We hope you got a chance to read the 2017 CTA Spring Newsletter (if not, you should check that stack of mail on your kitchen table. Go ahead, I’ll wait…)
If you did already see it, you may have caught a story about a Dave and Carol Smith and their families Catamount Trail skiing legacy. Like many of the articles we write for the newsletter, this one fell victim to the cruel confines of available space, and was cut back from its original draft. We wanted to make sure everyone got the chance to check out all of this great story.
Special thanks to Kim, Marcy, Steve, and Laird for sharing their stories with us. We look forward to sharing more of their End-to-End adventures in the winters ahead.
There Are So Many Different Ways You Can Say
‘This Must Be The Most Beautiful Spot In The World.’
by: Amy Kelsey
March 31, 2017
In 1987, Carol Smith signed on as one of the earliest members of the CTA Board of Directors. Carol was an avid skier, hiker, and outdoors person. Her husband David shared similar passions. Rumor has it that the two would exchange new handsaws and loppers as Christmas gifts; a romantic reflection of the important role trails played in their lives.
Dave and Carol were integral in establishing the Catamount Trail, particularly Sections 14-17, from Mountain Top to Lincoln Gap. They served as trail chiefs for that stretch of trail for many years (Today, we have 5 Trail Chiefs for that 40+ mile stretch of trail, not just 2!). Their children remember how much Dave loved to speak with landowners across the state, share the trail with them, and encourage them to be trail hosts. Carol enjoyed these things, too, and was particularly fond of working on trails. They were fixtures on the CTA Board of Directors, serving in various capacities for nearly two decades, from 1987 to 2005. Although Dave and Carol are no longer with us, a sign at Widow’s Clearing (CT Section 16) serves as a reminder of their enthusiasm, and honors their love for and commitment to the trail. Their memories are continuing to be kept alive even today, by another group of dedicated skiers.
Dave and Carol’s children are honoring their parents’ love and commitment to the CT by undertaking an End to End ski. Since retiring, daughters Marcy Covey and Kim Spensley, and Marcy’s husband Laird, all residents of Pittsford, VT, make an effort to ski every day. Most days that means a trip to Mountain Top, their local Nordic center. This past winter, with the addition of Kim’s husband Steve, they began to check off sections of the CT, too. Kim takes credit for instigating this end-to-end endeavor, and they all share enthusiasm for the adventure they are on, as a family, and in honor of Dave and Carol.
Over the course of Winter 2017, the group skied 5 and ½ sections of the Catamount Trail. They hoped to do more, and sooner, but the last two winters have been challenging. Wide fluctuations in temperature and snow cover quickly trained them in the array of conditions a day on the trail can present. As Laird put it: “Initially, I was reading the guidebook, and it said ‘skins strongly recommended’. And I thought, yeah, well, not for us, we’ve been skiing forever. So after our first few experiences, (open water, rotten snow, unseasonably warm and cold temperatures, etc), we’ll consider every tip in the book. There are no rules here!”
Taking a look at their parents’ history, it becomes clear that the family’s passion for skiing may not have been entirely coincidental. Carol, originally from New Jersey, met her husband David Smith when both were students at Middlebury College in the early 1940s. David was a Vermonter born and raised in Pittsford, and Carol was immediately at home in the Green Mountains. The couple settled in Middlebury to raise a family and David pursued a career at Middlebury College as an Economics professor. David taught for 37 years, beginning in 1950, and led the department as its chair for 15 years. Long time alpine skiers, Dave and Carol were determined to pass a love of skiing on to their 4 children. Marcy recalls stories of her Mom and Dad frequenting the Middelbury Snowbowl, leaving a baby at the bottom of the slope in a baby carriage, and heading out for a ski. “They knew someone would come rock the baby if it started crying,” Marcy notes.
