It’s been over 30 years since the bull wheels turned at Dutch Hill, near the tiny town of Heartwellville (pop. 113) in southern Vermont. But pretty soon, skiers may be (legally) carving lines through the overgrown trees and maintaining glades on the 570 ft vertical drop.
On Oct. 27, the U.S. Forest Service approved 83 acres around the area to be maintained for “year-round recreation.” In other words, the area which is now part of the Green Mountain National Forest, could be open to backcountry skiers.
According to the final decision document, recreation an “open area will be predominantly located around the old trails named Dutch Meadow, Meadow Extension, Connector, and Yankee Doodle, and the upper part of Dyke; these trail areas will be widened.”
“The opening will allow for tubing, sledding and skiing on the lower portion of Dutch Hill, and backcountry/cross country skiing, snowshoeing and hiking on the old ski trails.”
The document also states that maintenance of backcountry ski lines may be conducted by volunteers or an interested partner group or volunteers.
According to the New England Lost Ski Areas Project, Dutch Hill first opened in the 1944-1945 season. Its steep terrain earned it the name “Little Stowe” and by the 1960s, real estate developers had their eyes on it.
A cross-country trail network was built across the street, trail expanded and lifts upgraded but not at the pace of the surrounding ski areas and snowmaking was not part of the plan. In 1985 the area closed and the buildings were burned down by firefighters.
Dutch Hill has joined over 100 “lost” ski areas in Vermont that gradually closed due to lack of funds, snow or community support. In recent years, groups of local skiers have banded together to repurpose older ski areas or operate them again. The community around Mount Ascutney succeeded last year in adding the former Ascutney ski area to the town forest. A ropetow on the lower mountain was installed last winter and skiers and riders can still hike or skin for turns higher up. Last month Mount Ascutney Outdoors, the non-profit that manages the property, requested permission to install lights along its rope tow to provide night skiing three nights per week.
Magic Mountain, in Londonderry, Vt., after being plagued by financial woes and a six-year closure during the 1990’s, hopes to enter a new chapter with new ownership.
In nearby Marlboro, volunteers have implemented a ten-year plan to rejuvinate five major trails on abandoned Hogback Mountain. In addition to restoring habitat for wildlife, the trimmings also create terrain for hikers, snowshoers and backcountry skiers.