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Monday, Apr 22, 2024

Second annual Student Ski Day offers new events at the Snow Bowl

<p>The Snow Bowl hosted the rail jam for the first time this year. Photo courtesy of Mariah Rivera. </p>

The Snow Bowl hosted the rail jam for the first time this year. Photo courtesy of Mariah Rivera.

Despite the warming weather, ski season in Vermont is not over just yet. On Friday, March 8, the Middlebury Snow Bowl hosted its second annual Middlebury College Student Ski Day. With special deals for students including free lift tickets and discounted rentals, along with a new “rail jam” event, the Student Ski Day invigorated the beginning of a new Middlebury tradition. 

At the bottom lodge, families and students sat around the center stage while the student band “Curran Amster and Friends” led by Curran Amster ’26 played live music. Later in the evening, DJ Serena Kim, co-owner of the Swift House Inn, played a set of top 100 music.

Derrick Cram, manager of Ralph Myhre Golf Course and the Snow Bowl ski shop, organized the event, parts of which were also set up in collaboration with the Middlebury Mountain Club and Middlebury Free Heelers, the college’s telemark skiing club.

Cram has organized several events hosted by the Snow Bowl, including discounted ticket days for Addison County first responders, Locals Day, Beach Day and 80’s Day. For a college town so deeply connected to ski culture, however, he felt as though something was missing from Middlebury’s calendar of events. 

“The college that I went to, we always had a student ski day, and we didn’t have our own ski mountain,” Cram said. “So I feel like it’s natural if Middlebury owns their own ski area that we should try to get the students here and expose to them this Vermont lifestyle.”

An accessible introduction to ski mountain culture was a shared goal among the event organizers. In collaboration with the Middlebury Mountain Club, Will McDonald ’25.5, president of Middlebury Free Heelers, pioneered the college’s first ever “rail jam.” 

Rail jams are skiing competitions in which freestyle skiers perform tricks off of features such as rails, boxes and kickers. Inspired by the University of Vermont’s two annual rail jams — Holiday Hucks and Pipe Dreams — McDonald wanted to bring park skiing into the spotlight at Middlebury. 

“Not that many people who teleski are that interested in rails or park skiing, so I was hoping to open it up [to them] and the broader Middlebury community,” McDonald explained. 

The Middlebury Mountain Club had a number of members who were also enthusiastic about making the event happen. Sarah Heller ’27, social chair of the Middlebury Mountain Club, was another advocate for the rail jam. To bring the event to fruition, Heller worked on the planning process with the Student Activities Office. 

“The initial idea for the event was that it was going to be on Chapel Hill, and we were going to set up the jumps and rails there. People were going to be right there, and everybody could come,” Heller said. “But then obviously, with the weather, that wasn’t possible.”

The rail jam was forced to change locations when there simply was not enough snow covering the ground on campus. With temperatures reaching over 50 degrees in late February, predictions from Groundhogs Day seemed to be coming true and an early spring was well underway. 

Still, organizers were able to set up the rail jam at the Snow Bowl, which had more snow on the ground due to its higher elevation, and the event quickly became the main attraction of Student Ski Day, with other students and local families crowding around to watch.

“I think that skiing is a great way to get out and be active and meet other people. I met a ton of people doing the rail jam,” McDonald said. “Getting all those people in the same place having fun doing the same thing is a great way to build that community.”

Heller echoed a similar sentiment. She organized a table of snacks on the ski run next to the rail jam, where people congregated to both watch and participate in the event. 

Plans are already underway for making future Ski Days a reality. Both Heller and McDonald hope to see the rail jam become a larger event involving more of the student body. Heller said she is already getting hype for next year, and has discussed having the Free Heelers bring some of their teleskis for people to try out, or sleds so anybody can participate.

The Snow Bowl is also looking into forming partnerships with other organizations and brands to provide students with additional  reasons to attend Ski Day programming. 

Cram is also working to create a more lively community at the Snow Bowl. His ideas include having weekly events, more live music, karaoke night and a piano bar. The Snow Bowl also launched night skiing this winter, which has drawn an enthusiastic crowd to the mountain a couple evenings a week.

Cram invites students to get involved in organizing Student Ski Day for next year. The rail jam is just one instance he cited of student initiative having a big impact on the college community. 

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“It’s just fun. It’s college, it’s about its experiences, hanging out with friends, making relationships that are going to last you the rest of your life. And I think that this is one of those places where that can be done,” Cram said.