Vermont’s Green Racing Project Warms Up for Winter With Cross Country Ski Tips

In the Green Mountains of Vermont lies a little place we like to call Shangri-La. Imagine, if you will, miles upon miles of groomed ski tracks that double as blissful, rhythmic running trails in summer. Place those trails next to crystal clear lakes for sculling. Now populate it with sustainable stewardship gurus, inspiring educators and world-class athletes. This is Craftsbury Outdoor Center, home to the Green Racing Program.

In 2008, Dick Dreissigacker and Judy Geer purchased the center and transformed it into a not-for-profit organization based on three, distinct goals:

  • Support participation and excellence in lifelong sports
  • Use and teach sustainable practices, and
  • Protect and manage the land.

Toward supporting the first mission of excellence in sport, the Outdoor Center established the Green Racing Project in 2009 as an elite program for Olympic-hopefuls in Nordic skiing and rowing. The athletes accepted into the program are post-collegiate, top tier athletes. They work at the Outdoor Center part-time to offset the costs of coaching, room and board, and competitions costs. Shangri-la is starting to take shape, no?

Ibex recently caught up with Tim Reynolds, a participating athlete and founding member of the Green Racing Project (GRP). This is his fourth consecutive year with the team, which has grown to 14 skiers and 11 rowers.

We asked Tim about life with the GRP and Shangri….err…Craftsbury, and hit him up for some Nordic training tips, too.

Ibex Question (IQ): Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, especially as you’re ramping up for winter. How is the team looking in early season?

Tim Reynolds (TR): Our team looks really strong this year. I know the rowers did very well at the Head of the Charles in Boston last month and are looking forward to a strong [2013] for their inaugural GRP season. The ski program has been around for four seasons now. We have three women on the U.S. National team: one on the XC team and two on the biathlon team. They are racing in Europe [now], and will train [again] at Craftsbury in the off-season. Last season [GRP racer] Susan Dunklee finished fifth at the Biathlon World Championships in Germany – an historic result in her sport!

IQ: That’s fantastic! Not to mention it bodes well for your program that three of 14 members (over 20%) have made the National team. How is training coming along for everyone else?

TR: The rest of us are in Canmore, Alberta, now for an on-snow training camp. They save piles of snow under wood chips for the summer so they can roll it out as soon as it’s cold in the fall. Then we head to Montana (West Yellowstone and Bozeman) for the first domestic races of the season (called the SuperTour). World Cup teams will be selected from these races. Most of our athletes are in the running to earn a start spot at the FIS World Cups in Quebec City and Canmore, Alberta in December.

IQ: Best of luck to all of you. We’ll be cheering you on from afar (and encourage anyone locally to go out and support the racers). For those of us who won’t be vying for a World Cup berth, do you have any early season training tips before the snow really starts to fly?

TR: I’d say the most important thing for skiers as they transition to winter is to try to do some sort of ski-specific activity. Running and biking is all good in the summer to stay fit, but you use different muscles on snow. Hiking with poles, using a double-pole machine [Ed. Note: Tim recommends the SkiErg, by the GRP sponsor Concept2] or roller skiing – anything that uses ski-specific muscle groups can really ease the tough transition to skiing on snow.

IQ: Obviously everyone is different, but what is the biggest tip you can give to someone trying to improve their skills or race time?

TR: Relax. There are lots of different ways to ski efficiently, but all of them have one thing in common: a rest phase. Oftentimes skiers stress too much about putting their pole down correctly or bending their ankle. Some of those things are very important, but I’d say it’s most crucial to be comfortable and relaxed on your skis, and to make changes from that starting point.

IQ: Brilliant! As a recreational Nordic skier (i.e. never been coached), the resting phase isn’t something I’ve ever pondered. Along those lines, many people cross country ski for touring or leisure. What’s your advice for those who’d like to amp up their participation/intensity for either fitness or racing?

TR: For folks looking to get more into the sport, part of an XC-skiing lifestyle is living to be active every day. It can be aerobically and physically challenging when you only get out a couple of times a month. My advice to them, and to anyone looking to ski more, is to make exercising everyday a priority – a habit – even if it’s only for a short while. When it becomes routine, it makes it easier to enjoy and make the most of those days you do get to glide over snow, and it’s guaranteed to improve your quality of life in general to boot.

IQ: Which is a perfect segue to a perfectly shameless question. Following a daily routine is easier and more fun when you have the proper gear – to provide warmth, breathability and movement. Ibex was actually borne from an idea sparked from days XC skiing, so we take pride in making apparel suited to the rigors of the sport. What are your favorite training pieces?

TR: The Ibex Breakaway 2 Jacket and vest are two of the best pieces of training apparel I’ve skied in. They’re comfortable, sleek, and do well in a huge variety of conditions – which we get just about every day in northern Vermont. These jackets have also proved pretty tough, and a definite perk on the road is not having them smell like you haven’t washed them in a week…even if you actually haven’t.

IQ: Ha! We’re firm believers in playing more and washing less. Alright, transitioning from the goodness of Merino wool, I’d like to ask you about the evil that is Klister wax. Is it just my ineptitude, or was Klister indeed sent to destroy the planet?

TR: Klister is a godsend. It might suck to clean off your fingers, but there are plenty of days when it’s the only thing that will make your skis work. So you’ve just got to manage the stickiness off the snow and try your best not to get it all over your gloves and your car and your jacket, and it will be our best friend when it’s under foot where it belongs.

IQ: Darn. Considering you ~ and everyone who knows anything about wax ~ supports Klister, I’m going to have to finally admit that Klister simply outwits me! I’ll stop my ineffectual smear campaign. Back to the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and the GRP. Since both are non-profits that support healthy and sustainable lifestyles, how can people support the organization(s) in return?

TR: The GRP gets a lot of support from our partners, Ibex among them, who help outfit and support the team in competition. The general public can support the GRP by visiting the Outdoor Center, taking part in any of the programs offered there, or simply following the team.

IQ: Thanks, Tim, and best of luck to the entire Green Racing Program team!

The Craftsbury Outdoor Center is open to the public for skiing, running and sculling (summer-only), in addition to seminars and summer camps. More info at www.craftsbury.com.