Vermont Public is independent, community-supported media, serving Vermont with trusted, relevant and essential information. We share stories that bring people together, from every corner of our region. New to Vermont Public? Start here.

© 2024 Vermont Public | 365 Troy Ave. Colchester, VT 05446

Public Files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact or call 802-655-9451.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

Skiers, Conservationists Celebrate Bolton Backcountry Purchase

VPR/John Dillon

Before there were ski areas, before snow cats groomed the slopes and high-speed lifts whisked you uphill, there were people who would climb miles to ski on some of Vermont’s most rugged terrain.

Clem Holden is 90 now, and still skis when he can. Back when he started in the 1930s, the skiing involved a lot of uphill motion.

“We used to start down on Route 2, and we’d ski up to Bolton lodge, and that’s about halfway, and then we’d keep going to Bryant’s camp, and that’s about eight miles from the main road down below,” he said.

In the 1970s, Holden become one of the original crew of backcountry enthusiasts – later known as “the old goats” – who maintained trails in the Bolton basin.

“We used to keep them open long before it was organized,” he recalled. “We’d go out every fall, and we’d clear the trails, and take down the windfalls.”

The backcountry trails that Holden skied for decades were threatened two years ago when the owner put the property up for sale. Holden and others rallied to save the land.

“The first meeting we had, I had an envelope with me and inside I had written a check bigger than I’d ever written before or since and as soon as they asked for donation, I said here you are! So we started it off,” he said.

Now, after a two year effort, state officials, back country skiers, and land conservationists are celebrating the purchase of 1,100 high elevation acres in Bolton. The land that hosts Nordic and backcountry ski trails is now part of the state forest system.

The Vermont Land Trust spearheaded a private fundraising campaign that came up with $1,050,000 in 15 months. That was matched by $800,000 from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.

On Thursday, the Land Trust transferred the deed for the 1,114 acres to the state. Before a celebration with champagne and cake, Gov. Peter Shumlin thanked everyone who made it possible.

“And I can assure you that our team and future governors is going to carry forth this ownership with the same dignity, vision, and commitment to quality of life that the citizens of this community envisioned when they launched this effort,” he said.

Forest and Parks Commissioner Michael Snyder said the high-elevation land will become part of the Mount Mansfield state forest. He said it’s a unique and valuable parcel because it provides habitat connectivity, recreation, and a rugged, beautiful landscape.

The land includes “a significant remoteness that people can experience here very close to a high population density. It’s very easy access to get to a place that’s remote, extreme terrain, fantastic views of Camel’s Hump. It’s really special, just for that alone,” Snyder said.

Snyder added that the Bolton parcel also is the largest state land conservation acquisition in over a decade. The state has signed a license with the Bolton Valley Resort to continue management of the Nordic and backcountry areas.

The property includes a long section of the Bolton to Trapp Family Lodge ski trail. That’s a high country route that is still Clem Holden’s favorite.

“I like the fact that you can get all the way up there and the rest is all downhill, or almost,” he said.  

John worked for VPR in 2001-2021 as reporter and News Director. Previously, John was a staff writer for the Sunday Times Argus and the Sunday Rutland Herald, responsible for breaking stories and in-depth features on local issues. He has also served as Communications Director for the Vermont Health Care Authority and Bureau Chief for UPI in Montpelier.
Latest Stories