The first annual Green Mountain Skimo Camp went off in great style this past Saturday at Bolton Valley Resort. Sixty participants showed up bright and early for a mix of on- and off-snow instruction, gear and technique clinics, and inspiring presentations by some of the northeast’s top racers. Despite low-snow conditions, skiers made the best of the day as they prepared for another long season of uphill skiing and skimo racing in the mountains of New England.
The fun began before sunrise for more than twenty brave dawn patrol skiers who came up to Bolton Valley for an early-morning ski tour. Much like the Bolton Valley dawn patrol skis led by the CTA, this was a “no-drop,” all-abilities tour that took veteran skimo racers and novice uphillers alike through the backcountry trail system and down inbounds trails. Participants reported firm conditions in the backcountry, along with moose and deer tracks, and good edging to carve turns down the mountain. Those who skinned early had flushed cheeks and rosy smiles by the time they arrived at the Nordic Center at 8am!
Meanwhile, dozens of skiers were streaming in to Bolton, coming from as far afield as Massachusetts and New York, Connecticut and Quebec. Skimo is a growing sport in the Northeast, and our Skimo Camp aimed to bring enthusiasts together, regardless of whether they normally ski in the Green Mountains. Along with geographic range, the range of abilities also made Skimo Camp a diverse group. Some participants had years of experience with skimo races under their belts, ranging from Wednesday night Citizen Series races at Bolton Valley to difficult events around New England to European “grande course” races. Others were just starting out as uphill skiers and were excited to learn about skinning, transitioning, and good practices on the hill.
No matter how experienced the skier, Skimo Camp offered a clinic to teach and showcase the necessary skills. At 9am the morning off-snow clinics kicked off with an intro to skimo seminar with yours truly, Scott Berkley, along with a course on planning and training for a skimo-racing season. Following on the split of beginner/advanced tracks, we then had a presentation from Aaron August of Outdoor Gear Exchange on the all-important topic of gear and layering for uphill skiing along with an in-depth study of common skimo injuries and how to avoid them from local physical therapist, Dr. Kevin Duniho.
After a skimo transition workshop led by a group of fast racers, the whole crowd came together late in the morning for an inspirational presentation about the intersection of East Coast grit and Rocky Mountain ski mountaineering: Kevin Duniho and Milan Kubala’s completion of the Elk Mountain Grand Traverse, a 40-mile backcountry ski race between Crested Butte and Aspen. The pair, who finished 19th and were the top “sea-level” team at the March 2017 event, told of skinning through the night on icy sidehills, losing circulation in their hands, and eating nothing more than a couple of energy gels. But Duniho and Kubala also showed amazing photos of dawn light in the Rockies, miles of headlamps stretching out as hundreds of skiers made their way through the mountains, and deep snow layered over the rocky spines of the Elk Range. It was enough to get a Vermonter’s imagination going!
All this talking and learning is sure to work up an appetite, and everybody enjoyed a bowl of chili and cornbread while listening to Ian Clarke, Vermont native an junior member of the U.S. Ski Mountaineering national team, tell about his experience at the World Cup in Italy during the spring of 2017. Skimo racing in Europe is a bit different than it is in the Green Mountain state; not only do participants in European races use ropes, harnesses, and crampons, but they are greeted at the finish lines of events by thousands of excited spectators!
After lunch participants headed out to brave the cold and see if they could find some snow on the hill. Indeed they did, and the afternoon passed in a flurry of fun activities and clinics. Skiers split into three groups to learn about efficient uphill skinning technique, technical downhill skiing on lightweight gear, and the critical skimo transition, which involves putting on and taking off skins in an efficient and timely manner.
Thoroughly chilled and tired out, skiers retreated to the Nordic Center around dusk for a raffle with gear prizes from Skimo Camp sponsors. With snow in the forecast for northern Vermont and lots of great skimo events scheduled for the coming months, the stoke for another season of skiing fast and having fun could not be higher. We hope to see you out there at some Catamount Trail events, including our Tuesday night Skimo Citizens Series at Bolton Valley, and we look forward to another great Green Mountain Skimo Camp in 2018!