A few years down the road when Kim, Marcy, and their siblings were in school, the family hosted a Norwegian exchange student. The exchange student’s luggage included cross-country skis. That was the Smiths’ first introduction to cross-country skiing, and the start of a new family past time. Marcy recalls her father crafting their first Nordic skis at home, out of old alpine skis. Kim and Marcy joined the Middlebury Union High School Ski Team. Kim remembers when cross-country skiing was added to the high school competitions, along side the traditional slalom and giant slalom events.
In time, more skiers were added to the family. Kim and Marcy’s husbands, Steve and Laird, respectively, joke that Carol tested the adventurous spirits of her daughters’ suitors, in both Alpine and Nordic venues. She led the young men out on long and fast Nordic skis, or up to the top of very steep alpine slopes, then observed them as they made their way down. Thankfully, both men survived these outings and were welcomed into the family!
The Coveys and Spensleys, too, passed this love of skiing on to their children. Kim and Marcy spent years coaching in the Bill Koch League , in Maine and in Vermont, and Kim and Steve’s daughter Elly served as captain of the 2001 Willams College Nordic ski team. Today there are several great-grandchildren growing up on skis.
Kim, Marcy and Laird, along with sharing the story of their parents and their upbringing on skis, shared some of their experiences from the CT. Here are some of the highlights from our interview.
CTA: So tell us more about what you have found out there as you have skied your first few sections of the Catamount Trail. What other highlights can you share with us?
Kim Spensley (KS): There are magic moments every single time we go out.
Marcy Covey (MC): Section 29 in Lowell was lovely. There were moose tracks and moose meadows. And we saw beaver tracks and belly drags on Section 5.
MC: Section 1 was gorgeous, along the water, but it was a cold day so we couldn’t stop and admire it as much as we wanted to.
KS: As we approached Mountain Top on Section 13, do you remember how beautiful that was? The snow was soft…in an evergreen forest…with no wind; they were beautiful woods.
MC: True confessions: On Sections 1 and 13, we parked bail-out vehicles midway along the section, and actually enjoyed the chance to eat lunch in our heated vehicle.
Laird Covey (LC): Another positive, and this isn’t a particular section of trail, but it must be 20 times a day when we are out there that one of us will look to the other and say ‘can you believe how beautiful this is.”’We are getting to all these places in Vermont. Driving, by the way…the whole issue of driving cars and shuttling is kind of a pain. But it’s also on these unfamiliar back roads. Then, as we are skiing, we see all these side trails. Here we are in the middle of nowhere and we are thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to see where that trail goes?
KS: Except we never can, because we don’t have the time!
LC: In terms of the trail layout, sometimes, it’s “I can’t believe how beautiful these woods are,” and sometimes it’s “look at that view over the valley,” and sometimes it’s just skiing along by water.
There are so many different ways you can say, ‘this must be the most beautiful spot in the world.’
MC: I can’t imagine laying out the trail – that to me is magical. It’s a real science. I can’t imagine that skill. That was one aspect I know my father loved.
KS: I’ve been profoundly struck by how dependent we are on the Trail Chiefs. Those trail markers have to be there. You can’t get somewhere at 3 in the afternoon with 5 miles to go and not be able to find the trail.
MC: It’s gorgeous in terms of feeling more firmly rooted in the state of Vermont. And I feel like we are organically connecting with our parents while we are out there. It’s interesting to see what different aspects challenge or don’t challenge us. It’s cool what we find in ourselves, and also interesting what goes missing when you wish it wouldn’t!
LC: It’s wonderful for the four of us to share this together- the drive, the skis, the good stuff and bad stuff.
MC: There are 2 times when someone has come along at just the right time, and I honestly feel like they were sent on purpose. One was when we were skiing from Mountain Top to River Road. We were at an unmarked intersection, but right then some snowmobilers came by who knew the area and sent us on our way. And when we were skiing Section 16, near Widow’s Clearing, a woman showed up right at Mom and Dad’s sign and took our picture. I feel our parents are out there with us and keeping us on track