MIDDLEBURY — An active group of area residents have a surefire way of making the cold days of winter more fun, exciting and engaging while also helping strengthen the community: racing in the Middlebury Ski Bum League.
“It’s a hoot,” says Andrea Solomon, one of the organizers of the league who works at Middlebury College. “We try to race 10 consecutive Fridays starting in early January (weather and course conditions permitting), but it’s as much about having fun as it is about going fast. It’s just a great way to meet a lot of locals, ski a few runs together, do a little trash talking and get out of the office for a couple hours each Friday — that’s why we call it the Ski Bum League, because we can take off work or classes for a few hours — and then go après ski at various Middlebury-area restaurants.”
The league, which started in 2007 and races at the Middlebury College Ski Bowl, consists of about 120 racers with an average of 15 teams — with a pretty good mix of local adults and college students making up those teams. The goal this year is to encourage more area adults and college students to organize teams and join the league to create a greater opportunity to meet more people and hold even larger events.
Anyone interested in joining the league can register online at middskibum.com. The cost is $20 per person for the season for locals; $10 for the season for college staff and faculty; and no cost for college students. All racers are encouraged to bring a nonperishable food item to each race for the food shelf. For those without season passes, there is also a $25 cost for a half-day ticket, or get the whole day for that price for those who also donate a nonperishable food item each race.
Teams are comprised of a minimum of three members and a maximum of 15. Three members of each team have to post finish times each week for that team’s points to count in the team competition. Individuals are also encouraged to race if they don’t want to be part of a team; though if individuals want to join a team, league officials will help find teams wanting additional racers.
Races are a recreational slalom down the lower part of the Allen, an intermediate slope, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Snowboarders and telemark skiers are also encouraged to race. Each racer gets two timed runs. There is no running order. Racers simply show up at the start, identify themselves and their team, and run the course. If pressed for time, a racer can complete the two runs in half an hour and head back to work or class, joining the others at the après ski gathering, which goes from roughly 4 to 7 p.m. after each race.
“It’s set up to be easy for people to participate in and be part of a team,” said Neil Mackey, another organizer and co-owner of Mackey Insurance and Century 21 Real Estate in Middlebury. “It’s a lot of fun and you don’t have to commit to racing every week, many people can’t; that’s why some teams have 15 racers. But even if you make half the races, it’s being part of something, you’re meeting new people and enjoying this great ski area in our backyard. What could be better?”
Nor is any race experience necessary to be successful as a racer or a team, says long-time racer and local businessman Jed Malcolm. “The scoring system allows for some exciting results that don’t necessarily reflect a racer’s speed, but more their strategy and luck,” he says, adding that several racers have side wagers throughout the year, some of which end up seeing racers come down in outrageous costumes in the last race of the year, which is hopefully on a warm and sunny spring day.
As for Malcolm, a former high school racer for Middlebury Union High School, the races provide a competitive outlet as well as a sense of community.
“I race to satisfy my competitive nature, while being able to socialize and recreate with a lot of community members I otherwise don’t see throughout the week,” he says. “It also is simply a great small town activity that you don’t see anywhere else and it helps us all to take advantage of where we live.”
That’s a sentiment reflected throughout members of the ski bum league.
“We live in a very special community and the ski bum league is an exceptional way to meet our neighbors, students at the college and celebrate our community,” says league organizer Holmes Jacobs, who is a co-owner of Two Brothers Tavern. “We live in such a great town. This is just another way to enjoy each other and appreciate what we have at the Snow Bowl.”
2012 Race Schedule and Ski Bum League Après schedule
All races 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl
Après Gathering, 4-7 p.m. (Schedule may change due to weather or other conflicts)
January 13: American Flatbread
January 20: Fire & Ice
January 27: Otter Creek Brewery
February 3: Two Brothers Lounge
February 10: 51 Main Street
February 17: American Flatbread
March 2: Middlebury Inn
March 9: 51 Main Street
March 16: Fire & Ice
March 23: Two Brothers Lounge