The Birth of a Tradition: AIAVT & ASLA VT Ski Night

by Jesse Robbins, AIA, LEED AP+

One of the special things about Vermont is that most people don’t just end up here by accident- the decision to either stay in Vermont or move here to make one’s career is often a deliberate one. There are plenty of reasons why we choose to be here, and in talking to others in the building design and construction fields, the great outdoors and the recreational opportunities that Vermont offers is probably the most common. For many, it’s winter sports specifically. It seemed fitting to plan a networking and social event that would bring us together around this shared interest.

For years, our colleagues at the Vermont Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects held a ski day event that brought together architects, landscape architects, civil engineers, and other professionals together for a day of skiing at a local resort. I attended for years and always enjoyed the skiing and the company, and when it didn’t happen in 2019, I reached out to Adam Portz at SE Group to see if I could help bring back the tradition in 2020.

I talked to some folks from the boards of AIA Vermont and ASLA Vermont and started the planning process; early on, there was a great suggestion that we try an evening outing instead of a full-day event. And so, AIA/ ASLA Ski Night was born. Members of both boards and additional volunteers from the membership of each organization laid the groundwork and found sponsors to help make the event as affordable as possible.

On Wednesday, March 4, 35 people met up at Bolton Valley Resort’s fireside room, where, for a sum of $15 (for members of AIA or ASLA), they received a lift ticket, a drink ticket, and a build-your-own taco buffet. It had been above freezing but blustery all day, temperatures were dropping, and the upper mountain lifts were not running, yet groups began to form and head to the lifts anyway. We’re all Vermonters- and we know that you’ve got to take advantage of whatever mountain conditions Mother Nature throws at you. To put it mildly, things were a bit firm. Actually, it was as if they’d substituted a Zamboni for their groomers. 

But chairlifts are a good place for conversations, many of which moved to the more comfortable environment of the bar or the Fireside room. It was great to connect with our landscape architect colleagues, and I heard that many were hoping for this new tradition to continue. The plan is that it will.

The event would not have happened without our sponsors, a couple of whom have already committed to helping again next year. Trowel Trades Supply, a favorite vendor of both natural stone and synthetic masonry products for both architects and landscape architects, was our top-tier Black Diamond sponsor. Landscape Forms, who make landscape and streetscape fixtures from benches to lighting, were joined by permeable paver and landscape block manufacturer, Techo-Bloc as our Blue Square sponsors, and Yestermorrow Design-Build School sponsored at the Green Circle level. 

Ski night happened just before most of us began to perceive the profound effect that the novel coronavirus would have on all of us, and I look back at that night with fond memories of making new personal connections, having a beer at a bar, and riding a chairlift. While it’s looking like a return to “normal” might be weeks or months down the road, I’m looking forward to more events where we can get together and enjoy more of what brought us to Vermont. Maybe a fall hike with après beers at one of our amazing breweries? My fingers are crossed…