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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

New night skiing program opens at the Snow Bowl after renovations

On Dec. 15 the Snowbowl held its grand opening for night skiing. The event included fireworks, live music, and other après-ski festivities. Photo by Violet Gordon '26.5.
On Dec. 15 the Snowbowl held its grand opening for night skiing. The event included fireworks, live music, and other après-ski festivities. Photo by Violet Gordon '26.5.

After years of building excitement, this winter, the Middlebury Snow Bowl has opened for night skiing for the first time. The bowl is now open for night skiing Wednesday through Friday, when the Sheehan lift runs until 8:45 p.m. instead of the usual 4 p.m. 

The initiative was largely spearheaded by Michael Hussey, who has served as Director of the Snow Bowl for six years. Hussey told The Campus that the idea for night skiing had been brought up before he was hired, and shortly after he joined the team, he presented the concept and the process of adding night skiing to the Snow Bowl to the mountain staff. He recognized the endeavor’s potential to engage further with the town of Middlebury and other local communities through skiing. 

For the past 20 years, there has not been an alpine ski team at Middlebury High School, because the students were not able to get out of school to train before the Snow Bowl closed at 4 p.m. The high school ski team, formerly made up of both downhill and cross-country skiers, became just a  cross-country team. Prior to 2003, the Middlebury High School downhill team had been a state championship program for a number of years.

 “The way to recapture that was to find a time that they could ski, which is under the lights at night. So we’ve been working towards that for the last six years,” Hussey said.

On Jan. 12, the Middlebury High School club team finally came to train during night skiing hours for the first time after the 20-year hiatus, just as Hussey had hoped. 

Middlebury College students also benefit from the introduction of night skiing. Zach Utz ’26 told The Campus that he appreciates the new schedule’s extended hours.

 “It’s nice to have more hours to ski,” he said. “It’s definitely easier for a lot of people to get out there and ski now, and I think it’s a great addition.”

Attendance has been variable in the early days of the program. 

“Economically, though, it might be losing money,” Malachi Schiffer-Delegard ’26, who has gone night skiing twice since the beginning of J-Term, speculated. “Because realistically, there weren’t that many people there when I was there.” 

Schiffer-Delegard added that the limited number of runs open at the Snow Bowl at night may be impacting the number of people choosing to participate thus far.

“I think it’s because of the lack of more advanced runs,” Schiffer-Delegard said. “I think it’s great for beginners, but there’s only one run. And it’s really short, about a minute long.”

The Sheehan Lift is the only open lift for night skiing. Trails off of the Sheehan Lift include Lang, a green, Hadley, a blue, as well as Cameron and Kelton, which are labeled as black level runs. 

Although some noted the lower number of skiers at night, Utz appreciates the opportunity to practice without the crowds. “I really like night skiing, and getting a bunch of runs in,” he said. “And even if there are fewer people, that makes it nicer.” 

Hussey does not seem to share the same economic concerns as Schiffer-Delegard

“A lot of the revenue for the Snow Bowl comes from the community for sure — season passes and business that the community brings,” Hussey said.

Hussey noted that everything has been running smoothly and said he has only received positive feedback so far. 

“We’ve been seeing just about the same number of cars in the parking lot as we do during the day, so it’s been great,” Hussey said. “The ability to bring back a ski team at the high school is a component of this, but it drives a whole bunch of other parts of the culture downstream of that.” 

The Middlebury College Ski Patrol, made up of trained Middlebury students, have adapted quickly to the changes. 

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 “Our standard operating procedures are all the same, other than adding a few more procedures into our sweeps to ensure that we’re seeing into the woods properly,” said Finn Higgins, the assistant director of the Snow Bowl, and leader of the Ski Patrol during night skiing hours. 

The Ski Patrol must conduct sweeps across the mountain to make sure that there are no skiers unable to complete their descent, a task made cumbersome by the darkness. 

Higgins noted that there are plenty of students available to work the night shifts, and that there have been no staffing issues so far. 

Middlebury College Dining Services has taken over the restaurant in the lodge at the Snow Bowl, according to Hussey. In an effort to create a more lively atmosphere, live music is played in the lodge during night skiing hours. “We’re just trying to build that vibe,” Hussey said.

“I think it’s doing exactly what we had hoped it would do, as a community piece, and we’re seeing a really vibrant college population at the bowl at night as well, so that’s super,” he added. “It’s really been a highlight for me and for us as a team to see it working.”