With backing from Williams College alumni and a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the group seeking to purchase Prospect Mountain Nordic Ski Center is nearing its goal.
David Newell, president of the nonprofit Prospect Mountain Association, said Friday that an early fall closing on the 144-acre property is anticipated. The volunteer effort, which had been discussed among local ski enthusiasts over the past few years, was announced publicly late last year.
Newell said graduates of Williams, which holds nordic team training sessions and races at Prospect Mountain, have promised “a significant contribution” toward the $900,000 sale price.
The VHCB in June approved a $285,000 grant, and skiers, coaches and others from around the region have pledged support, he said.
“Like anything, this has been an extremely long haul, but I think it will be worth it,” Newell said.
The next fundraising phase will be to open the drive to the general public, which will be launched with an informational session at the Prospect Lodge on Sept. 16 at 2 p.m.
The group recently completed the process to become a nonprofit organization capable of receiving tax-deductible donations. Newell said the PMA has a nine-member board of directors, including four representatives from the college alumni.
“We need to raise $265,000 from us,” Newell said. “We have some of it raised, but now we need more folks to pitch in and help with that.”
The overall amount sought, he said, will include both the purchase price and some additional funds for facility upgrades and sale closing costs.
A core group of residents began a few years ago to discuss the feasibility of purchasing the center from longtime owners Steve Whitham and Andrea Amodeo, who were considering selling the property after operating the center for 26 years. The owners have cooperated by allowing the association time to seek funding, and Whitham will stay on as manager after the PMA takes ownership.
Part of the VHCB grant agreement calls for the property to be preserved, and the Vermont Land Trust and its southwest regional director, Donald Campbell, have been involved in that effort.
Many with fond memories
In addition to Williams College, Mount Anthony Union High School and Mount Greylock Regional High School nordic teams have trained at the Woodford ski area, and numerous other teams from Vermont and elsewhere have participated in races or ski programs on the mountain. Because many have fond memories of Prospect, association members said, they’ve received enthusiastic responses when approaching current or former coaches, school team members and others.
They said hundreds of youth have participated over the years in ski programs like the Bill Koch League, including a few who went on to compete in the Olympics — David Jareckie and Andy Newell.
In announcing the VHCB grant in June, board Executive Director Gus Seelig called Prospect Mountain “a great community resource” that is important to the economic vitality of the Bennington area. The property also is surrounded by National Forest land and includes a mountaintop Seelig said ranked high among those in Vermont that should be protected.
In the future, the group hopes to consider snowmaking equipment for the center to allow earlier or later skiing and ensure good snow cover for major races, and it will explore ideas for off-season recreation on the mountain, such as hiking, bicycling or special events.
Prospect also has twice hosted national snowshoe racing events.
Prospect Mountain opened during the 1930s as a small downhill ski area, with a rope tow and later two T-bars.
For 26 years, it has been a cross-country facility, offering 17.8 miles of trails. The base lodge elevation near the parking area off Route 9 is at 2,150, while the peak is at 2,740 feet.