By VICTORIA GAITHER
It’s out with the old and in with the new this ski season at Middlebury Snowbowl, located on Route 125 in Hancock.
The Snowbowl has a new logo, new snowmakers, and new behind-the-scenes improvements that will make the ski experience more enjoyable.
The new logo is one of the first things skiers and riders might notice at the Snowbowl.
No longer will they see the original SB initial design, but rather a fresher-looking snowflake design that connects the Snowbowl and Rikert Outdoor Center — both owned by Middlebury College.
“The new design offers a fresh look that also reflects the reputation of both locations as excellent centers for skiing and winter recreation,” said Sarah Ray, the director of media relations at Middlebury College.
Even before the first snow falls, much goes on behind the scenes to get things ready for skiers and riders.
“We replaced some snowmaking pipe, added new rental equipment, and, probably most significantly, re-branded the ski area with a new logo and refreshed messaging,” said Mike Hussey, the manager of the Snowbowl.
Hussey also discussed snowmakers’ importance: “As with all ski areas in the east, and in reality, the country, snowmaking is what keeps the industry going. Without it, we would only be able to operate a fraction of the days that we do,” he said.
Before taking the job as the Snowbowl manager five years ago, Hussey was the manager of the Rikert Outdoor Center, a sister area two miles down the road also owned by Middlebury College.
Hussey has been around snow for a while and clearly understands besides snow, the power of having a great crew is the ultimate ingredient in the success of the Snowbowl.
Hussey said, “We have a great crew that is a mix of longtime employees and new folks. They are good-natured, dedicated, hard-working people that value the small ski area family feel of the work environment.”
To listen to Hussey, you can tell he isn’t just paying lip service to how he feels about his crew, and new snowmaker Brian Hughes agreed: “Mike is our cheerleader! He always says you can do this or that. The thing about this mountain is it’s like winning the lottery.”
Hughes has over 30 years of snowmaking experience in Vermont (most recently working at Killington Resort) and has a popular snow report show on Instagram. He is new to the Snowbowl crew this year.
“It feels like family here. When I first got out of my car and stepped foot on this mountain. I said, ‘I’m in.’”
Now, Hughes is the right-hand man of his immediate boss, Ryan Mcnulty, who oversees a crew of 12 snowmakers on the mountain.
“Brian brings positive energy to the crew,” Mcnulty said.
Brayden Rabideau is also a new snowmaker at the Snowbowl. With a combination of seasoned snowmakers and two new faces, Mcnulty is stoked about the season.
But for the veteran, it’s about putting smiles on the faces of skiers and riders.
The work of the snowmaking team doesn’t go unnoticed by Holmes Jacobs, the president of the Middlebury Ski Club and an active member in the Middlebury community.
“They work all night and all day in frigid temperatures, carpeting the mountain with snow so that the rest of us can ski and ride the winter away with smiles on our faces. Were it not for the snowmakers and snow groomers, there would be no Snowbowl,” said Jacobs.
If the snowmakers are the rock stars of the mountain, the Middlebury ski community adds the goodness.
Jacobs explained, “The people here are amazing! Everyone here, from the ski school to the ski patrol, lift operators to snowmakers, groomers, and senior staff — all of them are on a first-name basis with most of the clientele. The richness of culture and community is beyond compare.”
Jacobs can list things that make the Snowbowl experience different from other ski resorts in Vermont. Still, Middlebury has a secret that only people who ski and ride the trails understand.
Hughes said before he became a snowmaker at the Snowbowl, “I would hear people tell stories about skiing the woods at the Snowbowl. I have walked these woods and understand now. Middlebury Snowbowl is real New England skiing.”
Hughes, now a part of a community who feels the magic at the Snowbowl, is sure hoping mother nature cooperates this winter so everyone can mix it up in the Snowbowl. With terrain for all levels, an extensive trail system with a 1,000-foot vertical, and short lift lines, skiers and riders can expect another memorable 2022-2023 ski season.
When asked if he still gets excited about ski season, Hussey answered, “Absolutely! This is an exciting time of the season – lots of anticipation spurred on by some early snowstorms to ramp up the energy and interest.”