Alums purchase Prospect Mountain for nordic ski team

Alexander Christ

College alums’ assistance in the purchase of Prospect Mountain will allow the Nordic Ski team to continue practicing at their usual location, the highest public skiing location in Vermont.
Photo courtesy of The Berkshire Eagle.

College alums and the nonprofit Prospect Mountain Association (PMA) recently completed their purchase of Prospect Mountain in Woodford, Vt., 21 miles north of Williamstown. This purchase has ensured that the nordic ski team will continue to practice on the mountain.

Lewis Fisher, the associate vice president for development at the college, explained the benefits of skiing on the mountain. “It sits higher than any other ski area in the state of Vermont,” he said. “It’s in a bit of a snowbelt. It gets more natural snow than about
anywhere else.” 

Former nordic ski coach Bud Fisher, who was the assistant coach for the U.S. Cross Country team in the 1980 Olympics, scouted the location in the 1980s. Subsequent nordic ski teams including the College’s team have skied at Prospect Mountain Ski Center ever since. 

But when the mountain’s longtime owners Steve Whitham and Andrea Amodeo wanted to sell the property, the future of Prospect Mountain was unclear.   

A group of skiers formed the PMA with the goal of purchasing Prospect Mountain so that it would remain a ski area. The PMA contacted the College, knowing that their nordic ski team had skied at Prospect Mountain for decades. The group hoped to raise enough money to pay the $900,000 required to purchase the mountain, with both sides contributing $450,000.

Fisher said that the agreement will give the nordic ski team complete access to the facility. “In return, Williams will get guaranteed permanent access to the area for its ski teams. We also got the opportunity to build a waxing shed,” Fisher said. A shelter for the Williams Outing Club and snowmaking equipment are also possibilities. 

Four representatives of the College now sit on the PMA’s nine-member board: Director of Athletics Lisa Melendy, Head Coach of the nordic ski team Jason Lemieux, Budget Director for the College Todd Hoffman and L. Fisher.

Through fundraising, private donations and a grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the PMA exceeded their goal of $450,000. On the College’s end, around 30 alums have raised $227,000. 

According to Fisher, the College is confident that alums will raise the remaining $223,000. Despite not having all the funds, the group decided to buy Prospect Mountain on-loan from Whitham and Amodeo. “The purchase has already happened with the expectation that we will raise the money and pay the difference,” he said. 

With both sides committed to the agreement, the group is focusing on making improvements to the mountain. Lemieux, who became head coach of the nordic ski team in 2014, said he hopes to improve the quality of the course. “As things move forward, we will hope to move toward more consistently available high-quality training and racing trail conditions,” he said. “Weather patterns are challenging and with some improvements to the trails and possible implementation of snowmaking down the road we could greatly enhance the racing and training opportunities for student-athletes
at Williams.” 

Lemieux also noted that the purchase will give stability to the team. “The purchase of Prospect Mountain will help solidify access to a high-quality training venue,” he said. 

For some of the alums involved, donating was a way to show support for the nordic ski team. Dr. Joel Bradley ’06, a former cross country skier at the College, reflected on his experience. “My wife Elissa [’06] and I both skied there when we were students and cherished the experience that we had with our team,” he said. “We feel a kind of debt both to the sport and to the team itself, which we felt handled people in an inclusive way and happened to give us lasting friendships.” 

Fundraising for Prospect Mountain will continue until the total cost has been reached. Efforts were opened up to the public in September with an information session at the mountain.