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January 13. 2013 11:22PM

Ski enthusiasts hope to revive Littleton's Mount Eustis slope


The slope on Mount Eustis, shown in this undated photo, was once a busy place, and a group of Littleton-area residents are hoping to revive it. (COURTESY)

LITTLETON - It's been about three decades since the 200-foot vertical drop slope at Mount Eustis had a tow to take skiers up to the top, but a group Littleton businessmen hope the local winter recreation site's dormancy doesn't extend into fourth decade.

The ski hill's operation goes back to 1939, when it opened with a 1,600-foot tow that served a half-mile slope. It ended operations around 1980, when snowless winters challenged all ski hills.

The group hopes to get the small ski area up and running for the 2013-14 ski season.

They hope to get an article on this year's town warrant. The land is owned by the town, and the group is asking voters to give the OK for the town's approval to enter into a lease agreement with the Mount Eustis group.

What they are not asking for is money from residents, at least not in the form of property taxes. They are raising the funds to bring the in-town ski area - it's within walking distance of downtown and many of the town's neighborhoods - through donations.

Liability insurance will be carried by the nonprofit group, Harkless said, as the town's insurance provider will not cover a town ski area.

Dark Harkless, owner of Littleton Bike and Fitness, said the land isn't being used to its full potential. He has worked to put a winding mile-long bike trail on the town-owned land, but in the winter, except for sledders, the recreation land is pretty quiet. There is a snowmobile trail on it, which could be relocated, Harkless said.

He and others have a formed nonprofit organization and have applied for 501(c)3 status. The aim is to get a functioning 1,300-foot rope tow, lighting and a warming hut all set by the time next winter's snow flies.

The hill, located just outside of town on the west side of Interstate 93, was kept mowed, except in the 2012 season. Harkless said that 10 years ago Herb Lahout tried to revive Mount Eustis . "He grew up on that ski hill."

Harkless said that last winter several others came together, including Ron Lahout, who was involved in the Littleton High School ski team, and the feeling was, "Yeah, we can do that."

Harkless said they hope to add another trail or two as time goes by, but the idea is to start with the basics. "We want to plan for success."

They can already cross the warming hut off their to-do list. Home Depot, Harkless said, recently donated a 16- by 16-foot shed. It's not big, he added, but "it's a place to hang your hat. We're going to keep it simple."

The rope tow will have to go through the same inspections that lifts at larger ski areas do.

"We want this to be inexpensive," he said of the in-town slope. They hope the minimal ski ticket price - likely $3 to $5 - will allow kids from families of all income levels to do what generations of kids got to do before them - walk over to the slope after school, step in their skis (or snowboard), and fly down the hill for the pure joy of it.

To learn more about the effort, or to donate, go to mteustis.org.

syoungknox@newstote.com


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