Nestled in the town of Richmond, Vermont, just 15 miles south of Burlington and 27 miles from ski resorts Stowe and Sugarbush, lies Cochran’s Ski Area: the first nonprofit ski hill in the United States.

Founded in 1961, the ski hill is still owned and operated by the Cochran family and offers affordable ski passes, school programs, and lessons to families and individuals alike on its three lifts and eight trails. The ski area is also a hub for local ski racing, offering alpine racing opportunities to children ages 6 and up.

Rope tow at Cochran’s Ski Area
Credit: Cochran’s Ski Area

A Ski Hill With a Mission

According to Bobby Cochran, the ski hill “was always a nonprofit,” but in 1998 it became official. The mountain’s mission—“to provide area youth and families with affordable skiing and snowboarding, lessons, and race training, in the Cochran tradition”—is still going strong, hosting over 2,000 children from school programs and thousands of families to learn to ski each year.

Compared to resorts in the Northeast, Cochran’s mention of “affordability” isn’t an understatement. The ski hill offers season passes for families of any size for $295, adult tickets on weekends and holidays for $19, and children’s tickets on weekends and holidays for $14—although children under 5 always ski for free. On Friday nights, all tickets are just $5.

Cochran Ski family
Credit: Cochran’s Ski Area

Who Are the Cochrans?

When Mickey Cochran, a local mechanical engineer, and his wife Ginny saw the hillside property and farmhouse that is now Cochran’s in 1960, they had to buy it. Mickey Cochran cleared the hillside himself and created a 400-foot rope tow so that his family—including four children—could ski in their own backyard. Soon after, the Cochran family opened their backyard ski hill to community members, with their kitchen becoming the ski area’s “lodge.”

Since the founding of Cochran’s Ski Area, 10 members of the Cochran family have represented the U.S. in the Alpine Ski World Cup, and six have been to the Winter Olympics—with Mickey and Ginny’s daughter, Barbara Ann, bringing home gold in 1972.

Sign at Cochran’s Ski Area
Credit: Cochran’s Ski Area


Because of its small size and accessible rope tow, the ski hill is geared toward families with small children just learning to take part in one of Vermont’s favorite pastimes. Lessons are available to skiers of all ages, with joint parent-child lessons a favorite for families.

Plus, Cochran’s is, dare I say, the only place in Vermont where a typical lesson might be taught by an Olympic gold medalist, as Barbara Ann remains an instructor each season.

Green Mountain Ski Area
Credit: Cochran’s Ski Area

Alpine Racing 

In addition to offering ski lessons, Cochran’s is known for its Ski Club—a program dedicated to providing affordable alpine ski racing opportunities to children over the age of 6. Club participants train up to six days a week with a coach specific to their age group, and are encouraged to take part in the program’s full slate of racing opportunities at ski areas throughout northern Vermont.

While ski racing is known to be an expensive sport, Cochran’s Ski Club tries to take financial pressure away by offering a financial assistance program to those who may need it, and connects families to other financial assistance programs, such as the one offered by the Vermont Alpine Racing Association.

Vermont Ski Area
Credit: Cochran’s Ski Area

Getting There

Despite its remote feel, Cochran’s is incredibly accessible to the rest of northern Vermont. The ski hill is just over two miles from the area’s main thoroughfare, I-89, which connects to nearby Burlington, Waterbury, and Montpelier.

Once you’re done for the day, grab a bite to eat at one of Richmond Village’s restaurants, or head to nearby Waterbury or Burlington for even more options—although it’s recommended you make a reservation if you have a specific place in mind.

If your family is looking for a safe, affordable community hill to learn to ski or ride, be sure to put Cochran’s on your list for the season.