|Vertical Drop:||675 feet|
|Past Lifts:||2 T-Bars, surface lift|
|Left: Prospect Mountain (2006)|
|Recent NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com News:
Last updated: May 20, 2020
Located east of Bennington, Prospect Mountain has a long history of nordic and alpine skiing. With a base elevation of over 2,000 feet, the area often receives and retains natural snow whilst other areas are bare.|
Early Rope Tow Years
Circa 1935, Alexander B. R. Drysdale and his friends grew wary of the Mt. Anthony Country Club's ski slope conditions. Son of a Bennington store owner, Drysdale graduated from Yale in 1927 and was about to embark on a long political career. Drysdale owned a cabin off Route 9 in Woodford, which he called Hedge Hog Hovel, where he would invite friends and store employees. Around this time, he and his friends cleared some brush on a slope near the cabin for skiing.
Alex Drysdale's ski area circa March 1940
In late 1936, Drysdale announced he had leased land adjacent to his cabin on Prospect Mountain and would be opening two trails and a 'shanty' that winter. Finding the revenue from the hike-up operation did not cover the expenses, he looked into replicating the rope tow he had recent seen in Woodstock. His neighbor Newton Hager assembled a 1,000 foot rope tow using parts from a Dodge and Ford Model A. The rope tow likely went into operation for the 1937-38 or 1938-39 season, serving terrain to the north of the future Prospect Mountain ski area. Known as Hedge Hog Hovel and Alex Ski Tow, the area remained in operation through the 1941-42 season, after which it was shut down due to gas rationing and World War II. Drysdale later went on to be a State Representative and headed the state's attempt at making a bid for the 1976 Winter Olympics.
Meanwhile, after attending Middlebury College and attempting a ski operation near Brattleboro, William Mundell acquired land on Prospect Mountain circa 1938. A native of nearby Newfane, Mundell was a carpenter, mason, and future Vermont poet laureate. Spanning roughly the lower T-Bar portion of the future Prospect Mountain ski area, his Woodford Ski Area opened either for the 1938-39 or 1939-40 season. The area shut down after the 1940-41 season, as Mundell left to serve in the Marine Corps in World War II. He likely reopened the area for the 1945-46 season, perhaps operating it sporadically into the mid 1950s while focusing on a job with the state highway department.
After possibly sitting idle for the 1956-57 season, the Woodford Ski Area reopened for the 1957-58 season with plans for expansion. At this point, the ski area was located on a 170 acre tract of land with parking for 150 vehicles. Trails included the Lucky Dray slope, the intermediate Ridge Runner, and the Go Devil race trail. Japanese Olympic skier Toshiko Tsurumi served as ski school director. Future plans called for expanded base facilities and the installation of a Poma lift. Nevertheless, the area likely shut down again after the 1957-58 season due to lack of skiers and interference from highway construction. With only a rope tow serving the slopes, the Bennington Banner opined, "today's skiers look upon a rope tow as being about as antiquated as the horseless carriage."
In 1959, a group that included president Donald Cunningham, Francis Eddy, Charles Decker, and Toshiko (Tsurumi) Phipps acquired the ski area and made shares in the Woodford Ski Area Corp. available to the public for $50. The area reopened for the 1959-60 season with an expanded lodge. Though plans for a Poma lift were once again announced, the new owners faced foreclosure after they fell behind on mortgage payments to Mundell. The area likely did not operate during the 1960-61 season.
Meanwhile, Route 9 was continuing to be rebuilt by W. H. Morse Construction. Despite only having a sixth-grade education, founder William H. Morse became one of the most successful businessmen in Bennington history, founding the construction company, Morse Block Plant, and Bennington Iron Works, while also developing the town's industrial park and airport, both of which were named after him. In June 1961, Morse confirmed to the local press that he had purchased the defunct ski area and was using the parking lot to stage construction material for the highway.
Prospect Mountain during the 1961-62 season
Construction was soon in full swing at the ski area, as the advertised vertical drop was about to increase from 200 to 650 feet with the installation of a new T-Bar. The Doppelmayr lift was reportedly designed so that it could be converted to a chairlift at a later time. New trails (paying homage to local historical figures) plus a new beginner slope were developed, resulting in the area taking the new name of Prospect Mountain. Though the area debuted on December 21, trail construction continued into the winter.
