By Curt Peterson
West Windsor’s Ascutney Outdoors, which has been providing access to groomed slope and back-country skiing via rope tow, will be sporting a modern T-bar lift starting with the first skiable snow next winter.
“The slope is so popular we ran out of lift capacity,” said Ascutney Outdoors board member Glenn Seward. “With the T-Bar, two skiers can go up at the same time.”
The lift was purchased for $85,000 and came from Le Relais Ski Area near Quebec City. A deal was struck, and Seward headed to Canada last October to dismantle Le Relais’s hand-me-down.
Installation requires blasting for the lift’s towers. Concrete pads will be poured, towers set, and the cable to which the T-Bars will attach will be installed.
Off-season mountain bikers use lifts to access higher trails, and Seward hopes that might be possible here too. That will be up to the Vermont Tramway Board, which oversees and inspects ski lifts.
Seward didn’t reveal the price for the lift but called it “a very attractive deal.”
The most expensive part was getting the lift across the international border,” Seward said. “And the import duty was high.”
Canadian Immigration Officers stopped him in his truck with the tools for disassembling the Le Relais T-bar. Canadians are sensitive about incomers taking jobs and require a “work permit.” Seward was detained for three hours and grilled by Customs officers while his truck was emptied and inspected.
“I explained I was a volunteer board member, that I was not being paid, and not, therefore, taking a job a Canadian citizen might have been paid to do,” Seward said. “They finally checked our website, decided I was telling the truth and let me go on.”
Seward said the dismantled lift system filled five or six trucks. U.S. Customs officials required they all cross the border together within a specified time, which was not as simple as it sounds.
Mt. Ascutney is 3,500 feet high. The T-bar will give riders access the lower 1,700 feet. Steve Batson, an Ascutney Outdoors volunteer said the Upper Valley Land Trust helped finance the land purchase in exchange for a conservation easement for the upper ridge.
“There are very few undeveloped peaks with Ascutney’s elevation left in Vermont,” Batson said, “and this was a way to preserve it.”
Seward said Asuctney Outdoors can maintain the existing ski trails above the T-bar, but access will require back-country skiing.
“It’s very popular,” Seward said. “When I arrive at 6:30 in the morning, there may be as many as 50 cars in the parking lot – mostly skiers who were walking up the entire mountain to ski down.”
Rope tow use has been free, or “by donation,” Seward said Ascutney Outdoors has not set a ski pass price for the new T-Bar, but he thinks it will be about $10-$15 per day.
Ascutney will probably never make their own snow, as it is very expensive, and Mill Brook could not supply enough water, according to Seward.