The Upcoming Dedication!


Thanks to the contributions of so many people the Ian Burgin Memorial Lodge will soon be complete! After many years of permitting, design, and fundraising, construction finally began early this fall and will be finished in early November. All are invited to a dedication ceremony on Saturday, November 12th at 2:15 pm at the Lodge. Guests are encouraged to gather at Rikert Nordic Center by 1:30 pm for the approximately 2 mile hike to the site. Gator rides are available from Rikert to the Lodge. Please RSVP to Middlebury Events at or 802-443-6000 and let us know whether you plan to hike or would like a ride. Please note it will be hunting season, so wearing bright red or orange is suggested.




Our place in a cabin genealogy

Thanks to Phillip Picotte’08 for this history of cabins at Middlebury College. 

1915: Joseph Battell bequests Mountain Campus (including present Snow Bowl property) to the College.

1916: The Middlebury Outing Club forms. It went extinct in the late 1920s before being reborn in 1931 as the Mountain Club. Cabins are a major focus of the club. (A women-only cabin even existed in Ripton.)

1930s: At least one, possibly more, shelters are built on the Bowl property for Long Trail Hikers.

Late 1940s: Another enclosed lodge is built above Lake Pleiad by the Mountain Club. It is gone by the late 1960s.


Worth Mountain Lodge (1959-2011)

1959: Worth Mountain Lodge is built.

1992 or 1993: Worth Mountain Lodge is renovated with funds from the Senior Class Gift.

2011: Worth Mountain Lodge is dismantled due to extensive structural deterioration.

Permitting, or a lesson in hole digging

Over the course of the winter and spring, the Burgin Lodge team worked through four different permitting processes. Applying for permits was (very) frustrating at times, but each step provided us with new experiences and insights into operating within a highly bureaucratic environment. The Ripton town building permit and Vermont state construction permit were fairly straightforward; each provided us with the opportunity to get to know folks in our community who are involved with these regulatory processes.

The real excitement of the permitting process came with our Act 250 and wastewater permit applications. Administered by the state Natural Resources Board and seen as a hallmark of Vermont’s commitment to sustainable development, “the Act 250 program provides a public, quasi-judicial process for reviewing and managing the environmental, social and fiscal consequences of major subdivisions and developments in Vermont” (

The proposed Burgin Lodge, a ~500 ft² backcountry shelter that is designed to sit lightly on the land, does not have much in common with the housing developments and strip malls that more commonly fall under the purview of Act 250 permitting. However, because the size and scope of Middlebury College land use and development is subject to Act 250, our relatively dinky project needed Act 250 approval as well. Many of the criteria, such as 6(a): “Estimate the number of additional students who may attend local schools as a result of this project” and 8(f): “Describe exterior lighting, including location, lamp wattage, fixture style, and height of pole” were completely irrelevant to our backcountry project with no plumbing or electricity. However, we worked carefully on environmental criteria related to wetlands, productive forest soils, primary agricultural soils, wildlife habitat, and endangered species. With Marc Lapin’s GIS layers and technical assistance, we compiled a supplemental environmental analysis that went above and beyond the requirements of the permit application.

Burgin Lodge Environmental Assessment.jpg

An example of supplemental environmental analysis work

So, we submitted our 50+ page Act 250 permit application in February, received a ruling that, as part of Act 250, we also had to apply for a wastewater permit for our privy, did so with the help of wastewater permit specialists at Lincoln Applied Geology, and received our Act 250 and wastewater permits this past September!

As we were delighted to discover, applying for permits does not solely consist of paperwork and phone calls. Unanimously, our favorite part of permitting involved getting, very literally, down and dirty. The wastewater permit application required that we dig a test pit at two different potential privy locations to ensure that 1) bedrock was at least 48″ below the surface and 2) there was no evidence of a shallow groundwater system within 36″ of the surface. Generally, people dig their test pits with a backhoe – but Larson, Joseph, and I felt confident that a shovel, rock bar, and a pleasant spring evening were all that we needed to get the job done.


