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Thursday, Jun 20, 2024

Students turn the Snow Bowl into Mount Everest for 24 hours

Armed with Hostess Donettes, peach candies and untapped maple syrup, six Middlebury mountaineers strapped skins onto their skis and embarked on a mission to “Everest” the Snow Bowl. They set off at 12 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 22 with the goal of climbing the Snow Bowl enough times to reach 29,029 feet of elevation — Mount Everest’s distance above sea level — in 24 hours. At 11:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 23, the last of the group skied down the Kelton trail, and through a finish line made up of skis and poles. 

All the while, the crew raised over $2,200 for humanitarian aid in Gaza. 

Diego Rey ’23.5 initially got the idea for a challenge at the Snow Bowl after seeing his friend Jack Clarner ’24 raise money for the Moriah Wilson Foundation through skinning laps at Jay Peak in Jay, Vt. Rey had heard of some other skiers doing an Everest challenge, and began to float the concept over the summer. Eventually, he rallied Oscar DeFrancis ’24.5, Eli Richardson ’24, Ryan Devine ’24, Joseph Wilson ’24 and Benjamin Cordola ’24 to join the challenge. 

By 7 p.m. on Monday, despite having already climbed 12,000 feet in elevation, morale at the Snow Bowl was high. 

“It’s super duper fun. What more could you want other than skiing all day and all night?” DeFrancis told The Campus as he transitioned his gear from skiing down to prepare to skin back up.  

Middlebury students filled the base of the Snow Bowl — grilling hot dogs, burgers and steaks, and cheering on the skiers. It was not for nothing, as Richardson said that his hot dog with Chick-fil-A sauce was the highlight of the experience. 

A number of students joined in for a few laps of skinning with the Everesters, such as Gino Abrams ’24 and Maya Henning ’25, who both joined Cordola for his 15th lap, and brought him a pizza to refuel. Rey emphasized his appreciation for those who came out to support the skiers.

“I was super stoked with all the people that came up to support. It was super cool to see a bunch of familiar faces out there having fun,” Rey said. 

Compared to the others, Cordola is a relatively new skier. He estimated it was around his 12th time skiing when he embarked on the pursuit. 

“I went with them in the first lap and got dropped in the downhill because I’m not very good at skiing. So I’ve just been ripping this,” Cordola said, referring to his preference for the Allen trail, which he ended up going up and down 34 times. He switched to the Voter trail for the last seven, which put him safely over the elevation needed to reach the Everest goal. 

Many of the other skiers marveled at Cordola’s ability to do the same run that many times all alone. DeFrancis said seeing him at his 16th lap on Allen was his favorite moment of the experience. 

But the guys weren’t smiling the whole time. 

As the cold set in, Richardson and Wilson both told The Campus that it felt as though their lungs began operating at half capacity. 

For DeFrancis, the hardest part was the last lap before reaching 20,000 feet of elevation.

“We hadn’t really taken a significant break and I went completely non-verbal/sorta blacked out on Voter,” he wrote in a message to The Campus. 

Wilson described the way the exhaustion began to affect him throughout the night, saying his head began to feel weird and small. He also noticed his mental capacities slowing down, such as when he found himself putting his skinning equipment on his skis and immediately removing it by accident. 

Wilson hoped a brief nap might help, but after he kept hitting the alarm, it ended up being a bit over an hour, which ultimately set him behind the others, who did not stop to sleep. When he woke up, he said, he still felt decrepit and even geriatric. Wilson eventually finished with the others at 24,300 feet, and decided not to continue the final few thousand feet. 

“I was like that was a good effort, and that's a bunch of feet. I'm not gonna hang out for two hours after everyone else does. I felt a little like a weenie, but that’s fine,” he said. 

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For Devine, the pain came after about 8 hours. 

“I had to stop for a little bit and eat a lot of food and try not to throw up,” he said. 

After that, he said did not feel like his hip could keep up with the steeper trail that most of the others were doing, so he came over to the Voter trail, and skied alone until others came over in his final hour. He finished first of the pack at around 9 a.m.

Despite a clear desire to fall asleep after finishing, Devine sat up straight in a fold-up chair and cheered on the rest of the skiers. 

“Everything hurts,” he said. “It was fine until I stopped moving for a while and then everything seized up.”

Fortunately, the group did not end up needing assistance from Charlie Kauffman ’23.5, who slept in the ski patrol hut all night in case anyone needed emergency medical first response. There were also several other patrollers throughout the day who were able to provide aid if necessary, Kauffman told The Campus. 

“We all kept on our nutrition pretty well, which I think was huge to not bonking super hard. All of our bodies held up as well as could be expected,” Rey said. 

The promise of the finish line — or more specifically, a bacon egg and cheese for Wilson — kept the men fighting. 

“My favorite part was right before sunrise when I finally believed I was capable of finishing for the first time,” Richardson added.

Not to fear if you missed a viewing in person, because Malick Thiam ’24 and George Madison ’26 were with the skiers all throughout the night filming, with some help from Jake Gilbert ’24 in the afternoon and morning. 

“I’ve always wanted to film some kind of endurance event. So I quickly got invested,” Thiam said. 

Thiam and Madison skinned up and skied down filming several times throughout the 24 hours, with only a brief nap in the lodge from around 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. As the men skied down to the finish, Thiam sent a drone and mounted his camera. He and Madison plan to create a short documentary about the pursuit and hold a premiere for the event. 

With mangled feet and sore bodies, the group looks forward to a long overdue rest. 

“I’m super stoked to be done with it,” Rey joked. 

Katie Futterman

Katie Futterman '24 (she/her) is a Managing Editor.

Katie previously served as a News Editor and Staff Writer. This past summer, she was a news intern at Seven Days, and she held the same position at the Addison Independent the prior summer. In her free time, she loves to read, write, and bask in the sun.