Winter came early to most of Vermont this year, but it arrived earlier still in the town of Ripton, just a short hour’s drive into the Green Mountains from Ibex headquarters.
Rikert Nordic Center, owned by Middlebury College and perched high on the Breadloaf Campus got the white stuff early. They opened their doors on November 16th this season, well before typical expectations.
But it wasn’t Mother Nature that delivered.
This fall, Rikert joined a growing list of Vermont nordic centers that have invested in snowmaking infrastructure as a hedge against unpredictable winter weather. Man-made snowmaking isn’t novel practice for alpine ski areas in Vermont, but it is in the cross country scene. With a man-made base, they’re less prone to the typical January thaw and have been able to offer more skiing days on the bookends of the winter season.
It means a lot.
Mike Hussey advertises that Rikert is indeed open for business, despite the brown and green in the valley!
“This year we opened one full month ahead of years past,” says Mike Hussey, Director of Rikert Nordic. “In that month we realized it was over 10 percent of last year’s revenue, which was already a record year for the Center.” Rikert turned the switch on their 5-km snowmaking loop last January. They can operate 10-15 tower guns [snow-making apparatuses] at a time and cover roughly a third of a kilometer with two feet of snow in one night of cold weather.
For those that have kicked and glided across artificial snow, they know it makes the kind of base that can weather a Vermont winter rainstorm or two. That kind of reliability allowed Rikert to host the NCAA Skiing Championships last March in 50-degree weather.
Snow guns in action on the Breadloaf Campus.
“Frost Mountain Nordic (with 100-plus youth skiers, a strong junior contingent and dedicated masters group) along with the Middlebury College Ski Team and local high school programs have all benefited from this upgrade. Our local community can reduce travel time to skiing, and it’s added significant revenue to the whole area,” explains Hussey.
“We’re working with the community here to promote the Middlebury area as a winter destination – it’s very important to the success of our region, and Rikert’s snowmaking system is vital to that end.”
While winter is here for now, warmer days may be just around the corner. Be it warm rain or hot sun, Rikert is ready and will be setting tracks and laying corduroy all season long!