Monday, March 24, 1997

Bread Loaf Skiing At Its Best

Published in the Mountainview

Recent snowfalls in the mountains have created ideal conditions for cross-country skiing at the Carroll and Jane Rikert Ski Touring Center. at Bread Loaf. Managed by John Rubright. the Ski Touring Center offers thirty-eight kilometers of trails, most of which are groomed and tracked on any given day.

The weather of late has been perfect for cross-country skiing; nearly every trail has been open, for skiers of all levels. Lessons are also available, from beginners to advanced, in both skating and classical Nordic skiing.

Rubright has had a fairly steady turnout of College students; the first day no students showed up was last week. He is rightfully proud of the facilities he runs, and wants to be certain more people know about the opportunities available.

The Bread Loaf ski center is one of the best in the nation; Rubright ensures that Middlebury College ski team members are given the best in skiing conditions throughout the season. This ensures that everyone else gets the same, top-notch skiing experience, even w ithout the finely-honed skiing skills or high-tech equipment of a ski racer. Trails are open to all, except during races. Even beginners can check out the race course, to see what the experts have to handle.

Passes are available at the Ski Shop for full-day, half-day, and the whole season. Season passes for students cost about twenty dollars (the same as a midweek half-day at the Snow Bowl). The trails are a mix of wide and narrow, with comfortable turns, challenging uphills, and smooth downhills.

Skiers of all abilities can be found throughout the trail system, and friendly words are exchanged often, even on a short ski. The practice loops (next to the Ski Shop and across Route 125 from the Inn) provide a predictable, controlled environment for practicing form, while the trails north of the field, heading up into the foothills of the Green Mountains, provide varied terrain for enjoyable skiing.

Most weekdays, groups from local schools come for lessons and outdoor recreation. Students come from as far as Leicester and Shoreham to play on skis with their classmates and teachers. Ski instruction is provided by the staff at the Ski Shop, who include Middlebury College students and alumni.

Rubright, often found outside on sunny days wearing sunglasses and a ballcap, enjoys the place, and even skis here with his family on weekends. He drives the grooming equipment early in the morning, and closes up around 4:30 pm. Every so often, a car is left unclaimed in the parking lot as closing time approaches; usually a skier comes in late to sign out in the Ski Shop register.

Interesting things you will find while skiing at Bread Loaf include the Myhre Cabin, on Myhre Hill, animal tracks and the Catamount Trail. A trail running the length of Vermont for cross-country skiers (much as the Long Trail runs the crest of the Green Mountains for hiking), the Catamount Trail follows Bread Loaf trails in the area of Route 125. It heads northeast from the Frost trail, up into the mountains. South of Bread Loaf, it heads towards Goshen southwest of the southern practice loops.

Also sharing space with the Rikert Ski Touring Center is the Middlebury District of the Green Mountain National Forest. Forest Road 59, from Route 125 at Bread Loaf to the junction with Forest Road 54 (part of the Lincoln-Ripton Road), is skiable, though often traversed by snowmobiles. Rolling hills and wide curves provide attractive alternatives to Bread Loaf's wooded trails. Use of any of the Bread Loaf trail system does, however, require purchase of a ski pass.

Cross-country skiing is excellent exercise, as well as being cheap and easy to learn. Skiing is more immediately available on the golf course or around campus, permitting an escape and enjoyable exercise which is not possible with downhill skis. Rubright encourages new skiers to visit Bread Loaf; rentals are very inexpensive, and lesson/rental combinations are available.

Bread Loaf does not offer many tourist accoutrements (though it is very close to Middlebury's more than adequate tourist infrastructure), but is very much a community- and people-oriented cross-country ski experience.