Selectboard proposal to be voted on at special town meeting in October.
Friday, September 19, 2014, NewEnglandSkiIndustry.com
Fresh on the heels of the removal of Ascutney's triple chairlifts, the West Windsor Selectboard is recommending the purchase of the 469 acre ski area.
The financially troubled Ascutney Mountain ski area last operated amidst foreclosure proceedings during the 2009-10 season. Crotched Mountain purchased and removed the summit high speed quad in 2012, whilst Dan Purjes' MFW Associates assumed ownership at a November 2013 auction. While MFW had hoped to reopen the ski area, the $10 million estimated cost was deemed unviable. In May of 2014, the triple chairlifts were sold to Pats Peak and removed in subsequent months.
The proposal, which will be discussed at informational hearings on October 1 and October 13 at 6:30 and voted on at an October 14 special town meeting at 6:30, is for Trust for Public Lands to purchase an option on the land from MFW Associates. The town and the TPL would then attempt to raise $600,000 through donations, fundraisers, budget surpluses, and grants. TPL would not be involved in the acquisition of the remaining lift or buildings.
Should the land acquisition go through, MFW Associates has indicated it would sell the lodge and other structures to the town for $1 each. Selectboard inquiries about the remaining double chairlift suggest the lift could be made operational, and could also be replaced by a new lift pursuant to the land agreement if using the existing footprint.
The Selectboard is proposing the land be added to the existing 1,342 acre West Windsor Town Forest. Immediate plans would be to ensure continuity of the existing mountain bike trail network, while future plans could involve expanding the network, as well as providing limited lift served skiing and mountain biking via the remaining double chairlift.
The acquisition of the base lodge (and related water system) and Hotel Road are also considered necessary to protect the 273 taxpayers they serve. The Selectboard has also suggested revenue could be raised from the base lodge's cellphone tower.
If the land is not acquired, the Selectboard has suggested a large logging operation could take place on the slopes.
Special Town Meeting Article 1 requests the town raise $50,000 to be used along with $550,000 from other sources to purchase the 469 acres of land and convey an easement to the land trusts. Article 2 requests the town acquire the base lodge and other buildings for $1. Articles 3 and 4 request the town acquire the Summit Water Company and system for $1 each. Article 5 requests the town acquire Hotel Road for $1.