Unlike the previous part-time enterprises, Prospect was a seven day a week operation. 10th Mountain Division James Wolfe was announced as manager, while Toshiko Phipps served as ski school director. J. Halsey Cushman likely became de facto manager that season.
Prospect Mountain was not the only ski area to debut in the region during the winter of 1961-62. Stratton Mountain garnered much attention with its multiple chairlifts and large vertical drop. Meanwhile, Mt. Snow had grown to become one of the world's largest ski facilities.
Investment continued for Prospect's sophomore season, as a second Doppelmayr T-Bar was installed to serve some of the easier terrain of the original ski area. An underpass was constructed to allow skiers to cross under the main T-Bar to access the west slope. The Col. Baum Trail was cut from the top of the new T-Bar, while the Col. Braymann Trail was cut from the top of the main T-Bar. Meanwhile, skating was offered on a pond at the base area with night lighting. Alan Dunklee took over as ski school director. Business boomed that winter, as the area drew crowds of 800 on some days. Though 1963-64 wasn't as strong financially, one weekend in January attracted a new record of 2,000 skiers.
The base area circa the mid 1960s
As was the case across New England, 1964-65 was a rough winter at Prospect. Bare ground finally gave way to snow in mid-January, resulting in a January 22 opening day.
After a few off seasons limited to maintenance, improvements resumed in 1966. The main lodge was likely expanded, while Erlon "Bucky" Broomhall, the new Mt. Anthony Union High School ski coach, led the installation of a new ski jump. The crew cut a cross-country ski trail the following year.
The snowy winter of 1966-67 was reportedly tied with 1962-63 as the best season to date in terms of business.
In the spring of 1973, Dr. Richard A. Sleeman and his Community Resources Center Group started a campaign to have the town of Bennington acquire Prospect Mountain. Sleeman claimed Morse was willing to sell the 150 acre property, and that the group wanted to see an indoor skating rink constructed there. The ski area proposal was tabled by the town a few months later, when the purchase price was set at $300,000.
Prospect Mountain in the late 1970s
The 1973-74 season hit Prospect Mountain hard, as the lack of natural snow limited operations to just 17 days.
Cross country ski offerings were improved for the 1976-77 season, when the 2.5 mile Woodford-Prospect was constructed to connect Prospect Mountain to the Woodford Sate Park.
Morse sold the ski area to Bennington attorney Joseph Parks in October of 1978. Night skiing and cross country skiing (the former Timberlane Trails touring center) operations were added for 1979-1980. Also during Parks' second season as owner, the main T-Bar was converted from gas to electric and the main lodge renovated.
The End of Alpine Skiing at Prospect
While the late 1970s investments were made in hopes of improving the alpine business, the early 1980s did not prove fruitful. By the mid 1980s, Parks was considering shutting down the alpine operations. While he was convinced not to do so by a friend, the lack of snowmaking and chairlifts ate away at the area's prospects.
Prospect Mountain in the late 1970s
Steve Whitham purchased Prospect in 1991 and chose to focus on cross country ski operations thereafter, resulting in the end of alpine skiing at the area.
Former owner Bill Mundell passed away in December 1997 at the age of 84. William Morse passed away in November 2000 at the age of 90.
Steve Whitham and Andrea Amodeo sold the 144 acre area to Prospect Mountain Association in September 2018 for $900,000. The non-profit group leveraged a variety of different funding sources, including grants and donations. Williams College alumni were a major factor in the purchase, as they wanted to keep their school's nordic race venue in operation. Whitham remained at the ski area as mountain manager.
The cross country ski area continues to be popular to this day, hosting regional races each winter. The cross country network is composed of over 30 kilometers of trails, including some that weave through the old alpine ski area. While the T-Bars remain standing, there are no plans to ever operate them again.
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
||Season Pass Price
|1965-66||$4.00||$50.00||12.5 days||December 23||April 3|
|1964-65||$4.00||$50.00||12.5 days||January 22|
|1963-64||$4.00||$50.00||12.5 days||December 21|
|1961-62||December 21||April 14|
||Season Pass Price
|"Back when I was a young boy my parents bought a small home (or camp as the locals say) in Woodford lakes, which is maybe a mile or so from Prospect.