Joseph, feeling like a character from Holes

Off we went to the site, jazzed to use our muscles and take a break from the arcane details of physics and architecture. Two challenges ensued. First, geology became extremely hands-on as we slowly made our way through New England’s famous rocky topsoil. In the process of digging this tiny hole, we gained significant respect for our colonial forefathers and foremothers who dug entire foundations. Second, we learned that it is impossible to remove soil from a reasonably narrow 4′ deep hole with a 5′ shovel. We put our problem solving skills, ab muscles, and my trucker hat to work to devise a system to remove loosened dirt from the bottom of the hole.

For those of us on the Burgin Lodge team, these permits and associated adventures represent a significant part of our Middlebury College educations. If not for this project, I never would have done anything as complex and self directed during my time at Middlebury. No professor was there to help us answer to questions like,”What do we do next?” or “Why didn’t this work?” or “What are we supposed to write in this blank?” Those were questions for state agency scientists, local zoning board members, and College administrators. Often, figuring out who the particular person was to whom we needed to direct a specific question was a significant challenge in itself!


A visit to the site

On Monday, I took a quick trip to Rikert with a friend and spent an hour or two basking in the kind of glorious late afternoon winter light that provides the most beautiful kind of skiing. We accessed the Burgin Lodge site from the Homer Noble Farm, just to the west. From this trailhead, it’s about a 15 minute ski in, while it takes 30 to 45 minutes to ski in from the Rikert headquarters at Breadloaf.

rikert mapFrom the intersection of the Frost and Rock Garden trails, we headed uphill through an open stand of maturing maple and beech trees for several hundred feet to reach the site. Last week, Joseph, Larson, and I went out with Marc Lapin, an environmental science professor here at the College, to flag the access trail (look for orange tape!) and situate it in a way that minimizes any possibility for erosion and need for tree clearing. We were on foot last week for the flagging portion, but this time we skied up the access trail and confirmed that the grade is not too steep to go up or dangerous to come down.


Intersection of Frost and Rock Garden trails, looking east down the Frost trail. Access trail on the left!


The site from access trail approach

Back in October, we chose this location, off the trail, to minimize the visual impact of the development on skiers while maximizing the refuge-like nature of the cabin. Another crucial factor in our decision was sunlight – among our team members, we have collectively spent many an outdoor excursion in dank, dark, shelters. With these memories in mind, we explored the sloped southern side of Firetower Hill, uphill from the Frost trail, and found a flatter shelf that runs along a contour at about 1750 ft. With sun streaming in through the maple canopy and views of Worth Mountain and Moosalamoo in the distance, we knew that we had found just the spot. After getting some good arm exercise taking soil samples with Gus’s auger and ascertaining that the soil was stable and well-drained and then conducting GIS analyses (and getting some brain exercise to boot) to ensure that we were far away from seeps, wetlands, and rare plants, we are pleased to report that our site is an ecologically sound choice.


View out to southwest: mountains, snow, and sunset – could we ask for more?


Scott practices his tele turns as he approaches the Frost trail

One real benefit of choosing this location within of an open stand of maturing trees is the opportunity for some off-trail powder chasing. The run directly downhill is short, but will provide an exciting and safe learning ground for aspiring backcountry skiers. I was on fishscale skis without metal edges, so had to tentatively switchback my way down this slope, but Scott was prepared with metal-edged skis and carved some picturesque turns. On other trips out to the site, we’ve seen tracks indicating that other skiers have sought out this patch of woods for the same reason. The Middlebury Freeheelers Club, a group on campus that loans out telemark gear, is looking for opportunities to take students out on overnights to practice backcountry technique and is looking forward to using the Burgin Lodge next winter.

Coming soon: the design! We’ve been working in plan, section, and elevation on Revit and are creating informative and easy-to-understand renderings to share with you. Stay tuned!

– Phoebe Howe