By Katy Savage
WEST WINDSOR—About 300 people attended the opening celebration of the long-awaited Ascutney Outdoors Center on Sunday, Sept. 23.
The 3,000 square foot building was designed and built by a number of volunteer community carpenters over the past 20 months at the site of the former base lodge, which burned in 2015. The new building will house a seasonal bike shop on the ground floor while the main level of the building will be open for events year-round.
Hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders, yogis and community members gathered at the site of the former ski mountain for a celebration on Sunday with two live bands, food and a series of group rides on the 30 miles of trail network, which is open all year.
“There were more cars than I’ve seen in that parking lot since the 1990s,” said Ascutney Outdoors board member Rob Calhoun. “It could not have been a better day.”
Some view Ascutney Outdoors as the town’s rebirth since Mount Ascutney ski resort closed due to bankruptcy in 2010, leaving behind a number of economic challenges.
After a number of legal challenges, the town purchased the 468 acre mountain in 2015 and established the nonprofit Ascutney Outdoors organization. About 500 people donated $1.1 million to the cost of constructing the building and expanding recreational opportunities.
A rope ski tow was placed on the mountain in 2016, giving access to about 15 ski trails and adding to hiking, equestrian and mountain biking trails. This winter, a tubing lift and 1,800 foot T-bar are being installed, giving access to the lower ski trails.
“This is our five-year plan we managed to do in two,” said Ascutney Outdoors board member Steve Crihfield. “It felt like a revival of the town.”
Ascutney Outdoors hosts events nearly every weekend. A children’s bike ride and trail run are being held at the mountain Sept. 29, the day before about 1,000 people will be on the mountain for the Vermont 50, a 50-mile race for ultra runners or bike riders.
The establishment of Ascutney Outdoors has been a community effort with skilled residents donating their time. Trail builder Jim Lyall has championed the building efforts since the start. He’s currently working on building a new 20-mile trail that circles the perimter of the mountain.
There are also efforts to expand mountain biking trails to the state park.
“It’s an absolute relief,” said Calhoun. He was excited to see the project finally complete.
“Now, the fun begins,”he said. “Now we can use it.”
Featured photo Submitted
Glenn Seward cut the ribbon of the Ascutney Outdoors Center for a celebration on Sept. 23.