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Rikert And Snow Bowl Prep For NCAA Races

By Lok Sze Leung

The 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships is well underway at the Snow Bowl and the Rikert Nordic Center. Described by Athletic Director Erin Quinn as a “once-in-a-decade” Middlebury event, the Championships required comprehensive and meticulous preparation work. From submitting a bid back in 2009 to running all the races smoothly throughout the week, a great amount of resources, time and manpower have been dedicated to making the 60th NCAA Skiing Championship a success.

This marks the fifth time the College has hosted the nationwide ski races. The College has previously been selected to host the event in 1961, 1972, 1988 and 2001 — approximately once every 10 years — establishing its ski slopes as some of the most storied in Championship history.

Given that ski programs are not delineated by division, the NCAA Championships stand, across the country, as the most significant collegiate ski carnival of the year. Other sports events of comparable scale hosted by the College include the men’s and women’s ice hockey championships, most recently in the 2009.

“There are not too many other opportunities to host the actual championships,” said Quinn. “It is a great honor for Middlebury College Athletics and our ski programs.  It is also an honor for the staff at the Snow Bowl and Rikert to showcase their facilities and professionalism.”

In addition to Quinn, the Organizing Committee is comprised of Championship Director and former Middlebury ski coach Terry Aldrich, Operations and Events Manager Franklin Dean-Farrar of Athletic Facilities, Director of Athletics Communication Brad Nadeau, Snow Bowl Director Peter Mackey and Rikert Director Mike Hussey.

With regards to the role of the committee, Aldrich explained, “The Organizing Committee has been meeting for over a year. The committee has [the] responsibility to make sure all NCAA rules, regulations and guidelines are met.”

A long list of logistics is involved.

“We are hosting a banquet and an awards barbeque for over 200 skiers, coaches and administrators,” said Aldrich. “Equipment such as racing bibs, snow fencing, alpine gates, cross country course markers, all had to be ordered. Reservations at local hotels had to be made for members of the NCAA ski committee. Arrangements at the Middlebury Inn, our race headquarters, needed to be made for the nightly meetings. Organizing the huge number of volunteers necessary to administer races of this magnitude has been a major responsibility. Peter Mackey and Mike Hussey have been very busy making snow for the event and grooming to ensure that we can provide the safest and best-prepared courses. These are just a few of the responsibilities of the Organizing Committee.”

The week-long event is celebrated both on and off the ski slopes. Beginning on Sunday, March 3, 21 colleges and universities gathered in Middlebury for the 60th NCAA Ski Championships, including teams hailing from as far away as Montana, Alaska, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado. The race venues were open on March 4 and 5 for all skiers to practice and be familiarized with the competition routes. From March 6 through March 9, the alpine portion of the event will be taking place at the Snow Bowl while the nordic races alight on the racecourses of the newly refashioned Carroll and Jane Rikert Nordic Center. In addition, a championship banquet, administrative meetings and other events are scheduled over the course of the week.

Boasting 17 state-of-the-art trails, the Snow Bowl is a popular destination for students, faculty and staff, as well as local residents. In order to maintain its preeminence, the Snow Bowl has been regularly refurbished in the lead-up to this year. In 2006, the Ross and Allen trails — where the slalom and giant slalom races of the championship are contested — were widened and had their contours groomed. In 2009, a chairlift worth $1.7 million was installed to replace the then-existing double-chair lift.

The new fixed-grip, triple-chair lift is located on Worth Mountain, the alpine competition site. Moreover, fiber-optic cable was added to improve communication services at the venue. This week, in addition to the live online webcast, the 15-foot wide video board located at the bottom of the hill near the base lodge will display all downhill races and allow spectators to have a clear view of the skiers’ high-level performance. In conjunction with this broadcast, two-time Olympian and Vermont native Doug Lewis will provide commentary to complement the visual performance.

Meanwhile, a mile-and-a-half west of the Snow Bowl, trails at the Rikert Nordic Center have been restored and redesigned in anticipation of the event. Under the leadership of Hussey, who was appointed as the director of Rikert in April 2011, Middlebury’s cross-country skiing headquarters have been upgraded in a myriad ways. A new groomer was purchased, a five-kilometer course was constructed in 2011 and an $850,000 snowmaking system — the most extensive of its kind in North America — was installed in early February this year. With inconsistent snowfall over the past month, the snowmaking machines have been put to good use, and staff at Rikert have been consistently making snow in the past weeks to prevent having to move the event to another venue.

“The 5K Tormondsen Family Race Trail is built to Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) specifications,” said Hussey in regards to the newly furnished competition trail. “With the certification of the FIS we are able to host championship races and other national and international events.  It is a great spectators course, as the competitors will pass by the spectators in the stadium area a number of times in the 5K loop.  It is a trail that takes both stamina and strategy to be able to win a race.”

With state-of-the-art skiing facilities and professional management at both venues, top skiers from all over the country, the College is well prepared to host this high-stakes championship event.

Quinn believes that the dedication and the exceptional work of the personnel involved is a vital ingredient to the major undertaking of the College.

“The staff at the Snow Bowl and Rikert have been outstanding, as have our ski coaches, Director of Sports Medicine Dave Matthews, Brad Nadeau and Franklin Dean-Farrar,” said Quinn. “In addition, lots of other people have had a hand in various aspects of the planning.  We have had excellent partners in town at the Middlebury Inn and the Courtyard by Marriott as well.  We were also fortunate that we were able to hire former ski coach and cross country coach, Terry Aldrich, to serve as the tournament director; we could not have done it without him.”

Nordic events are being held at Rikert today and Saturday, March 9, while the alpine competition began at the Snow Bowl yesterday and will conclude tomorrow. A number of Middlebury skiers, including a full alpine men’s team and nordic women’s team, qualified for the events.

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