True-or-false Games quiz

In honor of outdoor sports, our home state of Vermont, the recently completed winter Olympics and National Public Radio’s “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me” (hosted by Peter Segal and Carl Kassell) — and by demand of my reading public — I present yet another edition of my own sporadically offered quiz column. Last time, I offered a collection of strange outdoor products guaranteed to improve your hunting, fishing or camping experience. Contestants had to determine which one of them was false.
This week’s topic: winter Olympic sports and Vermont. I present to you three claims about Vermont in relationship to the Olympics and its sports. One of the three claims is false, though I’ll try to defend all three.
Claim one. Did you know that Vermont sent more athletes to Vancouver on the U.S. Olympic Team in 2010 than any other state in the country? Hard to believe, isn’t it? Sure, we’re a winter sports state. Snowboards were invented here! We have almost as many commercial ski and/or snowboard areas (18) as does Colorado (20), and way more than Idaho (6), Montana (7) or even Utah (10). But with a population under a million, it’s still stunning and hard to fathom that we could send the most athletes to the winter Olympics. Yet if you were watching the Olympics, maybe you’re less surprised. Familiar names kept getting mentioned, starting with the United States’ very first Olympic gold medal of 2010, won by Vermont’s own Hannah Kearney.
Claim two. Vermont not only has one of the lowest populations of any state in the country, it is also physically one of the smallest. And yet, once again, we boast great things. Vermont has the longest backcountry Nordic ski trail of any state in the country. Longer than anything you can find in Utah, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana or Maine. Longer even than any cross-country ski trail you can find in Alaska, and that’s the state that hosts the famous long-distance dogsled race known as the Iditarod. Just how long is Vermont’s trail? 300 miles. So what are you waiting for? There’s still some snow on the ground.
Claim three. One reason that we have a such a success rate at sending athletes to the winter games, and overcoming the hurdles to create the nation’s longest backcountry ski trail, is that we’ve been doing it the longest. We have not only the most of something and the longest of something, but also the oldest. Specifically, we have the oldest cross-country ski area in the country: the first commercially opened center to offer groomed cross-country trails, lessons, rentals, etc. It’s enough to make you want to sing, as though the hills themselves were alive with the sound of music.
So now it’s time to guess. Which claim was false?
If you guessed number two, try again. According to www.catamounttrail.org, the Catamount Trail runs 300 miles, the whole north-south distance of Vermont from Canada to Massachusetts. It has a mix of terrains and levels of difficulty, and also links several inns. making it a wonderful place for an inn-to-inn ski tour. Most importantly for this column, it has been named in several places as the longest backcountry ski trail in North America, though it is only within the last two years that it could make that claim. Begun officially in 1984, the Catamount Trail Association only completed the trail in 2008, linking the last sections together to form a continuous 300-mile experience. Though I’ve not come close to skiing the entire length, I’ve skied several portions. It’s not only a long trail, but a beautiful one.
You are also wrong if you guessed number three. Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, one of my favorite places to ski, lays claim to being the oldest cross-country ski center in the country. It also has a wonderful ski school, with connections to past Olympians. The folks at Trapp were part of the inspiration for Tony Clark to start Blueberry Hill ski touring center here in Addison County, another of my favorite places to ski.
Which leaves, of course, only number one. Though Vermont did boast eight 2010 Olympians, an impressive number given the population of the state, that ranks the state only number 11. Minnesota led the way with 21 Olympians. (How many were on the curling team, I don’t know.) New York and Colorado were next with 19 and 17. In fact, Vermont can’t even claim first in New England as Massachusetts accounted for 12 members of the team. But at least we beat out New Hampshire (7) and Maine (2)!
Though I can’t get NPR’s Carl Kassell to leave a message on your answering machine, if you got the answer correct, feel free to leave a message on your own, boasting about your Vermont, Olympics and winter sports knowledge.

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