Hogback Throwback: Conservation and Skiing at an Abandoned Vermont Mountain

Since 1986, Hogback Ski Area’s abandoned southern-Vermont slopes have become overgrown, making skiing unpleasant, if not impossible. Now an organization is maintaining the area with a dual purpose: habitat conservation and skiability.

Hogback Ski Area, located in southern Vermont’s Green Mountains near the town of Marlboro, began operation in 1946 and closed its slopes in 1986. Its 590 acres overlooking 100-mile views were set aside for conservation, and, without interruption, nature took its course—glades filled in with thick bushes and brambles, and birds and mammals replaced skiers.

old map_article

A Hogback Ski Area map from the 1970s.

When the land went up for sale in 2005, a group of citizens with the vision to remove habitat-damaging overgrowth and open the area to backcountry skiing united, calling themselves the Hogback Mountain Conservation Association (HMCA). They purchased the land in 2006 to “quickly snap up the property and get it off the market,” says HMCA President-elect Diana Todd. It took a few years to repay their investors, and in 2010 the HMCA donated the land to the town of Marlboro.

Circa 1950s map of  the Hogback Ski Area.

A map of the Hogback Ski Area dated from the 1940s or ’50s.

After getting approval from the town’s management committee and board in 2013, HMCA’s habitat rejuvenation plan got off the ground. Nearly 40 volunteers cleared encroaching patches of thick forest to help rebuild declining small to medium growth, otherwise known as early successional habitat (ESH). The conditions HMCA volunteers create provide a renewed habitat for birds, salamanders, butterflies and bears thrive in, and it’s great for low-impact recreation like backcountry skiing.

By 2014, 50 volunteers were working on the mountain. With the ongoing clearing of slopes, some terrain has become skiable and nearly cleared vistas offer views that extend for miles.

“Every time I go up in the winter, I see tracks of skiers and boarders,” Todd continues. “Last year, I met a boarder who drives up from Connecticut whenever there’s good snow just to get in an afternoon of a few do-it-yourself runs on Hogback.”

Vermont Backcountry Alliance Chief Operating Officer (Ski-EO) Brian Mohr believes HMCA’s progress at Hogback is a “good example of a locally-supported project being developed in collaboration with backcountry-oriented skiers and riders.”

Over the next decade, the association plans to bring ESH back on Hogback’s five main runs: Meadow, Ripperoo, Sugar Slope, Practice Slope and Great White Way. To date, they’ve cleared forest growth from Meadow and plan to continue until all the slopes have a variety of growths and attract many species of wildlife. And skiers looking to earn turns, too.

To learn more about the program or to volunteer visit hogbackvt.org.

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Comments

  1. I loved when my mother would drive us up to ski at Hogback. I have some fantastic memories of the place. It was very sad to see it go away the way it did. I’m very happy to see the opportunity to relive some childhood memories is coming back . Thank you!

  2. One of the true gems. There is another all but forgotten area on the opposing mountain Dutch Hill Ski Area. Closed for many year from Hog Back north on 9 turn left onto 8 over the mountain turn left on 8 about 2 miles down the road has a wide pull off on the left the wide pull off was once the parking lot. Check web for detailed maps. Like to get out and hike a little on trails the old guy in me I guess. Changing weather patterns did a lot of them in. That whole snow belt we would easily have 6 to 9 feet which by eastern stander was good. Get in about 120 days of skiing for a season ticket costing $40.00

  3. Shirley Blowers says:

    My family and I went up every weekend in the early seventies.We rented in Marlboro and had a season pass. There were 5 of us and we couldn’t wait to ski and be the first ones on fresh snow . Hogback was a family mountain we really enjoyed.Now my children are grown but never forgot our wonderful family times @ hogback.We still talk about it when we remanice.So glad to see your doing something with that wonderful ski slope.

  4. Didn’t I just say in the survey you need to have more stories like this. Nice! Don’t know how I missed it. But it would be nice to see more detail and/or some related stories. It would be really cool if this became move of a movement or trend. Thanks for sharing this story.

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