SAVVY BACKCOUNTRY SKIERS HAVE PLUNDERED THE WILDERNESS AROUND Vermont's Bolton Valley Ski Resort for years, reaping the area's bountiful snowfall (in excess of 300 inches annually) on copious glade runs like Cotton Brook and Paradise Pass. Problem is, savvy backcountry skiers don't buy many lift tickets.
"I've been skiing up there for years and I've never ridden a lift," says Tyler Merritt, a hard-charging local and Black Diamond Equipment sales representative. "All the really good terrain is way beyond the reach of the lifts."
That's created something of a quandary for Bolton-which has also suffered from a revolving door of ownership and management techniques in the past 10 years.
But that may change come this winter.
Bolton hopes to coax skiers like Merritt to its ticket window with the opening of Vista Bowl, which will bring 20 acres of wooded terrain into the mountain's inbounds fold. "Our goal is to bridge the gap between our mainstream family visitors-and those that come here to seek out more challenging terrain under their own steam," explains resort president Bob Fries. "We want to send a statement that Bolton is back on track and a real option for serious skiers and riders."
The expansion is being made possible by a $650,000 community development grant that will also allow the resort to install a top-to-bottom quad (currently, skiers must ride two lifts to access Bolton's 3,130-foot peak), improve its terrain park, and increase snowmaking and night skiing. Longer-term plans include the installation of a yurt system in the forest surrounding the resort and a push for real estate development, the first in nearly two decades.
"Bolton's bad rap is based on the past 10 years," says Fries, who's had his hands on the controls for the past three seasons. "We're pretty sure it won't take that long to turn it around."