As announced at the CTA Annual Meeting on November 4th, Executive Director Amy Kelsey will be leaving in the spring of 2018. In preparing for this leadership transition, our search committee is now accepting applications for a dynamic and practical Executive Director. Given the size of the organization and diverse nature of the E.D.’s responsibilities, the optimal candidate will bring a strategic and creative mindset, superb communication & organizational skills, a collaborative leadership style, and the ability to directly manage and contribute to a number of operational areas. They will also have an appreciation for the organization’s history, passion for stewarding its mission, and vision for furthering the CTA’s leadership in the future sustainability of the Catamount Trail and Vermont’s expanding network of winter backcountry trails and terrain.
If the above description speaks to you – AND you love working and playing in Vermont’s beautiful mountains, woods and fields in all weather – we’d love to hear from you!
To apply for this role, kindly submit a cover letter and resume to the attention of the search committee at EDSearch@catamounttrail.org Applications will be evaluated on an ongoing basis for interviews with the search committee during December and January. The CTA board of directors intends to select a new Executive Director in February of 2018.
The Catamount Trail Association is an Equal Opportunity Employer.
Longer nights, falling leaves, cold weather in the mountains? It must be getting closer to ski season! Autumn excitement is coming, and in the spirit of fall we’ve got a few questions for our readers and members:
- Do you like sliding on snow?
- Do you like talking about nordic and backcountry skiing and riding?
- Do you like supporting backcountry access in the state of VT?
- Do you like engaging with other nordic skiers, backcountry skiers and splitboarders?
- Do you like potlucks, ski swaps, raffles, and other ways to gather with the snow-loving tribe?
- Do you like getting out and getting dirty with a pair of loppers or a brush cutter?
A few details about the event:
This year we are combining two of our usual fall events, the CTA Annual Meeting and the Vermont Backcountry Forum, into one day of pre-ski-season awesomeness. We’re also moving the Annual Meeting a little earlier in the month of November than usual.
We’ll be gathering at the Pierce Hall Community Center in Rochester on Saturday morning to share coffee and donuts before the Catamount Trail Association Annual Meeting at 10:30, which will be a fun series of reports and presentations about the CTA’s work in the past year and projects for the future. You’ll get to meet other members, learn new facts about our work, and get psyched to get involved as a backcountry user (and maybe as a volunteer, too!).
In the afternoon, we’ll have a couple of outdoor activities, including a ski swap and mini-expo with vendors such as Salomon, Voile, and Dynafit, as well as the option to help out with several trail work projects — one at the Brandon Gap Backcountry zone, sponsored by RASTA, and one at Catamount Trail section 15. We’ll also have a site visit to the proposed Vermont Huts Association hut at Chittenden Brook. In the evening, we’ll all convene for a potluck dinner and drinks along with the Vermont Backcountry Forum, and of course a great raffle!
On Sunday, RASTA is hosting another trail work day at Brandon Gap, so you can make a weekend of it by bringing your work gloves and can-do attitude! (Check the RASTA website or Facebook page for more details.)
Don’t forget, this is the most important time of the year to meet other backcountry enthusiasts, support the Catamount Trail Association, and get excited for the winter to come. Don’t miss the Annual Meeting!
To save your spot at the Annual Meeting, RSVP at this link before October 26!
This fall we are again partnering with New England custom ski builder builder Parlor Skis!
The Catamount Trail Association, RASTA – Rochester/Randolph Area Sports Trail Alliance, and Parlor Skis are working together to provide you with the opportunity to win a custom pair of skis at the upcoming 5th Annual VT Backcountry Forum & Celebration (& Potluck!)
The money raised through raffle ticket sales… 100% of it… will go to directly support new backcountry zone developments in RASTA Country.
In addition… If you happen not to win the raffle skis, or just can’t wait… Parlor has made the artwork, custom designed with RASTA, available to anyone ordering skis from Parlor. The artwork is currently live on the Parlor Website, and they will donate $150 for every ski purchased that uses the RASTA artwork!
Hey, everyone! My name is Scott Berkley, and I’m the new VHCB-Americorps member working with the Catamount Trail Association for 2017-2018. I know I’ve got some big shoes to fill with Justin Geibel departing, and let’s face it, I can’t kick a soccer ball like he can! I’m beyond excited to be joining the CTA staff this year — I might call this my “dream job.”
