At Small Vermont Ski Hills, Less is More
February 14, 2021
In the early days of New England skiing, winter enthusiasts flocked to small Vermont ski hills like Northeast Slopes in East Corinth, Gilbert’s Hill in Woodstock (home of the first rope tow in the United States), and Prospect Mountain in Woodford.
Vermont skiing has come a long way since its debut in the 1930s. Today, the Green Mountains are home to some of the best downhill skiing in the country. While resorts such as Stowe, Killington, and Sugarbush draw visitors from near and far, small Vermont ski hills, including Hard’Ack Recreation Area, are holding their own and seem more appreciated than ever.
Skiing and Sledding at Hard’Ack
-Kids from Swanton Elementary School go sledding at Hard’Ack in St. Albans. Top photo: Skiing in February at Northeast Slopes.
Located in St. Albans, Hard’Ack Recreation Area started as a traditional ski hill in the 1960s and eventually closed in the 1990s. The city of St. Albans now owns and operates the 95-acre nonprofit ski hill, which offers skiing, snowboarding, sledding, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing—free of charge—in the winter. Equipment, such as snowshoes and sleds, are also available to use at no cost (donations are welcome).
“Hard’Ack is the same as when I was a kid,” says Hard’Ack Recreation Director Kelly Viens, who grew up in St. Albans, which is located about 15 miles from the Canadian border. “The rope tow even still sounds the same as it did back then. When I was a kid, coming to Hard’Ack was what you did in the winter. If you weren’t a hockey family, you were skiing or snowboarding at Hard’Ack.”
-Grooming trails at Hard’Ack/photo courtesy of Hard’Ack.
Visitors to Hard’Ack will notice some upgrades, including a new lodge (mostly closed because of COVID restrictions) and a sunny outdoor patio with Adirondack chairs and a fire pit.
Named after a tree species, Hard’Ack features a nearly 700-foot rope tow, a snack bar, and indoor bathrooms.
It’s worth noting that at the top of the hill in the woods is the Wolf Monument. The stone monument marks the spot where a six-foot grey wolf, which had been terrorizing the community, was shot and killed by Lawrence Brainerd in 1839.
Still, what attracts people to Hard’Ack aren’t stories from the 19th century, but rather its friendly vibe and easy access to the outdoors, especially in the era of COVID.
“COVID is going to go away,” Viens says. “And when the world is right-side-up, I hope people who found us during this time will still realize that this place is awesome.”
Hard’Ack is located at 179 Congress Street in St. Albans. Follow Hard’Ack on Facebook for the latest updates, snow conditions, and hours of operation.
More Small Vermont Ski Hills to Visit this Winter
449 Ski Tow Road
Cochran’s Ski Area
910 Cochran Road
Lyndon Outing Club
1580 Lily Pond Road
10397 VT Route 25
East Corinth, VT
10 Playground Road
Bellows Falls, VT
-Learning to ski at Cochran’s in Richmond.