruition.
Rising expenses and a lack of snow resulted in limited operations during the early 1980s. The 1985-86 season reportedly generated less than $100,000 in revenue, while its insurance company wanted more than $100,000 just for liability insurance. As a result, Hogback decided not to open for the 1986-87 season and instead closed for good. Hogback Ski Area, Inc. was formally dissolved in 1992.
In 1993, Dan Purjes reportedly purchased Hogback for $1.8 million.
In the late 1990s, the then-owners of Ascutney attempted to form a corporation that would have reopened Hogback, however the planned IPO was unsuccessful.
Hogback Mountain Conservation Area
In 2006, the Hogback Mountain Conservation Association was formed by local citizens with the intention of saving the land from development. After a multi-year fundraising effort, much of the land was handed over to the Vermont Land Trust, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, and the Town of Marlboro in 2010. Some trails are now maintained for hiking and backcountry skiing, as well as access to the nearby Mt. Olga fire tower in Molly Stark State Park. The Hogback Mountain Gift Shop remains open, while the Marlboro Inn is now home to the Luman Nelson collection at the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum.
The Whiteway T-Bar (2013)
Click on lift name for information and photos
Year by Year History
Adult Weekend Full Day Lift Ticket; Adult Full Price Unlimited Season Pass
||Season Pass Price
||Season Pass Price
|1977-78||$7.50||$100.00||13.3 days||December 10|
|1971-72||$6.00||$75.00||12.5 days||December 4|
|1970-71||$6.00||$75.00||12.5 days||December 17|
||Season Pass Price
|1968-69||$5.00||$65.00||13.0 days||November 10||April 9|
|1966-67||$5.00||$60.00||12.0 days||April 2|
|1964-65||$4.00||$40.00||10.0 days||April 11|
|1961-62||$4.00||December 22||April 8|
|1960-61||$4.00||December 17||April 2|
||Season Pass Price
|1957-58||January 9||April 20|
|1955-56||$3.50||January 5||April 15||11,646|
|1954-55||November 28||April 10|
||Season Pass Price
|"Unfortunately I never had the chance to ski here when it was operational, and only discovered this area by accident on a trip down Rt 9 back in 1999 or 2000 which is probably how I discovered NELSAP too! Finally had the chance to explore it on Tuesday 5/26/20. Pretty much was able to hike and explore most of the area in about an hour. What a time capsule! Beautiful area and its a shame it closed because I can tell it had some very fun skiable terrain. Trails still seem pretty clear for XC and backcountry skiing. I'll have to give backcountry a try at this area next season. "|
|Geoff Prusak, May. 28, 2020|
|"Racing SL in the Buuddy Warner League on Olga...1984, i still have my medals! I did tuck the Sugar, and i did get stuck in "the hole" after last run, as my sister Noelle mentioned. Some of the best memories of my life are on those 12 trails. Thank you Arnold White, and Mom and dad Jim and Paulette Hart. "|
|Rich Hart, Apr. 12, 2020|
|"in my 20s i had one day of skiing with two friends. it was a frigid day i never forgot. at the end of the day 0 degree temp and 5 inches of fluffy snow to my shock i had a flat tire on my 1963 cadillac . hogback mountain if on my bucket list now just to walk the trail and see what i did 50 years ago. my two friends now dead. bob walton and steve irving/ "|
|donald thiederman, Nov. 20, 2019|
|"I learned many life lessons at Hogback. I worked there many years in the gift shop and the ski shop. Summers I’d ride my horse up the ski trails. Was the best place to grow up. Sure miss it there. "|
|Christina Havreluk Worker, Apr. 29, 2018|
|"I loved skiing at Hogback as a kid!! West Halifax used to have a ski day every week at the mountain. Living on Shearer Hill Rd, my parents would drop us off on Grant Rd and we'd have to ski in thru the woods. I remember some amazing skiing on Razorback after a big snow storm! Great memories on that mountain! "|
|Bill Pusey, Oct. 4, 2016|
|"We skied at Hogback a few times in the mid-late 60s. Most of our Vermont skiing was a Maple Valley, Haystack, Mt. Snow and Okemo. Hogback was a good beginner area. I remember taking my cousins there when they were just learning. It was a novelty to have the base at the summit. I think the last time I skied there was 1969 with a high school ski club outing. Good little area! "|
|Doug Finck, Oct. 2, 2016|
|"I grew up skiing and working at Hogback. I worked in the ski shop and the gift shop. My mom was the bookkeeper for Arnold. Was a great place! "|
|Lori Havreluk Longo, Oct. 2, 2016|
|"Skiied Hogback as a child! Loved every minute! From buddy warner, to cutting way out and having lunch off Meadow run, my brother missing last T out of "the hole" having to hike out! Such great childhood memories. Went back around 1994. Some dam kids had been partying and throwing T-bars thru some of the old posters and decore, shame. So glad to hear it is getting the respect it deserves! It is hard for many kids to say we skied down hill and up!"|
|noelle hart, wainright , Oct. 2, 2016|
|"I skied at Hogback in the late 50's the 60's. Took the BOC Bus on Saturday from the Paramount Theater. I was also on ski patrol at Hogback in the 60's. Lots of great memories."|
|Terry Amidon, Jan. 26, 2016|
|"I skied there a few memorable times my Mom and Dad were great friends with the Whites. I love small ski areas and wish they could continue."|
|Jan Sherman , Jan. 25, 2016|
|"I skied Hogback all through the 1950's and into the 1960's. Every Saturday and sometimes Sunday's there was a Brattleboro Outing Club free bus that took all of us kids up the mountain for a day of "free" skiing. We had to pack the slopes when we got there if there had been snow, but oh the fun! The Rip and the Sugar were favorite trails, but they were all fun with friends and even girl friends later on. At the end of the day we climbed the slopes and came down on 'jackjumpers' with the crews. Best skiing of my life!"|
|Dave Hopkins, Mar. 2, 2014|
|"I skied at Hogback from '72 until '80 (I was age 8-16). It was a wonderful place for my family to go to and we would visit it 3-4 times a year from Philadelphia. Thurs/Fri and Mondays, we would ski Mt. Snow or Stratton, but on the weekends it was Hogback. In the picture looking down the practice slope, you can see a small reddish cabin in the right center of the photo. That is where our family used to stay as we were friends with the family that rented it for years. Such very fond memories of skiing there. Favorite trail without a doubt-- Ripperoo!"|
|Glenn Barrie, Feb. 21, 2014|
Hogback Mountain - New England Lost Ski Areas Project
Hogback Mountain Conservation Association
Mt. Olga - FranklinSites.com Hiking Guide