GOSHEN — “If there ever was a state made for Nordic skiing, it’s this one.”
That’s the view of Cam MacKugler, coach of Frost Mountain Nordic (FMN), and his friends in this local organization, which has the goals of developing “a community of skiing enthusiasts” and providing the coaching and tutelage necessary to help athletes reach the highest levels of competition.
Cross-country skiing is not very good in August in Vermont, but it’s a good time to hold an annual meeting — and that’s what Frost Mountain Nordic is doing this Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26, at Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen.
Activities will include a hike and a swim at 3:30 p.m., followed by a presentation from the board and MacKugler at 5 p.m. and a potluck dinner at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome.
Now in its fifth year, FMN now includes in its membership more than 80 elementary and middle school-age kids, 20 high school athletes, and 20 Masters athletes (over 30), plus a number of non-skiing members.
MacKugler believes that “Addison County is experiencing a Nordic Renaissance,” a cultural shift on the Scandinavian model and cites as evidence the recent success of the Middlebury Union High School cross-country ski team. The Tiger girls won the Division II title last winter, while the MUHS Nordic team had 35 members.
Middlebury College coach Patty Ross, an Olympian in 1984 at Sarajevo, confirmed MacKugler’s enthusiasm: “I haven’t felt this kind of momentum since I was growing up here in Middlebury.”
MacKugler reported that “We (FMN) also hosted the 2011 Championship races for the New England Bill Koch League (ages 7-13) at Bread Loaf and had over 525 participants, the largest youth race series in the country.”
“This was the largest junior event ever held in North America,” added Frost Mountain Nordic member Frank Punderson, “and it went off seamlessly. Parents and skiers were delighted.”
Punderson, 79, skis for a couple of hours nearly every afternoon in the winter at the Rikert Ski Touring Center (known as Bread Loaf), and waxes enthusiastically about the immediate and long-term future of local cross-country skiing: “With snow-making going in, Bread Loaf will be the ‘go-to’ ski area for this part of the world.”
Punderson’s grandchildren participate in the FMN training and racing programs.
“At first I took them kicking and screaming, now they just love the training,” he said. “I’m a believer in what this is all about, what it does for youth. It changes the direction of their lives.”
An FMN athlete, Mia Allen of Ripton, won a 2011 Masters World Championship gold medal, and another, Britta Clark, qualified for the New England Junior National Team and earned a place in the top 25 in that race series.
FMN skiers train year round, and in the winter months make use of the extraordinary facilities at Rikert (Bread Loaf Campus, Middlebury College) and Blueberry Hill, and the surrounding trails in their training and competition.
A native Vermonter and ski prodigy himself who graduated from Middlebury College in 2009, MacKugler emphasizes “community” when he addresses the nature of the FMN organization.
“In Addison County there is a vibrant ski community. Aspiring Olympic hopefuls ski alongside kindergartners and Carhartt-clad farmers,” he said. “Cross-country skiing is an ideal conduit for life skills, healthy active lifestyles, and competitive opportunities. Our programs offer all members opportunities that exploit the benefits of this great sport and an opportunity to immerse themselves in the great outdoors.”
The programs of Frost Mountain Nordic are varied in rigor and nature, befitting an organization whose members run from young to old, from first-timers to racers.
FMN conducts an overnight summer camp for kids in grades 5 through 12, an on-snow Thanksgiving Camp, a Christmas Camp, and a Bill Koch League (BKL) February Camp. Also MacKugler runs several clinics each year for the volunteers who help coach the BKL members so they will have a better understanding of coaching philosophies, ski technique, and games.
FMN also supports their racers financially: Britta Clark was asked two summers ago to attend a Summer Camp in Scotland with the United Kingdom National Team (she has dual citizenship), and FMN raised the $1,500 needed to send her over.
Andrew Gardner, Nordic ski coach at Middlebury College, is unequivocal in his support of this local initiative: “Since it began, FMN has been an amazing resource for skiing in Addison Country. The BKL skiers, the masters athletes, and everyone in between has truly benefited from having the resources of Frost Mountain Nordic ... The leaders of the organization, Dia (Jenks), Barney (Hodges), and Cam have done an amazing job with this program and the results speak for themselves with so many new people getting hooked on cross country skiing.”
For more information about Frost Mountain Nordic visit www.frostmountainnordic.org or attend the annual meeting on Sunday at Blueberry Hill Inn in Goshen.