You see, like those of you out there crossing your fingers and doing snow dances and other rituals, I’m a skier. You could say I’m a nordic skier, telemark skier, backcountry skier, skimo racer, all the above — or just a skier. I might go so far as to say I’m an obsessed skier — obsessed with kicking and gliding through northern New England’s deep dark forests, obsessed with twisting and turning through steep moguls, even (sometimes) obsessed with skiing uphill as hard as I can for an hour without barfing on someone else’s skins during a transition.
I started skiing as a two year-old in the woods of Wayland, MA, and my childhood was full of snow days spent playing on skis, afternoons at the ski track with the Bill Koch League, and tours in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. After taking a break from nordic racing and learning to telemark during high school, I moved up to Vermont for school at Middlebury College, where I majored in English and minored in Mad River Glen glade skiing (an unofficial, but very important, academic plaudit). I also got my introduction to the Catamount Trail on a sparkling March day skiing along the base of Bread Loaf Mountain and skating back on Natural Turnpike!
I’m beyond excited for everything that this winter has in store, both on and off the trail. In the fall you can find me at many of the Catamount Trail work days, getting busy with a pair of loppers and a hand saw; once snow arrives I’ll be out at Bolton Valley for our Ski Cubs program. We might also cross paths at a glade-cutting event hosted by one of our chapters — DHASH, NEKBC or RASTA — or at the annual meeting on November 4th in Rochester. Please say hello! I’m hoping to get to know more CTA members and the amazing community involved with the snowy backcountry here in Vermont.
Mark your calendar and make sure your voice is heard!
The Vermont Outdoor Recreation Economic Collaborative (VOREC) steering committee will host a series of public forums to gather input from Vermonters on how to leverage and strengthen the State’s outdoor recreation assets to grow the economy. The first is September 12 and they run through October 24. The public forums will be open house style, and will solicit feedback and ideas on how Vermont might achieve the following principal objectives identified by the private-public steering committee:
Promote business opportunities.
Increase participation opportunities.
Strengthen the quality and extent of our recreational resources.
Strengthen the stewardship of our recreational resources.
“We hope that local businesses, public officials, organizations and the public will provide their ideas about specific actions related to our four main objectives,” said Michael Snyder, Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation and VOREC chair. “VOREC can only be successful through inclusion and collaboration with all stakeholders, so we want to hear from all Vermonters.”
In June, Governor Phil Scott signed an Executive Order tasking the 15-member steering committee to provide recommendations on how to promote prudent stewardship and economic growth. Input from public forums will be incorporated into the recommendations.
“There is genuine consensus among the VOREC committee that a stronger outdoor recreation economy in Vermont has the ability to benefit other economic sectors across the state as well,” said Drew Simmons, VOREC member and owner of Pale Morning Media in Waitsfield.
The dates and locations of the public forums are:
Tuesday, September 12th: Best Western Plus, 45 Blush Hill Rd, Waterbury, 6-8 pm.
Monday, September 25th: Island Pond Town Hall, 49 Mill St, Island Pond, 6-8 pm.
Tuesday, October 3rd: Community College of Vermont, 60 West St, Rutland, 6-8 pm.
Tuesday, October 10th: St. Albans City Hall, 100 North Main Street, St. Albans, 6-8 pm.
Monday, October 16th: The Evening Star Grange, 1008 East-West Rd, East Dummerston, 6-8 pm.
Monday, October 23rd: Hartford Town Hall, 171 Bridge St White River Junction, 6-8 pm.
Tuesday, October 24th: West Mountain Inn, 144 W. Mountain Inn Rd, Arlington, 6-8 pm.
For people who cannot attend an in-person meeting, or prefer to submit their ideas electronically, an online survey will go live on September 12th on the VOREC webpage. More information about this initiative is also available via the VOREC webpage.
Don’t let Marilyn’s gentle demeanor fool you. Underneath her kind smile she is waiting to destroy you!
Marilyn has been racing bikes at a high level for the last 20+ years and has won both the Race To The Top and the Mount Washington Hill Climb on multiple occasions. At times she has held course records at these events. Additionally, she has won multiple masters mountain biking and cyclocross world championships! Marilyn crushes, and if you get in her way she will pulverize you as well!
Marilyn has been racing with us since the beginning, and 2017 will mark the 10th year that she has competed at the Race To The Top Of Vermont. In this video Marilyn shares a little bit about herself, and why she returns to our event year after year after year.
