Bitter cold cancels college ski-down at Snow Bowl; Febs to ski down campus sledding hill

Middlebury College Febs traditionally ski down the trails at the Middlebury Snow Bowl in caps and gowns to celebrate their graduation each February. This year’s February Ski-Down was pulled off the Snow Bowl because of dangerously cold weather, and will be held on the Middlebury campus. Independent file photo/Trent Campbell

ADDISON COUNTY — A highlight of the student career for many Middlebury College Febs — those students who graduate in February — is skiing down the slopes of the Middlebury College Snow Bowl dressed in their caps and gowns in what is now as the “Ski-Down.”

For those members of the Class of 2022.5 who were scheduled to swish down the Lang Trail up at the Bowl in Hancock on Saturday, the extreme cold is forcing that highlight to a new venue.

Like many other outdoor activities that are being curtailed or canceled for this weekend, the Ski-Down will not take place at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl. Instead, the college moved the Ski-Down to the sledding hill in front of Middlebury Chapel on the campus.

“The National Weather Service is predicting the coldest wind chill temperatures we have experienced in our region in the past 30 years. At the scheduled time of the Ski-Down, windchill temperatures at the Snow Bowl are forecast to be minus 22 degrees, posing a serious threat of frostbite and hypothermia,” Middlebury President Laurie Patton said in a letter to Febs and their families. “As a result of these extreme and dangerous conditions, and after consulting with our Safety Team and the manager of the Snow Bowl, we have decided that we cannot safely host the Ski-Down at the Snow Bowl this year.”

The Penguin Plunge, a February fundraiser for Vermont Special Olympics in which people jump into Lake Champlain in the depths of winter, was called off for this weekend. Organizers said it would be too cold, and they urged people to take the plunge remotely, near a warm shower.

The town of Middlebury issued its own warning about the cold on Friday morning. Noting that dangerously cold wind chills as low as 30 to 45 below zero, officials said wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

The Middlebury Police Station on Lucius Shaw Lane is available as a warming/respite shelter. Anyone who doesn’t have heat at home may find refuge at the police station 24 X 7. Though not classified a shelter, telephone, internet, restroom are available as is power to charge cell phones. Some cots are on site in the event children need to rest.

“The police respite shelter is warm, but please feel free to bring blankets, sleeping bags, pillows,” a town notice said. “In the event overnight sheltering is needed the town will open the gymnasium on Creek Road.”

The Addison County Solid Waste Management District Transfer Station, on Route 7 South in Middlebury, will be closed on Saturday, Feb. 4, because of the cold. For additional information, contact the Solid Waste District, 802-388-2333.

At the college, officials are urging families of Febs to gather along Old Chapel Road to watch their graduates make their run down the hill.

“We will have fire pits and heaters to make the cold temperatures a little more pleasant,” Patton said in her letter, which was co-signed by Director of Event Management Jennifer Erwin and Associate VP for Alumni and Parent Programs Meg Storey Groves. “Please also dress warmly as well. Hot chocolate will be available in McCullough Student Center for anyone who needs to warm up inside.”

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