07/24/09: A note from the president on the Worth Mountain chairlift
Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues,
In late spring, we learned that the 40-year-old Worth Mountain double-chairlift at the Middlebury College Snow Bowl no longer meets state licensing requirements. After considering the options—repair the existing lift, replace it, or close the Snow Bowl—I recommended to the Board of Trustees that the best course is to replace the Worth Mountain lift. In making this decision, we weighed the recreational value of the Bowl and its economic importance to the region against purchasing a new lift when we are making significant budget cuts elsewhere at the College due to current economic conditions.
Replacing the lift is a significant capital investment; the estimated cost is $1.7 million. Each year, we routinely set aside more than $8 million in a renewal and replacement reserve (known as "RRR") that we use to maintain the campus infrastructure. We will tap this reserve in order to begin work on the new lift immediately, but we plan to reimburse the fund through a special fund-raising effort. Replacing the lift, therefore, will have no direct impact on our operating budget, since we set aside funds each year to cover these kinds of repairs.
Vice President Mike Schoenfeld and his colleagues in College Advancement have developed a plan to solicit longtime supporters of the Snow Bowl, including members of the local community, and I am pleased to report that generous donors have already pledged $600,000 toward the project. In seeking additional contributions, we will approach alumni, parents, and friends who have particularly strong connections to the College through skiing and the Snow Bowl. We also plan to sell a limited number of lifetime passes to the Bowl, which will further reduce our use of the RRR fund.
Since 1934, the Snow Bowl has been an integral part of our students’ and our community’s winter recreational experience. 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. Our alpine ski team practices and competes there; the NCAA championships have been held there; and local ski clubs and scholastic teams call it their home mountain. 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 new 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 existing double-chair Poma lift.
The project 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. We expect the new lift to be operational in time for this winter’s ski season, as we begin a new chapter in the history of our 75-year-old ski area.
If you would like to learn more about fund-raising for the Worth Mountain lift, please visit http://go.middlebury.edu/worthmtchair.