Middlebury College Snow Bowl to begin 75th season with new chairlift
MIDDLEBURY, Vt.—The Middlebury College Snow Bowl, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, will start the ski season with a new lift. In the spring, college administrators learned that the 40-year-old Worth Mountain double-chairlift no longer met state licensing requirements. The new $1.7 million lift will be a fixed-grip, triple-chair transport system engineered and manufactured by Doppelmayr CTEC, an international firm that has built nearly 14,000 ski lifts in 80 countries. The per-hour capacity of the new lift will be the same as the former double-chair Poma lift.
The project, which is already underway, will require very little site work, as the new lift will follow the same pathway up the Allen Trail as the existing Worth Mountain lift. All the old lift’s towers, with the exception of the one at the bottom, have been removed. Construction of the new lift is scheduled to be completed in mid November.
In a message to the college community, Middlebury College President Ronald D. Liebowitz called the new lift a “significant capital investment,” and said that he had considered all options, including repairing the lift.
According to Middlebury College Vice President for College Advancement Mike Schoenfeld, repairs to the old lift would have cost half a million dollars and might have lasted only a few years. He said, “The need to replace the lift quickly became clear to the president and the board of trustees, especially given the recreational value of the Bowl and its economic importance to the area.”
In his all-campus message, Liebowitz said, “Countless children, students, faculty, staff, and townspeople have learned to ski at the Bowl and enjoyed the thrill of winter sports over the decades. In recent seasons, the Bowl has recorded annually between 50,000 and 60,000 visits by skiers and snowboarders.”
Commenting on the economic value, he stated, “The Snow Bowl is an asset that sets our college apart from other institutions. It also creates dozens of jobs — directly and indirectly — and generates hundreds of thousands of dollars for the local economy via meals, lodging, ski and snowboard equipment rentals and purchases.” The Bowl employs about 70 seasonal and year-round workers.
Liebowitz’s message also referred to the budget tightening that has taken place at Middlebury over the last year, and stated that Middlebury will tap its renewal and replacement reserve, a fund used to maintain campus infrastructure, to pay for the lift initially, but that the college plans to reimburse the fund through a special fundraising effort so as not to take money from the operating budget.
To date, the college has raised $900,000 since three donors each have pledged $300,000 toward the project. Schoenfeld said that he and his colleagues will continue to approach alumni, parents, and friends who have particularly strong connections to the college through skiing and the Snow Bowl. They plan to sell 100 lifetime passes to the Bowl for $5,000 each. They are also offering naming rights to the 104 chairs for $5,000 each, and to the 15 towers for $50,000 each.
Schoenfeld said, “If we exceed our fundraising goal of $1.7 million, we will use the additional money as an endowment for the Snow Bowl.” More information on the fundraising effort is available here.
Since components of the old lift were still usable, Manager of the Snow Bowl Peter Mackey contacted SkyTrans Manufacturing of Contoocook, N.H. The company received the parts for free in exchange for their removal, and has resold some of them already to ski areas in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. The arrangement saved the college $50,000-$75,000 in removal fees and the expense of selling or scrapping the components.
“The old lift has worked well for us all these years,” said Mackey. “We’re looking forward to many great years to come with the new lift.”