Focus on an Independent: Middlebury Snowbowl

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by Wendy Clinch

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03.03.2024


Who here has an EPIC Pass? How about an IKON? Come on, don’t be shy, raise your hand!

Okay, you know I can’t see you, right? 

Put your hand down. 

Nonetheless, I’m sure that many of you would’ve raised your hands, if we were meeting face to face. After all, Vail sold around 2.4 million EPIC passes for the ’23-’24 season. And when you add IKON passes into the mix (Alterra is a private company, so it doesn’t have to report its sales) that’s a heck of a lot of passes that are good at a heck of a lot of resorts.

The result is that there are a lot of skiers who have committed to skiing at either Vail or Alterra Resorts. And that means these places are especially busy during weekends and holidays.

Which is why I ended up at Middlebury Snow Bowl during President’s Week.

Looking for a respite from the vacationing hoards, I decided to try someplace off the beaten path and off the mega-resort roster. And Middelbury definitely fills the bill. Located on the spine of the Green Mountains near tiny Hancock, VT, it’s pretty easy to miss. I’ve done it myself many times, as I’ve cruised up Route 100 to nearby Sugarbush. But that can be a plus, too. Because when the other areas are choked with crowds and long lift lines, Middlebury remains serene, uncrowded, and stress-free. It’s like stepping back to a time when skiing was simpler, before the big corporations took over and turned ski areas into a multi-faceted vertically integrated entertainment provider. And to me, that’s not a bad thing.

You notice the difference even before you get there. Driving to the Snowbowl isn’t like driving to Okemo, Killington, or one of the other larger resorts nearby. There are no condos, ski shops, or opulent ski houses in view. This is rugged country, heavily forested and sparsely populated. The road winds as it ascends the Middlebury Gap, until almost suddenly, a simple sign for the ski area comes into view, You dip into a parking area that directly abuts a basic, old school ski lodge, no shuttles or parking fees required.

The Mountain

At first glance, Middelbury seems kind of….small. But don’t be deceived. It actually skis a lot bigger than it is. Three lifts serve 17 trails, one of them a fixed-grip quad newly installed for the ’23-’24 season. Although the new lift serves primarily beginner and intermediate terrain, another fixed grip quad takes you to the top, where you can access more advanced trails. There’s advanced skiing on the backside, too, and over 600 acres of woods and glades to ski in. The mountain has a vertical drop of 1,000 feet, and a summit elevation of 2,800 feet.

You won’t find wide the city-block wide groomers of the mega resorts here. Instead, there are trails that meander through the woods, views of the Green Mountains to die for, and plenty of personal space to take it all in.

The day I was there, there was race training for the ski team from Dartmouth College, and the Middlebury College team, long a powerhouse in college ski racing, trains there, too.

Middlebury is owned and operated by nearby Middlebury College, and is one of the oldest continuously operated ski areas in the United States. It’s open Wednesday through Friday 9AM to 9PM, Saturdays and Sundays 8:30AM to 4PM. Night skiing was just added for the ’23-’24 season, making it one of the few ski areas in Vermont so equipped.

So what’d you think, Ski Diva?

Sure, you can go to areas that are a lot bigger, with longer trails and amenities out the wazoo. But for an experience that screams authentic Vermont, you can’t do better than the Middlebury Snowbowl. I had a terrific day skiing without spending a fortune or being aggravated by crowds. Oh, and the food is good, too (if they have the quesadilla as the Chef’s Special, be sure to get it.)

Bottom line: Two ski poles up.



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