Glide into a new season with Frost Mountain Nordic

When you think of a nordic ski club, you might think of spandex suits, streamline sunglasses and hundreds of lean athletes racing around a course pushing off of their skinny skis and tall poles. Next you might think brrrr… and skip the nordic racing scene for warmer clothes and a more tranquil touring experience.
In years past, Frost Mountain Nordic club — the chorus country skiing club that calls Ripton’s Rikert Nordic Center home — used to be more focused on racing, but they’re changing their stride this year to focus more on fun, family-oriented programs.
“There’s still a focus on the junior racing programing but we’re also starting to reach out more to the master age (that’s 30-85 years old) and recreational skier,” said Mike Hussey, who’s been the director at Rikert for the past seven years and is also a member of the FMN board. “The club has been changing over the past 12 months. It’s been a fun and inspiring conversation for me because FMN’s mission is definitely what we try do here at Rikert too: Encourage and provide opportunity to get people outdoors and enjoying winter.”
FMN offers three programs for children, an adult program and a basic non-program membership for volunteers and passionate supporters. Fees range from $25 to $260 for the season, with scholarships available.
All three youth programs (grades K-8) are part of the Bill Koch League that meets on Saturdays.
“The BKL is more of a philosophy than a program per se,” said Chris Anderson, treasurer of the FMN board, who started skiing before he could ride a bike.
Bill Koch, or “Kochie,” was a nordic skier from southeastern Vermont. He rose to fame at the 1976 Winter Olympic Games in Austria, when he took the silver medal for the 30-km cross-country ski race. He competed in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y., and then captured the first official World Cup title in ’81.
“Prior to 1981 there was only one technique in cross-country skiing, the diagonal stride, in which both skis stay in prepared tracks,” reads the Bill Koch Story on the New England Nordic Ski Association’s website. “While competing in a race on a frozen river in Scandinavia at the end of the 1980 season, Bill was surprised to see a Swede, Bjorn Risby, go sailing by him with a different technique. Risby had one ski in the track, but was pushing off to the side, like a speedskater, with his other ski. The technique was faster.”
Koch does’t claim to have invented skating, “but I did help popularize it,” he said.
BKL programs are now popular all over the region and encourage “deliberate play, diversification, healthy competition and staying active for life.”
Second- though eighth-grade skiers who want more training, can participate in FMN’s Bobcats team, which meets Saturdays and Wednesdays; and fifth- through eighth-graders can join the Wildcats, which meet three days a week.
The Wildcats are coached by Ryan Kerrigan, who maintains his own year-round training business, VTXC.
“I started VTXC about seven or eight years ago,” said Kerrigan, who bases the program out of the Waitsfield area. “It is mainly for high school runners… we went to the youth mountain running championships in Spain last year and this year we’re going to Rome… It’s a year round program, so in the winter I work more with skiers and racers individually who want to improve.”
Kerrigan who is living in Addison County for the winter and renting his home in Stowe, uses Moosetracking (a digital tracking program) to monitor his racers’ workouts and in-person training to help with technique.
“I really enjoy coaching all aspects and all levels of nordic as long as the energy and passion is there,” the 32-year-old said.
So is the “energy there” at FMN?
Oh, yeah!
“The energy and momentum down here is really great,” Kerrigan said of FMN. “Watching people get into ski racing and realizing how fun and fast you can go is awesome. Most people think nordic is walking on skis — which is also fun — but going fast on skis is pretty fun.”
Drew Palcsik is a good example. He’s the president of the FMN board this year, and didn’t grow up skiing.
“I came to the sport as an adult,” he said, “learning to ski alongside my two (now three) boys at Blueberry Hill Nordic Center, then at Rikert. I have one each on the high school team, the middle school racers (the Wildcats) and an entry level BKL skier. Our love of the sport has grown with all the new friendships and challenges over the years. This year, we have skied probably 20 days already.”
Thanks in large part to Rikert’s snowmaking systems.
“We give a huge shout out to Rikert for their snowmaking,” said Dana, Chris Anderson’s wife and a member of the FMN board. “It’s consistently fantastic snow!”
New to FMN this year is a program for adults only — the PhatCats. “We meet on Thursdays and Saturdays, with coaching from our head coach Ryan,” said Palcsik who’s also a PhatCat. “The program is for adults who want to have fun, get outside and maybe get a little better with their technique. It’s made a huge difference in my skiing already this year.”
The PhatCat program also offers a way for parents to stay connected to the club once their kids graduate from the youth programs. The Andersons and Palcsik know this first hand. They all have kids in the programs — in fact that’s how they met and became friends. They all agreed that parents are a huge part of the club.
“At races the parents are right out there with the kids, keeping them warm and organized,” said Chris Anderson. “It can go from fun to overwhelming and cold if the parents aren’t on their game.”
“We do it because we love skiing, we love this community and we love the programming for kids,” said Dana Anderson.
But parents and adult skiers deserve some fun too.
“We’re inviting people into the fold,” said Palcsik. “It can be intimidating to join a ski club with the gear, culture and cold. We wanted a way to capture some of the energy of the parents and friends.”
Programs officially start Jan. 6, but you can join at any time. Register online at frostmountainnordic.org. Keep your eyes peeled for extra winter fun with FMN throughout the season; they’re hoping to expand into other outdoor activities like fatbiking and snowshoeing too.
“I think the club is doing such an amazing job of getting the word out,” Kerrigan said. “We want to open everyone’s eyes to all winter experiences. Sure we encourage ski racing but we don’t stop there, we’re trying to give the kids a well balanced and full winter experience.”

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