Thank you Marilyn for all of the support over the years, and good luck to everyone that’s competing against you for top spot… They’re going to need it 😉
We hope you enjoyed the video. Watch our previous interview with Beth Wallace from Everybody Wins VT HERE.
If you’ve ever wondered why someone would run, bike, or hike up a mountain at an event like the Northeast Delta Dental Race To The Top Of Vermont this series is for you. Different people are motivated by different things, and this summer we will be talking to a variety of individuals–some longtime participants, some new–about why they signed up this year. What you will notice is this race attracts a very diverse group of people, and hopefully these stories will motivate you to join us and take on the challenge or running, biking, or hiking Vermont’s highest peak!
Today’s interview is with Beth Wallace, the executive director of Everybody Wins VT. Beth and other representatives from Everybody Wins VT have been joining us at the Northeast Delta Dental Race To The Top Of Vermont since the very beginning. Everybody Wins VT was the first organization we partnered with in an effort to help them raise funds in support of their mission, and this will be their 10th year participating at the race. So, we thought it was about time we sat down with them to learn a little bit more about their organization and what it is about the Race To The Top that keeps them coming back year after year.
We’re super thankful for organizations like Everybody Wins VT. They are out there doing amazing work, and making the world a better place by improving the life of one child at a time. We wish there was more we could do to help them out, but if we all pitch in a little good things will happen!
And… If you are connected to or work at a non-profit here in Vermont we’d love to talk to you about how we might work together and help you raise funds for your organization. In addition to Everybody Wins VT we also partner with DREAM, and Little Bellas, and would love to work with you as well.
If you’d like to partner with us, participate in our event, and help raise funds for your organization… Please get in touch with Greg Maino (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more.
We hope you enjoyed the video. Stay tuned as we’ll be sitting down with Marilyn Ruseckas, an incredibly competitive cyclist that has been participating at the Race To The Top Of Vermont since the very beginning, and can often be found standing on top of the podium!
Watch our previous interview with Griffin Larson HERE.
Some of you may be familiar with R.J. Thompson, a good friend of the CTA, owner of Native Endurance, and co-founder of Vermont Huts Association. Well, you may not know that in August, RJ will be attempting to complete the Long Trail, 273 miles from Canada to Massachusetts, in the “unsupported” Fastest Known Time (FKT). This record currently stands at 6 days, 17 hours, and 25 minutes, accomplished by Travis Wildeboer in 2010. To put that in to perspective, the Green Mountain Club estimates the average through-hiker will need 20-30 days to complete the trail. This type of feat certainly pushes the human body to extremes, but it by no means involves only the physical element. As RJ described to me in my recent interview with him, while he poured through his trip spreadsheets on his laptop, “There is a little nerdiness in every sport.” This is certainly no different.
The word “unsupported” might be overlooked, however, this is where the details really get interesting. For his attempt to qualified as unsupported, RJ will have everything he needs for the entire trip with him at the Canadian border. The only thing he can acquire on the trail is water. It all boils down to one formula; be as light and fast as possible, but carry just enough to get there. For RJ, this means long days, little sleep, a boring menu, and pushing himself to the edge of his physical and mental capacity. So, let’s dive in with the nerdy stuff;
What will R.J. be carrying?
As far as trail FKT’s go, the Long trail is in the “Sweet Spot” for unsupported, in that it is just short enough to realistically accomplish in one push. “My pack will weight approximately 22 lbs at the start,” R.J. told me. Besides the 1.5 Liters of water he will have, this weight is almost entirely food. Pro-bars and home-made energy bars to be specific. “You’re looking for the most calorie dense stuff available” he says. The goal is to mow down 1.5 oz of energy bar an hour. That means 11-12 bars per day for a total of around 4,600 calories per day. “I will still be in a big calorie deficit,” R.J. explains, “but you get to the point where you’re carrying too much weight, and your legs don’t like that very much.”
Another piece of the equation is water. R.J. has decided on carrying 1.5 liters from the start, which he will aim to refill every 2-3 hours of travel. He will filter water from any available sources, using an MSR Trailshot pocket filter. Although iodine will be his backup, he points out that, “some water sources are not deep enough to access with a bottle or soft-flask. With the pump you only need about a ½ inch of water to access it.” So with all of his food on his back, and reasonably reliable access to water, how do you complete 273 miles in 6 days?
