In June, Barney Hodges, the Director of the Rikert Nordic Center and Andrew Johnson, the Head Coach of the Middlebury College Ski Team brought forth a plan to create a festival to end the 2022 ski season. Their idea was to utilize the amazing resources of the Middlebury College facilities, its staff and connections within the local and broader skiing community to celebrate the winter. The plan included making this the first edition of an event that will grow into the future.
The 2022 format of the Rikert Grand Prix was a 3-day race event hosted by both the Rikert Nordic Center and Middlebury College Snow Bowl in Ripton, VT. Preparations for the late March event were part of the vision of snowmaking throughout the winter — regardless and unbeknownst that we would have one of the lowest Vermont snowfall totals in recorded history. The efforts at Rikert and the Bowl paid off for the some hundred brave souls who were not ready to hang up their skis!
Utilizing an a-la-carte-mini-tour-format, racers could test themselves in a freestyle prologue, a 10 kilometer classic mass start, and a final stage pursuit-start hill climb. The largest field of the weekend was drawn to the hill climb, which utilized a closed alpine mountain for a fast but, grueling climb up the Lang Trail after a brisk assent and descent on the bottom pitch of the Ross. Post race, competitors drew together to celebrate the masters skiers who braved the elements, and perhaps the most robust prize table and best attended awards of the season. Every competitor received something, with generous donations from Fischer, Toko, Enjoy Winter, Boulder Nordic Sport East, and Caldwell Sport. There was also $2400 in prize money that was spread between the days, rewarding the top skiers.
The Grand Prix offered something for every level of skier, with men and women racing the same distances. With U.S. Ski & Snowboard and New England Nordic Ski Association sanctioning, the event was as much geared towards elite athletes hoping to take home a cash prize as it was for junior and master skiers looking to challenge themselves on entertaining courses. While the strength 0f University of Vermont and other collegiate skiers was undeniable — all skiers were very much a part of this celebratory event. As we begin to reflect on the “Great Restart” that the 2022 ski season was, race organizers should continue to think outside the box like Hodges and Johnson did by creating new formats and making a total race experience.