Middlebury College’s Carroll and Jane Rikert Nordic Center has 50 kilometers of groomed cross-country ski trails for skiers of all abilities, from beginners to collegiate and masters racers.
In 2011, a generous gift from the Tormondsen family, enabled the center to complete a five-kilometer trail that has been certified forcompetition at the highest level by skiing’s governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS). The College has completed on an ambitious plan to add snowmaking to that trail, allowing Middlebury skiers and members of the community to use the trail no matter what Mother Nature has in mind.
Buying and installing snowmaking equipment cost about $850,000. The College has already raised $600,000, so our goal now is to raise the remaining $250,000 before the end of the 2012-2013 ski season.
“Rikert is my place of choice to go skiing. If we can bring snowmaking to the center, it will open up a world of opportunity and make Rikert a destination for visitors, local ski teams in training, and national competitions.”
—Garrott Kuzzy ’06, 2010 Olympian
“Having snowmaking capability at Rikert is good news for the College and for tourism in the area,” says Mike Hussey, director of the Nordic center. “The possibilities are really exciting. Our vision is to make Rikert the premier Nordic ski center in the region.”
The FIS certification of the Tormondsen Family Race Trail makes Rikert one of just a handful of ski areas in the country that feature fully homo-logated trails. Homologation means that the trail was designed to meet specific standards of difficulty, including a number of long, challenging climbs followed by fast, technical descents. Unlike a basketball court or a baseball field, no two Nordic courses are the same, but each trail should be equally challenging. Middlebury is the only college in the country with a Nordic trail certified at the highest level by FIS.
The new course, designed by legendary trail developer John Morton ’68, allows Rikert to host major competitions, including the Nordic events for the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships. Middlebury alumnus and 2010 Vancouver Olympian Garrott Kuzzy ’06 skied the course last year on one of the very few days when there was enough snow and remarked, “You could have a World Cup event on this trail.”
Snowmaking makes that a real possibility. The Rikert Nordic Center now has the longest Nordic trail in the Northeast with snowmaking capability and could become a destination facility for regional and national racing events. In the past, Rikert was not able to bid on certain races and championship events because it could not guarantee a skiable trail. With the ability to ensure consistent snow from early-season training through the Middlebury Carnival and Spring-Series Races, Rikert will have an advantage over all other Nordic centers. And that will benefit not just nationally ranked skiers, but also the local youth and high school teams who practice and compete there.
Snowmaking capability at Rikert is obviously a boon to Middlebury’s own Nordic team. Last year, when an uncommonly mild winter left the trails almost bare for much of the ski season, the team had to travel more than three hours daily to practice and compete. The time and resources required to make sure the team was well-prepared for the NCAA competitions placed an extra burden not only on the skiers, but also on the coaching staff and the budget.
“This snowmaking system will help to keep spirits high and provide a good environment for training,” says Andrew Gardner, Middlebury’s Nordic ski coach. “The combination of snowmaking and the trail work that has already been done will bring a lot of other ski programs to Rikert, which will be amazing for collaborative training and events.”