As we head into our 8th year, the North Face Race To The Top Of Vermont has become one of the premiere mountain running events in New England, and regularly draws over 800 runners, mountain bikers and hikers from all parts of the U.S.
But did you know that the first Race To The Top… didn’t actually go to the top of Vermont?
In January of 2007 Jim Fredericks was hired to take the helm here at the Catamount Trail Association (CTA). In case you didn’t know, the CTA is the small non-profit responsible for managing, maintaining, and protecting the 300 mile long Catamount Trail, while also promoting the sports of backcountry and nordic skiing.
At the time, the CTA was doing a pretty good job of protecting and maintaining the trail, but was struggling with promoting nordic and backcountry skiing outside of the small CTA community. Membership was flat, and with only one full-time staff member something needed to be done that would help the organization increase its capacity and its exposure to the public.
Because of the erratic nature of winter conditions, Jim decided a large summer event would be the way to go, and during the summer of 2007 the first ever Catamount Challenge Hill Climb took place with help from our good friends at Bolton Valley. That year the event attracted ~150 mountain bikers and runners, and utilized a section of the Catamount Trail. Unfortunately, difficult accessibility to the finish area, and limited space meant that it would be hard to grow the event in future years.
So, with the success at Bolton behind us, Jim approached Mike Colburn at Stowe Mountain Resort and pitched him the idea of using the Toll Road. With Mike’s help they were able to convince Stowe to give them permission on a trial basis for 1 year. And with that the Race To The Top Of Vermont was born.
That was 7 years ago… Now things are a little bit different. The CTA and Stowe Mountain Resort have developed a great relationship over the years and now very little convincing needs to be done each year to secure the course in August. Each year the event has grown, and in 2015 we are expecting to hit our capacity of 800 participants earlier than ever. Also, three years ago we added a youth fun run, and now there really is something for everyone in the family.
Over the years a variety of businesses have participated as our Title Sponsor. At one time The North Face, the big corporate, multinational organization, held that position. However, that isn’t the case now. The event is still called the North Face Race To The Top Of Vermont, but a large amount of support now comes from KL Mountain Shop. KL is a local North Face retailer located in the Burlington, Vermont area. The North Face stores on Church Street and College Street fall under their umbrella, and they have a large online presence as well. Owner and proprietor Will Vinci has been incredibly supportive and they always go above and beyond to help make this event happen. If you’re in Burlington definitely check them out, and if you need anything outdoor related visit KLMOUNTAINSHOP.COM as they carry all kinds of clothing and equipment from a variety of brands.
Today the Catamount Trail Association is doing quite well. During the summer and fall we can be found in the woods clearing trail, repairing bridges, and in general working hard to make sure that when the snow comes the trail is ready to go. Once winter arrives we can be found hosting cross country and backcountry instructional events, uphill clinics, and single-day and multi-day backcountry tours. After 30+ years the Catamount Trail corridor is pretty well established, and now we’ve turned out attention to creating opportunities to help new and developing skiers get outside and have fun. No matter you experience level we have something for you. Last year we hosted over 90 different opportunities to get out and slide on snow from one-day tours in the Catamount Trail, multiple-day tours in the White Mountains and Maine, instructional events, uphill events, new terrain tours, splitboarding outings, and much more. Check us out this winter, and if you think you’ve got it in you… And we know you do… Come support us at the North Face Race To The Top Of Vermont on August 23rd so we can continue offering topnotch snow sliding experiences.