Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Middlebury College Snow Bowl

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Middlebury College Snow Bowl
Location on Campus: VT Route 125, Hancock, VT.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1937original construction Unknown
1957-1962base lodge Freeman, French, Freeman
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Modern/post-WWII
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Other: other (CCC Log Cabin)
Building group type: Other: the placement of structures at the Snow Bowl is determined by its topography, a cluster of buildings, lift structures, and a parking area in a dish off VT Rte. 125 and at the base of trails pouring off mountain slopes to its southeast, south, and southwest.
Relationship to landscape:
The buildings occupy a dish in the mountains, with ski trails descending toward them from the southeast, south, and southwest. The Starr Shelter, rather low and closed to the north, turns a peaked glazed wall and outdoor deck southward to take in the views of the lifts and trails.
Ideas associated with building group:
The identity projected is not necessarily an intellectual idea , but it is coherent concept . The shelter and its supporting facilities capture and preserve a sense of the early days of recreational skiing in Vermont before the advent of large commercialized resorts.
1937-present (2007)other (ski area: trails, lifts, base lodge)

Significance: architecture, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The Middlebury College Snow Bowl was developed beginning in 1937 within the area of the Battell wilderness bequest (see entry for Breadloaf Campus). There, at the base of trails pouring off of Worth Mountain and opposite a ski jump, the Burlington (VT) firm of Freeman, French and Freeman designed the Starr Ski Lodge, first as a small lodge with a huge exterior stone fireplace in 1957, then with a galleried and glazed commons space in 1962. Framed by lower wings that accommodate food services, first aid, and a library, the sweeping gable of the balconied main room focuses inward on the stone fireplace and outward through an angled wall of south-facing glass to a deck and the slopes. The ski jump has been dismantled, but the rest of the complex has remained actively in use, with upgrades to equipment but no major changes to the character of the base lodge and its setting.

Skiing has long been a part of the Middlebury scene. As the Vermont ski industry was taking off early in the twentieth century, the College developed a skiing hill and jump on Chipman Hill in Middlebury Village. Then it developed the Snow Bowl on its mountain lands, served at first by a small cabin that still exists as reputedly the earliest extant base lodge in America. Its successor, the Neil Starr Shelter of 1962, with its broadly gabled roof and glazed façade, captured the modernism of mid-century ski areas. Like its sister ski areas, the Snow Bowl has upgraded its lifts and added snow-making equipment over the years. However, unlike the commercial areas, there was no need to remodel its base lodge. As a result the Starr Shelter preserves a glimpse of what skiing in its youth in Vermont, before the advent of large leisure corporations and condo communities on the slopes. It remains a precious document in the history of Vermont seasonal sports.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Wallace Floyd Design Group. Middlebury College Master Plan. [Boston, MA: Wallace Floyd Design Group], 2000.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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