This Nonprofit Vt. Ski Hill Features a Movie Set from ‘Beetlejuice'

Northeast Slopes is run by volunteers, and aims to make winter sports accessible to kids in Vermont

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A visit to one Vermont ski hill feels like taking a step back in time and offers proof of how much is possible with the hard work of volunteers and some Yankee ingenuity.

Northeast Slopes in East Corinth is on the opposite side of the spectrum from resorts like Killington — the largest destination for skiing on the East Coast — or the Stowe Mountain Resort, which is regarded as one of the region's most upscale.

"The president gets the same salary as the little tow operator," Wade Pierson of Northeast Slopes said of the nonprofit's trademark thriftiness. "Zero!"

Pierson is just one of the many volunteers who give their time and energy to run Northeast Slopes.

"It's a labor of love to be here and work on this," Pierson told NECN and NBC10 Boston.

The landmark has few luxuries, and no snowmaking, but plenty of charm, including a connection to the movie "Beetlejuice."

East Corinth is the same town where outdoor scenes for the film were shot in the 80s. The covered bridge the couple crashes through in the beginning, which the filmmakers built, now sits at Northeast Slopes.

Half of the former set piece houses an old farm truck. That truck's engine, rigged to a boat's throttle control, actually powers a rope tow.

"You have to hold on tight and also, you have to keep your skis straight," said Braylee Phelps, a young skier who provided advice on properly using the rope tow.

The rope tow is the oldest continuously operating one in North America, dating to 1936, according to the organization.

Skiing was a pretty new sport then, and chairlifts were just being dreamed up, Northeast Slopes said.

Archival film the nonprofit placed on its website shows the rope tow in use in 1950, when helmets hadn't yet come into widespread use.

Fast forward to today, the throwback system, which uses wheels salvaged from a Model-A Ford, remains popular.

While there is a modern T-bar, too, kids especially see a real benefit to the original way of getting uphill.

"It's so much quicker," skier Garrett Danforth said of the rope tow. "You don't get to go up as far [as you do on the T-bar], but you can do so many more runs going on this."

In an era of corporate consolidation at those big resorts, this little community spot is all about making winter sports accessible.

A family of four can ski here for roughly half the price of just a single pass at the famous mountains. Additionally, a partnership with a nearby school even provides students with gear they can use, one volunteer said.

Skiers and riders are coming, Pierson told NECN and NBC10 Boston. He said, anecdotally, that this feels like one of the busiest seasons in the nonprofit's 85-year history — likely because the COVID-19 pandemic has sparked renewed interest in outdoor activities close to home.

"I think people have been cooped up so long, with so little to do," Pierson theorized.

Youth skier Kobin Ellsworth said he doesn't mind that there's nothing fancy here, saying at a mega-resort, he might miss the hometown charm and familiar faces.

"It fits just fine," Ellsworth said. "Say I'm older and I'm still skiing here. It'll make me smile looking back on that day, just remembering, 'Oh, I remember the first day I went skiing here.'"

Memories, after all, are in the DNA of Northeast Slopes: a time capsule preserving the way skiing used to be, and how it still is.

Northeast Slopes joins all Vermont ski areas in asking patrons to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines carefully. The trade group Ski Vermont provides a list of those here.

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