What will the trip look like?
R.J describes the overall plan; “Moving time days one, two, and three will be 13-17 hours. The last three days will be closer to 18 and 20, and not sleeping at all the last night.” This means his longest rest will come in the first couple of nights for maybe 5-6 hours. “Night three going into the fourth day I’ll be waking up early because it’s a longer day, and from there it’s harder to predict how I will be feeling” he says. Finally, when he wakes up on the fifth day, he will be aiming to complete the last 64 miles of trail in one push… No sleep!
This plan is certainly not an accident, as R.J. has seen every piece of the LT a number of times in the past four years of training. He knows that the true crux is the first three days in the Northern sections. “My goal is to make it through 100 miles in pretty decent shape. The last 100 is less technical and the climbs are not nearly as brutal as the northern peaks. If I can make it through 100 miles on pace, I’m not coming off the trail” R.J. tells me. Day two will be long and grueling, climbing over Whiteface, Maddonna, and Mansfield peaks. Day three is his lowest mileage, because it includes a long descent down from Bolton to Route 2 that is extremely hard on the knees and quads, followed by the biggest climb of the trip, up and over Camels Hump.
To compound the rough, technical terrain in the northern peaks, RJ’s pack will be at its heaviest. “It’s all about that starting weight and getting through the high peaks with that weight” RJ explains. His pack will be shedding about 2 pounds each day, so it’s in the southern portion of the state, when the terrain mellows out and his pack will be lightest, that RJ will be trying to cover the longest miles. This includes a final run of 64 miles from north of Bromley Mountain, all the way to the Massachusetts border.
How is RJ Training?
Most of R.J’s training runs, building up to his attempt in middle to late August will be done on the Long Trail. The weekend of June 30th he will be completing three days on the trail and covering almost 100 miles. During these training runs he is testing how is body responds to depleted energy stores, sleep deprivation, and even slight hallucinations that he will likely face during his attempt. But like any training regiment, you save the full race distance for race day. “I won’t run the whole trail until I run the whole trail” he says, “and I won’t run the longest day until I run the longest day. Realizing the capacity of my body is really just an experiment at this point.”
One reason why this record is important to R.J., is that all donations and proceeds will go directly to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps. Having an environmental background, he says he chose to fundraise for the VYCC, “because it is important to engage the youth demographic in environmental stewardship, and they touch on a lot of different aspects of recreation in Vermont.”
Beyond his commitment to helping a great organization like the VYCC, I asked R.J. two final questions that may be on some of the readers’ minds; What is your motivation for this attempt, and what will it mean to you if you are successful? In order to not take anything away from the very personal meaning that the Long Trail and the challenge have for him, here is his response in full;
“It’s hard for me to truly identify the real motivation behind this attempt. I think it’s simply a challenge I created for myself three years ago, and I haven’t yet been able to complete the journey. In some ways, I’m motivated to break the record so I can begin to pursue other passions, spend a bit more time on my mountain bike with my wife, and let my body recover for awhile. In other ways, I’m motivated by the people who have supported me throughout my training. I recite their words of encouragement to myself when I’m alone in the woods in the middle of the night and I begin questioning my existence.
If I am successful, I will undoubtedly have an emotional moment (okay, maybe a breakdown) at the Massachusetts border. I have poured so much time, effort, and commitment into this attempt. It’s been on my mind – literally every day – for the past three years. It will be a bittersweet moment if I can succeed. On one hand, I imagine a sense of relief will set in, but on the other, it will be like saying goodbye to an old friend for awhile. I know the trail so well – its smells, sounds, where it rewards you with its unparalleled beauty, and where it beats you down with its relentlessly rugged terrain. No matter the outcome, I know I’ll have given the trail everything I have, because it has already given me so much.”
If you are interested in following R.J. on his FKT attempt this August, you can get updates by following @nativeendurance or #unsupported2017 on Instagram. VYCC will also post updates on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/thevycc. If you would like to donate to support RJ and the VYCC visit https://vycc.networkforgood.com/projects/28068-rj-s-run.
Best of luck to R.J. from all of us here at the CTA.