MIDDLEBURY - Vermont is known for some of the best alpine skiing east of the Rocky Mountains. That image was reinforced last week with the announcement that Middlebury College will host the 2013 NCAA Skiing Championships. The campus last hosted the national championships in 2001.
The college was selected as the host site because the Middlebury Panthers are in the enviable position of being one of two award-winning college ski programs in the U.S. that operates a campus alpine and cross-country skiing facility.
The event will bring national sports media attention to Middlebury and Vermont during the winter-spring of 2013.
According to a July 1 statement released by the college, head alpine coach Stever Bartlett said, "We're pretty thrilled to show our coaching colleagues and fellow programs our best efforts at hosting a National Championship. It's been over 10 years since we've hosted and it's an important role to play on the national stage of skiing" Nordic head coach Andrew Gardner was clearly thrilled with the announcement, too.
"Since Middlebury last played host to the collegiate skiing championships, skiing has evolved, courses have changed and with this selection, we can show that our program and facilities have kept pace," he said.
Coach Bartlett said all the NCAA alpine venues will take place at the Snow Bowl, located on the western slope of the Green Mountain ridge in Hancock, Vt. Coach Gardner said nordic events will take place at the Rikert Ski Touring Center.
According to college officials, a total of $2 million has been spent in up-to-date trail improvements, including trail safety additions. Included in the overal improvement work, the old Worth Mountain Chair lift system has been replaced.
Coach Gardner said work is now underway for the 2013 championships.
While the college's alpine facility received all the attention in 2008-09, it's now the moment for improvements to the nordic trails.
The college will acquire a state-of-the-art nordic groomer.
Gardner told Vermont sports writers that the popularity of nordic-style skiing is on the rise.
"The Frost Mountain club has a number of great programs from the youngest kids to master athletes," he said." They've built a great culture of skiing in the county over the last few years and I know that the effect of having the country's best skiers on the same trails as the local Bill Koch League will spill over in enthusiasm and love for skiing."
Ironically, as Middlebury College improves and enhances its varsity alpine and nordic ski programs, alpine skiing at other Vermont colleges appears to be in decline.
In March of this year, Green Mountain College ended its NCAA varsity men's and women's ski program.
According to GMC President Paul J. Fonteyn, the high cost of the sport, coupled with declining student interest, were deciding factors to end the program.