A week ago in Monday’s Addison Independent, we ran a story touting the possibility of the greater-Middlebury area becoming a ski destination for Nordic skiers. The newly implemented snow-making system at the Rikert Ski Touring Center is what has prompted the consideration and has some within the community talking about ways to capitalize on the $1.5 million in improvements that Rikert has seen in the past couple of years.
While Middlebury has no illusions about becoming the next Killington, Okemo or Stowe, in terms of drawing thousands of guests each weekend to fill hotel beds and overstuff our restaurants and nightspots, the town and general area should be thinking of ways to collectively promote the area as a ski center — Nordic and Alpine — and be prepared when the influx of guests arrive.
We encourage this for two reasons: 1) because of the guaranteed snow pack, Rikert will bring more Nordic events to the area than we’ve ever seen before; 2) both the Snow Bowl and Rikert are under-appreciated assets that have not been marketed by the community as a whole; doing so will reap greater benefits. This latter point refers to common marketing among area retailers, inns, restaurants, visitor centers and, of course, area chambers of commerce and other business and social organizations. A coordinated approach, following a general agreed-upon theme, reinforces the desired message and creates an identifiable brand.
Middlebury’s strengths can be found in its differences from what most think of as ski resorts: we offer excellent Nordic skiing at Rikert and nearby Blueberry Hill, including a backcountry trail connecting the two areas over a distance of almost a dozen miles — a rarity in the East. It’s excellent skiing on the groomed track, and an adventure going point to point through the Bread Loaf Wilderness. At the Snow Bowl, the area is an inexpensive jewel of a family ski area with almost no lift lines, decent tree skiing, and two of the best slalom and giant slalom trails in the East. It’s not big; there are no moguls to speak of; and if you’re a good skier a half day may be enough, but there are plenty of beginner and intermediate skiers and riders who will find all they want here at the Bowl.
More importantly, we have a quintessential New England town for dining and lodging with college amenties, including arts and entertainment; fine museums and galleries; tours of factories, cideries and breweries; and shopping at a few wonderful stores in Middlebury and more to offer in neighboring Brandon, Bristol and Vergennes.
What’s needed is a creative force to bring all the partners together, and a willingness to think bigger than we have in the past.
— Angelo S. Lynn