Bolton’s Big Deal | The Heat Is On To Save Bolton’s Backcountry

Photo by Tristan Von Duntz.

Like many other outdoor enthusiasts, my heart sank when I heard the news: the 1,161-acre tract of land known among Vermont’s hikers, runners, skiers, and snowshoers as the Bolton Valley nordic and backcountry area was for sale. On a February morning in 2011, you could virtually hear the collective gasp as news spread of the impending purchase by an out-of-state buyer. Facebook and Twitter were abuzz. The objectives of the interested buyer were unknown, leaving many afraid the public would lose access to this special place.

The Bolton Valley nordic and backcountry land is a contiguous forest to the north and west of the ski resort’s lift-served terrain. Nestled between Camel’s Hump State Park and Mount Mansfield State Forest, this land is home to moose, bear, and myriad other wildlife and serves as important headwaters to the Joiner Brook watershed. The Bolton uplands have long been considered a top priority for conservation by the Chittenden Country Uplands Conservation Project.

Photo by Sarah Galbraith.

This land also gives access to some of the region’s best outdoor adventure. Half of Vermont’s population lives within 30 miles from it. The land contains the Bolton Valley Nordic Center (a network of roughly 100 kilometers of groomed and natural ski trails) plus serves as the jumping-off point for wilderness exploration in all seasons. Trails on this land connect users to the Catamount and Long Trail systems, and the famed Bolton-to-Trapps Trail travels across this property. While the Catamount Trail is protected by an easement, access and development of the remainder of the land would be subject to the new owner’s plans (and local and state regulations), a possibility that has left many hikers, runners, skiers, and snowshoers concerned.

With the help of a group of longtime Bolton backcountry enthusiasts, Friends of Bolton Nordic and Backcountry, and many donors, this gem is well on its way to being conserved. The Vermont Land Trust, a Montpelier-based land-conservation organization, is contracted to purchase this property from its owner, Burlington-based realtor and developer Redstone. Gil Livingston, President of VLT said, “It became obvious to us almost two years ago that the broad community of people who appreciate the natural beauty and ecological resources of the land were determined to see it permanently protected. Spurred on by their passion, the Vermont Land Trust was able to secure an agreement to buy the land. Together VLT and the Friends of Bolton Valley Nordic will create a lasting legacy for future generations.” Ultimately, the organization will transfer ownership to the State of Vermont to add this parcel to the Mount Mansfield State Forest, making it forever accessible to the public.

VLT has until March 31, 2013 to raise $1.85 million, the full cost of conserving this property. VLT has made significant headway by raising 75 percent of these funds to-date, including an $800,000 grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board and two anonymous donations of $100,000. One anonymous donation is a gift, and the other is a one-to-one matching challenge, meaning that every dollar raised this fall towards conserving this land will be matched by this donor, up to $100,000. According to Milena Zuccotti, membership and outreach manager for VLT, fulfilling the matching challenge would put VLT 85 percent of the way towards raising the funds needed to conserve this land.

But there is still work to be done. Despite the great success so far, there is a real need for individual donations and fundraising events throughout this fall and winter. Elise Annes, vice president for community relations at VLT said, “To protect this incredible resource, we need the help of those who love the property: those who ski and hike there, and those who appreciate the unique natural resources and beauty of the uplands region.” A priceless recreation spot and important natural resource now has a price tag, but that can be a good thing. As Ann Gotham, coordinator of FOBVNB puts it, “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to preserve this incredible land.”
For more information about the campaign to save the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry land, to make a gift, or to learn more about upcoming fundraising events, visit

Here are some fun ways to contribute to saving the Bolton Valley Nordic and Backcountry Land.

Green Drinks with Skinny Pancake
Tuesday, Oct. 30, 6-8 p.m.
Main Street Landing Atrium Room, Burlington
Skinny Pancake’s Green Drinks events are an informal opportunity for folks interested in the natural world to connect and learn more about local green initiatives. Drop by for complimentary snacks, a free Wolaver’s ale, and a chance to learn more about the campaign to save the Bolton backcountry.

Off-Piste in the Northeast: A Celebration of Skiing, Adventure by Ember Photography
Wednesday, Nov. 7, 7 p.m.
Main Street Landing Film House, Burlington
Join Ember Photography for a multimedia slideshow celebrating off-piste and backcountry skiing throughout the Northeast. A huge raffle will follow: grab your chance to win something special from Outdoor Gear Exchange, EMS, Skirack, Vermont Brownie, Darn Tough, Backcountry Magazine, and many others.

Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Presented by The Mountain Goat of Manchester and Patagonia
Thursday, Nov. 15, 7-9 p.m.
Burr & Burton Academy, Manchester
Tickets: $10 at the door, $8 if reserved ahead
Join us for an incredible evening of award-winning short films on a range of topics that explore the relationship between individuals and communities and the world around them. VLT members are invited to reserve in advance. 262-1241.

Showing of Powderwhores “Choose Your Adventure—A Ski Odyssey”
Thursday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.
Outdoor Gear Exchange, Burlington
Tickets: $10; $7 with student ID
See amazing telemark skiing from all over the world on the big screen.Cash bar by La Villa Bistro. Proceeds support the VLT’s effort to save the Bolton land.

Winter Wildlands Alliance’s Backcountry Film Festival Premier, Presented by Onion River Sports
Tuesday, Nov. 20, doors open at 6:30 p.m., film starts at 7 p.m.
Savoy Downstairs Theater, Montpelier
Cost: $15 (Raffle Tickets for sale at the door)
Join Onion River Sports for the Vermont Premiere of the Winter Wildlands Alliance’s Backcountry Film Festival to view compelling and entertaining films of non-motorized backcountry exploration. There will be snacks, a cash bar, and an awesome raffle. Space is limited. RSVP to or buy tickets at the door.

Superheroes of Stoke: 20 years of Extreme Skiing, Presented by Onion River Sports
Friday, Nov. 30; doors open at 7 p.m., film starts at 7:30 p.m.
VT College of Fine Arts Chapel, Montpelier
Tickets: $15
Join Onion River Sports for a screening of Matchstick Productions’ hip new film. Tracking 20 years of ski evolution, “Superheroes of Stoke” features incredible big mountain skiing from around the world. The evening will include a great raffle with prizes from ORS and Bolton Valley Ski Area, and a Three Penny Taproom Beer Garden for those over 21. Event proceeds will benefit the Bolton Backcountry campaign.

Bolton Nordic and Backcountry Holiday Party and Raffle Drawing, Onion River Sports
Friday, Dec. 7, 5-7 p.m.
Onion River Sports, Montpelier
Onion River Sports has donated a $1,000 in-store holiday shopping spree in support of the Bolton Backcountry campaign. Raffle tickets are being sold to win the spree. ORS will be hosting a rollicking in-store party on raffle-drawing day. Complimentary snacks and drinks will be served. Stop in for some good old-fashioned holiday cheer―you might just be a winner!

Sarah Galbraith

Sarah Galbraith of Plainfield skis, bikes, hikes, swims, and camps her way through Vermont’s mountains in all seasons. After an adventure, she can often be found with friends, beer, and food.