The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation has a long history and partnership with Vermont ski areas. Seven major Vermont ski areas currently utilize portions of state forest or state park land for ski area development under a long term lease from the Department. These ski areas include Jay Peak Resort, Burke Mountain Ski Area, Smugglers’ Notch Ski Area, Stowe Mountain Resort, Killington Ski Area, Okemo Mountain Resort, and Bromley Mountain Ski Area.
Vermont was an early adopter of policies to lease public lands for ski area development and many of the existing leases and permits for ski areas on federal and state lands across the country are based on Vermont’s ski area leases. All of the Vermont ski area leases in effect today are modeled on those put in place in the 1950s and 1960s. Then Department Commissioner, Perry Merrill, saw the opportunity to complement and support the Vermont state park system by allowing the private sector to help meet the growing demand for winter recreational opportunities while encouraging the use of public lands for the benefit of Vermonters.
Revenue from Vermont’s seven state ski leases total over $2.5 million annually and is dedicated exclusively to Vermont State Parks. Ski lease revenue comprises nearly a third of the annual state park operations budget.
The ski leases vary slightly from area to area regarding specific terms and conditions, but all seven prohibit the development of residential units within the lease area, require Department approval for all planned improvements on state land, and provide a level of continued public access within the lease area. The Department works closely with its ski area partners in reviewing and approving proposed new development plans within the lease area and in allowing for appropriate and compatible public use and access to the lease area.