The Best East Coast Colleges for Skiers

How to ski while still earning your degree in Vermont, New Hampshire, and even Michigan

Oh, college. It's the best four, five, or eight years of your life as you gain the education and social skills necessary to become a functional, contributing member of society in the post-graduate world.

While your parents and professors might assume you're going to college just to get a degree, chances are you're hoping to spend a least some of your time studying that sweet powder when you ship off to school in the fall.

With that in mind, we here at POWDER have selected the best schools that find that perfect balance between getting to ski and getting that knowledge. This is the first of three installments, which will be sorted by region.

Sitting on the shores of Burlington’s Lake Champlain, University of Vermont’s campus turns into a winter wonderland once the snow starts falling. PHOTO: Sally McCay/UVM

University of Vermont
Tuition: $15,504 in-state / $39,120 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 69%
Enrollment: 11,898
Where to Ski: Stowe, Mad River Glen, Jay Peak

Located in the heart of Ski the East country (the founders of Ski the East actually met at UVM back in '03) the University of Vermont is perfect for those looking to spend their college tenure shredding across the ice coast. Its hometown of Burlington has been referred to as the Boulder of the East, and it's hard to throw a bottle of maple syrup around town without hitting a Heady-Topper-drinking, Ben-and-Jerry's-eating, dedicated East Coast ski bum.

"Ski culture lies at the core of UVM's identity," says Ski and Snowboard Club president Gabe Bresnahan. "It has fostered one of the most passionate and motivated communities of collegiate skiers in the country, which continues to push skiing to new heights." Ski and Snowboard Club members define themselves as the "East Coast's Finest," and offer free shuttles to the mountains every weekend of the ski season.

And with Stowe, Jay Peak, Sugarbush, Mad River Glen and Smuggler's Notch all within an hour's drive of campus, it's safe to say there's plenty of skiing to fit in during your four years and beyond.

What do you get when you combine seven UVM ski bums and a 2003 GMC School Bus? The best college road trip ever.

Now that’s a graduation ceremony we can get behind. PHOTO: Trent Campbell/Middlebury College

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Middlebury College
Tuition: $52,080
Acceptance Rate: 16%
Enrollment: 2,526
Where to Ski: Middlebury Snow Bowl

When a college owns its own ski area, odds are it's going to be a pretty good fit for those looking to ski. Middlebury College and their respective Middlebury Snow Bowl, which the school has owned and operated since trails were first cut in 1934, are tucked in the beautiful Green Mountains of central Vermont.

One of the more academically minded schools on the list--and the hardest to get into--Middlebury constantly scores top 10 spots for the best Liberal Arts schools in the nation. With academics on the heavier side, Middlebury utilizes what they call their "Winter Term" for students to enroll in only a single class during the month of January, leaving skiers with plenty of time to hit the slopes. Plus, if you're a midyear graduate, you get to end your college career with a shred down Snow Bowl in your cap and gown in February.

It might not be the closest to the slopes, but views like this on your walk to class make attending University of New Hampshire something special. PHOTO: UNH

University of New Hampshire
Tuition: $18,499 in-state / $33,879 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 80%
Enrollment: 15,398
Where to Ski: Loon Mountain, Sunday River

It's not the closest school to skiing on the East Coast, but when the University of New Hampshire's Ski and Board Club is the biggest club on campus, you know you'll be in the company of some like-minded snow enthusiasts attending UNH. Two hours from Loon and two and a half hours from Sunday River in Maine, the Ski and Board Club offers shuttles to the mountains on the weekends including a big overnight trip to Sugarloaf, Maine.

One of the few schools on this list with close access to the ocean, UNH is also one of those rare schools where surfing and skiing in the same weekend isn't completely out of the question. So whether it's on the slopes or in the waves, the University of New Hampshire is full of opportunities to brave that ice coast winter.

While most skiers make a pilgrimage West in search of deep powder, it takes a special kind of skier to move East.

If you want to go to a school that’s fully committed to their skiing student body, enroll at Plymouth State University. PHOTO: PSU

Plymouth State University
Tuition: $11,580 in-state / $20,250 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 75.2%
Enrollment: 4,100
Where to Ski: Loon Mountain, Waterville Valley

When a school starts recruiting future students on the mountain, you know it's going to be a good fit for skiers. New this year, Plymouth State University opened up a Basecamp at Waterville Valley, just 20 miles away from campus, where high school skiers could meet with the admissions team, as well as score free lift tickets.

Plymouth State also brings to the table their fabled past of the "Blue Lodge," a previously abandoned ski area a mile from campus that was taken over by ski bums and used as a living space and party center during the early aughts. Outside of their extracurricular shenanigans, PSU also plays host to a close-knit group of dedicated ice coast skiers.

"Plymouth State is less than 30 minutes away from some of the top parks in the Northeast at Loon and Waterville, along with easy access to the unique backcountry terrain of Mount Washington and the Presidential Range," says PSU Ski Club member David Baird. "The school has a large community of skiers and various clubs and organizations put on a number of events each year, the largest being our 'Get Jibby With It' rail jam in February."

If that all isn’t enough, PSU holds their annual Ski Day every year at Waterville Valley, where the entire campus scores free lift tickets for a day on the hill.

Don’t let it’s Midwest location fool you, Northern Michigan can still provide the goods. PHOTO: Northern Michigan University

Northern Michigan University
Tuition: $10,658 in-state / $16,154 out-of-state
Acceptance Rate: 72.1%
Enrollment: 7,900
Where to Ski: Mount Bohemia, Marquette Mountain

Now I know what you might be thinking--a Midwest school? On a list of best colleges for skiers? Take one trip to Northern Michigan University, however, and you'll see what we're talking about. Located in Michigan's upper peninsula (read: Canada Lite) NMU sits on the shores of Lake Superior that whips up a whole lot of lake effect snow during the winter months, leaving the campus snow-covered more months than not throughout the year.

Two and a half hours from campus sits one of the Midwest's greatest untouched treasures, Mount Bohemia, who boasts the only true Midwest powder skiing with an average of 273 inches a year across their entirely un-groomed ski hill. Closer to school, Marquette Mountain is less than a 10-minute drive from campus, making it possible to still get in some turns during your lunch break, or after hours, with lifts open until 8:30 most nights of the week.

"The Midwest doesn't offer a ton of solid options for dedicated skiers," says Parker Genau, a freshman at NMU. “But winters in the UP are full of fresh snow and super cold temps and snow sticks around until late April and sometimes even early May, so there’s a bunch of time to go shred. Weekends at the mountain are a blast just getting to hang out with a bunch of other college students doing what we love to do, ski.”

NMU is also perfect for those looking to venture into multi-sport days, being the second school on the list with close access to surfable waves and one of the only consistent Midwest surf spots on the mighty Lake Superior.

Ski the Midwest’s highest vert and deepest pow at Mount Bohemia.

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