Ascutney Trails Association was selected as the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce May 2023 Member of the Month to recognize their recent ranking as some of the Best Mountain Biking Trails in Vermont by Best Things Vermont!
The Ascutney Trails Association (ATA) is an energetic group of hikers, mountain bikers, back-country skiers and outdoor enthusiasts overseeing trails on Mount Ascutney and it’s surrounding areas. They do trail building, maintenance, maps, guidebook, events, group hikes and rides. ATA operates with 2 part time employees, a nine member board of directors and 300 members who join each year with about 50 lifetime members (employees, volunteers, locations, etc.) Their trails cover Weathersfield, Windsor, and West Windsor. The organization incorporates both the original ATA and Sports Trails of the Ascutney Basin (STAB) organizations.
The mission of ATA is to advocate for and maintain accessibility of low-impact trails and structures used for human powered recreational activities in the townships of the Mt. Ascutney Area, and to support and preserve the deep historic connection Mt. Ascutney has to Vermont and New Hampshire. The ATA will adhere to environmentally sound methods of responsible trail building, use, and stewardship while promoting outdoor education and cooperation with landowners.
In 1825 the first recorded “recreational” trail was built on Mount Ascutney to provide easier summit access for General Lafayette, who was on a Grand Tour of the 24 states that made up the United States at the time. Although Lafayette’s schedule became delayed causing him to miss the Ascutney visit, ever since there has been constant recreational activity on the mountain. From it’s Native American beginnings, Mount Ascutney’s unique prominence overlooking the Connecticut River valley trade routes has made it a landmark for generations of travelers and local community members.
The Ascutney Mountain Association was founded in 1903 and developed into the Ascutney Trails Association (ATA) in 1967. A dedicated group of ATA members continues to focus on managing the summit-bound hiking trails and their assorted shelters. In the Spring of 2020, the directors of two great organizations – STAB and ATA – finalized plans to merge into one larger organization to support their common mission and love of the mountain with all it has to offer. Today, the “new” ATA is proud to focus its stewardship efforts on hiking, mountain biking, trail running and backcountry skiing. They are the “trail people” and their volunteer work supports access to our community’s most prominent natural resource, Mount Ascutney.
Sport Trails of Ascutney Basin (STAB) was formed in the winter of 2005/2006 by local mountain bikers, trail builders and trail ‘encyclopedias’ who became the club’s board of directors, holding their first membership meeting in the spring of 2006. The name ‘Sport Trails of the Ascutney Basin’ reflected the desire to promote multi-use trails (biking, running, hiking) for all to enjoy in the towns surrounding Mount Ascutney. The club quickly established a small trail network in the West Windsor Town Forest to complement the existing but ever-changing network on private lands. Building the framework for the club’s responsible stewardship of the forest trails on the mountain would also demonstrate to private landowners that trails on their land would add value to their land, and not destroy its ecology through mountain bike use. STAB continued to improve, expand and maintain this on-mountain network through the work of their board, trail crew and many volunteers. In 2006 STAB became a chapter of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association (VMBA) to both support VMBA and benefit from their trail sustainability, advocacy and education efforts. In 2007 VMBA signed an agreement with the VT State Forest Parks and Recreation Department to grant VMBA and its chapters rights to build and maintain mountain bike trails on state park land. This paved the way for two trails to be built in Ascutney State Park: The novice-friendly ‘Swoops and Loops’ trail and a new trail connecting Ascutney State Park with the Mount Ascutney ski area, with completion due in 2020.
Today the organization offer programs year round and to a variety of populations such as for youth. They also sponsor a number of events such as the Flow State Mountain Biking Festival.
The surprising thing about this organization is that it has roots back to 1825, when the first known recreational trail to a mountain summit was built in the US. In 1903, when Ascutney Mountain Association formed and rebuilt a summit house and two hiking trails.
ATA’s biggest challenge has been to work with multiple recreational activities on the same trail system for all four seasons and raise the funds to build and maintain the trail network for all to enjoy. In terms of the future, ATA plans to create more miles of adaptive bike trails, accessible trails and bike parks.
According to ATA President Erik Schultz, the best feature of this organization is “our volunteers who bring their expertise, knowledge and time to maintain and promote over 50 miles of trails on and around Mount Ascutney“.
This is only the second year the Ascutney Trails Association has been a member of the Okemo Valley Chamber. Eric believes the main benefit of joining is “connecting with the business community. For instance, we have a major fundraiser at the end of July that will bring upwards of 800 people a day over the course of a three day weekend called Flow State Mountain Bike Festival. We are looking for sponsors to offset the expenses required to put on the event.”
You can show your support by joining as a member, volunteering, sponsoring or donating. You can learn more on their website: https://www.ascutneytrails.com