SGA to Fund Financial Aid for Lessons at Snow Bowl

By HANNAH BENSEN

The college has long winters, a January term and its own ski mountain: the perfect winter recipe. However, the accessibility of the sport is limited by its steep financial costs. Ski passes and equipment can easily soar into the hundreds and even thousands of dollars, preventing many students from being able to enjoy the slopes.

On Sunday night, the Student Government Association (SGA) passed a Snow Bowl Scholarship Bill allocating $2,500 towards the scholarship fund. The bill was conceptualized by Jacob Freedman ’21 and Alex Gemme ’21, who put together the scholarship fund for students on financial aid to be used towards skiing, telemark skiing and snowboarding lessons at the Middlebury Snow Bowl. Freedman and Gemme both work as instructors at the Snow Bowl.  Students will receive up to $200 that can be used for the lessons and equipment rentals for the season, costing $100 each.

Skiing is a really inaccessible sport for a lot of people. We see the people who come and take lessons and more often than not it’s people who can afford it.”

— Jacob Freedman '21

In addition to the SGA allocation, Freedman and Gemme have already acquired $1,600 and are looking to get $900 more. In total, the $5,000 fund will give 25 to 50 students subsidized lessons and rentals. 

“Skiing is a really inaccessible sport for a lot of people. We see the people who come and take lessons and more often than not it’s people who can afford it,” Freedman said. “Skiing is a great sport and a huge part of the culture, so it makes sense to be able to have all sorts of students be able to participate in this thing that’s really cool and unique to the school.”

According to Powder Magazine, 72 percent of the skiers in the United States are white and more than half earn a salary of $100,000 or greater. The scholarship fund will hopefully increase diversity in a sport that has historically been perceived as a homogenous demographic. 

The process to set up the scholarship fund has been riddled with obstacles. Gemme and Freedman initially went to the Advancement Office to seek funds, but were told to come back with data about the need for such scholarships. The two students sought money from various campus sources, but were often referred to other places due to the scholarship’s unique distinction of being neither an extracurricular nor an event or speaker.

The students quickly found overwhelming anecdotal evidence that students were interested in taking ski and snowboarding lessons, but were daunted by the costs.  

Freedman and Gemme’s first success came from the Seizing Opportunities fund, an allocation designed to ensure that students, regardless of financial status, have access to activities that span all aspects of college life. Chief Diversity Officer Miguel Fernández allocated $1,600 dollars from the Seizing Opportunities fund towards the Snow Bowl scholarship fund in early October.  

Freedman and Gemme then worked with SGA Senators William Kelly ’21, John Schurer ’21, and Christian Kummer ’22 to pass a bill that would allocate an additional $2,500 to the Snow Bowl fund. The bill passed nearly unanimously, with only one opposing vote. The $2,500 will come from SGA’s current $175,000 reserves. Senator Rehan Zafar ’21, who voted against the proposal, expressed concern regarding passing an initiative that they may not be able to finance in the future. 

The two students are also seeking $900 from the ICC in order to round out their goal of a $5,000 fund. The fund will be overseen by a staff member of the college, who can access students’ financial aid records to determine which students need the scholarship the most.

Ski culture is something that the college embraces really fully, but it’s not something that everybody at the college has access to.”

— Alex Gemme ’21

In addition, the pair is now attempting to secure a supply of helmets that can be rented out. This process has proven complicated because liability concerns prevent the Snow Bowl from renting out helmets and thus must be purchased individually. The price of a helmet, however, may deter riders from purchasing the protective gear.

“Helmets are optional; it’s not a rule at the Bowl,” Gemme said. “But they’re great. Beginners probably want to wear helmets. We think that some helmet, even if it’s used and shared and a little scratched up, is better than no helmet.”

Students can apply for Snow Bowl scholarships via Handshake. Lessons are taught by Middlebury students every week day at the Snow Bowl during January term and are from 2-3 p.m., and in the morning by request. Last year, 90 students participated in the Snow School lessons. 

The ACTR bus offers nearly hourly rides to the Snow Bowl. Students can schedule up to five lessons and can earn Physical Education credit if they attend at least 4 lessons. Freedman compared the Snow Bowl cost, $100 for five lessons, to a day’s worth of ski lessons at Killington, which costs $140.

“Vermont celebrates the winter time as a great time of the year,” Gemme said. “Part of the Feb experience at graduation and at orientation both take place at the Snow Bowl, so ski culture is something that the college embraces really fully, but it’s not something that everybody at the college has access to.”

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1 Comment

One Response to “SGA to Fund Financial Aid for Lessons at Snow Bowl”

  1. Tim Strigenz on November 15th, 2018 11:47 am

    Wonderful article! Great to see access improvements for all students.




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SGA to Fund Financial Aid for Lessons at Snow Bowl