I learned to ski at Bromley Mountain when I was 7 years old, but always considered Prospect our â€˜homeâ€™ mountain.
Being a Connecticut kid, we, (my cousin and I) would always count down the days until Christmas and February vacations so we could get back on the slopes at Prospect, spending countless hours on our favorite run General John Stark. I still remember vividly being able to see the traffic on Route 9 from the top of the mountain and wishing the day would never end.
Iâ€™m 54 now and have inherited my familyâ€™s home in Woodford, so I drive by Prospect frequently and remember all the great times we spent there and just think what I would do just to have one more run down the â€˜Generalâ€™
Iâ€™ve skied many places in Vermont and the east, but nothing will ever beat Prospect and the small mountain â€˜family feelâ€™ a lot of the mountains today lack.
|Kurt Osterberg, Nov. 27, 2021|
|"From the historical information above there is a gap in the ownership of Prospect Mt between 1941-1961. Sometime between 1950-1960 my grandfather's brother, John Rogers Freeman, purchased land on Woodford Mt that had a ski area, some primitive cabins with outdoor plumbing etc. John wanted to restore the place. I know this because my parents stayed at one of the cabins with John on one cold and snowy Vermont weekend. Perhaps deeds would reveal more detail. "|
|Laura Mills, Mar. 19, 2017|
|"I skied downhill at prospect many times during the 60's. My cousins all moved to Bennington so it was close. We loved the T-bar. "|
|Eileen Finn-LeMatty, Dec. 28, 2016|
|"Suki lived with my mom and her family. Do you know if he is still alive and if so how to contact him?"|
|Sonya Cogan , Jul. 23, 2016|
|"I literally 'grew up' on the slopes of Prospect Mountain. Started skiing there in the early 60'with my Dad when he was a member of the National Ski Patrol with the likes of Bob Martin, Dan Caditz and Don Jolivette. Victor Racicot and I would sweep the lodge and built the fire and helped his uncle, Dominic Carelli, with the snack bar just to get a free day ticket from Halsey Cushman at the ticket booth. I used to leave my skiis, poles and boots in the lodge furnace room and would hitch-hike up after school each day to get in the last few runs. I then would catch a ride back to town with Rubin Harrington or Tom Dockum who were lift operators. In the 1969 season I was even recruited to help give ski lessons to groups of kids that came 'up from the city', to stay at Ed Shea's Greenwood Lodge, by that years ski instructor, a young Japanese fellow named Suki Kotaki. In later years I found out Suki was initially involved with the early developemnt of K2 skis. I have often told people that if I were to ever hit the Mega-Lottery, I would most definitely consider purchasing the old area and re-opening it with chairlifts, snowmaking and night skiing. What great memories I have of that place. It's so sad to see it go the way so many of my childhood ski areas went like Dutch Hill, Hog Back, Sun Valley, Petersburg Pass, Rock Candy Mountain and Brodie Mountain. I have been back to Vermont many, many times over the years to ski and went back in the winter of 2013 and skiid Sugarbush and will hopefully return to ski Jay Peak this year. At 63, my skiing days are 'somewhat' numbered, but it did not stop me from buying all new equipment for this coming season!! Here's to all who learned to ski at this wonderful old hill and maybe, just maybe, before it's all over, I will win the 'big one' and reignite my childhood dream of owning my own ski area and reopening that grand old mountain. Gary Allen Mocksville, NC"|
|Gary Allen, Oct. 9, 2014|
|"Joe Parks did Bennington kids a great service in the 1980's with Prospect downhill. I skied there almost every winter weekend with Robert Plunkett and Matt Hier. Most of the time the T-bar worked, but if it didn't Joe would climb the ladder to the engine house, clang around up there for a while, and soon enough a puff of smoke would rise up and it would roar back to life. Some of the woods trails and citizen-skier-made jumps were second to none. -Dan Cunningham"|
|Dan Cunningham, Apr. 27, 2014|
Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center
Prospect Mountain - New England Lost Ski Areas Project