With the recent dumping of snow, it was time to get up the mountain to the Rikert Ski Touring area at the Breadloaf Campus to enjoy the thick carpet of white on my cross country skis. The Breadloaf Campus is named for the backdrop of Breadloaf Mountain which looks kind of like…well..a loaf of bread. And it looked all the more stunning with the fresh snow. The Breadloaf campus buildings (other than the ski touring center) are usually only used during the summer as the campus for the Breadloaf School of English, and the writer’s conference. These were parodied on the Simpsons when Marge got to go to “Wordloaf”, so I guess that gives them some credibility, right? With the over-enrollment of students this year, a bunch of “lucky” students were given the privilege of living up on the mountain with the main campus dorms filled to capacity. As one might guess, this was not a popular choice, but I wonder how they will feel seeing the winter wonderland around their dorm when they return from break. I hope the opportunity to head out for a ski in the morning before class makes their remote accommodations more appealing!
For my ski today, I chose to ski around the periphery of what I think of as the “tame” part of the Rikert trails. Like most trail systems in Vermont, you can pretty much go forever in any direction, so I chose the definition of skiing around the periphery as defined by the trails that are typically groomed. That proved to be an excellent choice today, both for the pleasure of gliding in deep set tracks, as well as the observation that as the warm sun beat down on the snow, it started to get a little bit heavy, making the groomed trails even more appealing. I started my ski tour in the fields across the street, enjoying the beauty of the white meadows, only interrupted by a few groomed skiers’ paths.
For most of my history at Breadloaf, there were only two big loops in the meadows across from the Breadloaf Inn, but a few years ago, a more substantial loop was added in the form of the Brandy Brook Trail, which was added in part so that there was a place to ski when the trails closer to the touring center were in use for races. I stayed on this trail, looping through the meadows before returning to the road, to cross over by Earthworm Manor, the former home of writer W. H. Upson. Following the trail up the hill, I connected with the trail known as (surprise surprise) the Upton Trail, although old timers still call it the “Figure 8”, eventually arriving at the spot that I have always called “5 Corners”, an intersection where five trails come together, and has been marked by a massive dead tree for as long as I can remember.
At this point I realized that my route was a little bit at odds with the way most people ski Rikert. Almost all of the races run at Rikert from the Breadloaf Citizens Race (which I have competed in countless times) to the NCAA carnival races go counter-clockwise, and I was going clockwise. Way to be a rebel, huh? I noticed this as I started to ascend the Rock Garden Trail, a nice easy switchback up the hill, and saw this badly faded sign letting me know that I was going the wrong way! Shame on me, but I chose to continue, since I didn’t sense any hordes of skiers descending at that moment. Maybe faded signs don’t count?
From here, I ascended to the high point on the trail, the Burgin Cabin, or as I prefer to call it, “The Ripton Hilton”. It is a lovely cabin for camping students, but since it is locked up, I have never actually been inside it. It was erected in part as a replacement for the old Worth Mountain Cabin at the top of the Snow Bowl, which was taken down due to “structural problems”, which I suspect is code for “college officials are not enthused about students camping overnight on college property to get first tracks”. That said, I suspect the Burgin Lodge, which looks beautiful, is much more comfortable!
From here it was a pleasant descent down the Frost and Holland Trails until I got to the Crooked Brook trail, another great “recent addition” (as in less than 10 years old) trail, which I took through a series of short connecting trails to reach the Battell Trail (aka the “Turkey Trot”). After a short climb (once again, going the wrong direction on a one-way trail) I was ready for the long easy descent back to the touring area. At this point, the shady sections of trail were quite fast and fun, but I quickly caught on to the fact that in places where the trail had been in the sun, the snow had gotten quite wet and sticky, effectively putting on the breaks. So, my solution was to simply avoid the sunny sections, building up speed until I rounded a corner to see nothing but brilliant white snow in the sun, with the inevitable “SPLAT” as my skis suddenly stopped! Dusting off the wet snow, and regaining my dignity, I finished my ski, covering slightly less than 6 miles. While there were no major climbs, there were very few flat sections. It was good to be out today!