On December 20, 2023

Snowbowl debuts night skiing

By Steve James, Addison Independent

About 1,000 people attended the  Middlebury College Snowbowl kick-off party Friday,

Dec. 15, to debut night skiing. Night skiing operations are now offered Wednesday-Friday, 4-9 p.m.

 

By Angelo Lynn

The Middlebury College Snowbowl debuted night skiing, Friday, Dec. 15.

The idea of adding night skiing at the Snowbowl has been in the works for the past several years and was given the go-ahead a few years ago to coincide with the new Sheehan lift — a quad serving the former Sheehan double.

The new lights for night skiing illuminate three of the runs off the new Sheehan quad as well as the beginner Discovery Zone. The Snowbowl also plans to offer more après ski activities on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights, when skiing will be extended from 4-9 p.m.

“The idea was to increase skier and rider visits without having to increase the size of our parking lot, or lodge, or other facilities that are already full on busy days,” said Mike Hussey, operations manager of the Snowbowl. “But this is also an idea that we hope will rejuvenate the ski culture in town; to recreate that ski town persona that Middlebury was in the 1960s and 1970s when the town had state champion ski teams at the high school and a ski club that was one of the strongest in the state.”

When Middlebury Union High School stopped letting Tiger ski team members out of classes early for ski training, that program waned and other sports like ice hockey and Nordic skiing gained favor.

But today, with a very strong Nordic program at the high school and with a strong Alpine ski club at the Snow Bowl for younger skiers, the time seems ripe for a resurgence. 

“Today we have a strong younger ski club program, but once those skiers get to high school age and there is no team sport there, they go to hockey or something else,” Hussey said. “So, we’re hoping this will help revive the ski program in area schools … And that will, in turn, encourage more families to get involved in the sport and all we have to offer at the Snowbowl.”

The process to rejuvenate a ski team at Middlebury Union High School (MUHS) is to form a club team for two years and if there is adequate interest, it would gain varsity status in the third year. A club team has been formed this year at MUHS under the direction of John Nuceder.

Night skiing

Hussey also said night skiing should attract a whole new subset of skiers who weren’t previously able to take off from work or school to be on the mountain mid-week. 

“We anticipate that night skiing will be an amazing asset for the community,” Hussey said. He noted that while only a handful of Vermont ski areas offer night skiing, almost 80% of the ski areas in New York and other southern New England states offer night skiing — a feature that makes up the bulk of their business.

Hussey said the Snowbowl would be looking at other industry leaders who are doing night skiing well. Of the half-dozen ski areas in Vermont offering night skiing, Hussey cited Bolton Valley as a leader that has “a great bar, food and beverage scene, as well as successful night-skiing programs that attract a lot of skiers.

“There are a lot of ski areas we can learn from,” Hussey said, adding that he expects “a sizable uptick in revenue from being opening these three nights.” 

Those potential gains are not without challenges, he admits. 

“Creating the right atmosphere, food offerings and après ski scene is something we have to build on, so that’s also a big challenge and very exciting.”

Hussey said the crew that will cater the Snowbowl’s food is the same group that is running the Tavern on the T, the restaurant at the Middlebury College golf course, which is part of the college’s staff — a change from the outside contractors of the past few years. The pub located on the second floor of the lodge will continue to be called the Lake Pleiad Pub, which is a rolling kiosk bar and flexible, as they mull over ways to make the après ski scene more attractive.

If projections hit their targets, the Snowbowl expects to draw a couple hundred people each night.

“We’ve gotten a pretty good response on our season and night passes so far,” Hussey said, “so community interest seems to be there.”

The Discovery Center, the beginner’s area, served by the Magic Carpet, will also be lit at night for skiing on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 4-9 p.m., the same as the Sheehan Lift.

The three trails that will be lit for skiing off the Sheehan lift are Kelton (under the lift line), Cameron (race training trail) and Lang. Hussey said that lights on the slopes have to be off by 9 p.m., and lights in the parking area go off by 9:30 p.m., according to the area’s state permit, which was respectful of light pollution at night.

The lights are LED Dark Sky compliant, Hussey added, noting that the lights will be mounted on telephone poles along each of the trails.

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