Matt Dickerson: One week, two days, two Nordic centers, two conditions

My cross-country skis had turned into snowshoes. On any trail that hadn’t been groomed within the last few minutes, the fresh still-falling snow was heavy, wet and sticking. Snow sticking on trees is fine. Beautiful. It lends to the evergreens that mysterious, quiet quality that makes it feel like I’ve found my way through a wardrobe and into Narnia. Unfortunately, the snow was also sticking to the bottom of my skis in big clumps, rendering them useless at gliding.
Normally, if there is any chance of sticky snow, I have a can of silicon with me to spray onto the bottom of my wax-less skis. That solves the problem pretty well. That day, however, I had been unprepared. The silicon sat on a shelf at home. The resulting clumping may have made for some good aerobic exercise, but it was more akin to weight lifting than to skiing. Which is to say, for a short while at least it was frustrating.
It turned out to be a nice trip anyway, though. I always find it delightful to ski on fresh snow, or through falling snow. I appreciated the thorough coverage; no bare patches of ground stuck up through the wonderful blanket that had been thickening through the night and day. And once I trudged back out to a freshly groomed and track section of trail, my skis started working again as they are supposed to — well enough that my wife and I even did an extra loop up the hill again before heading back to the list of meetings and jobs awaiting us. By the time I arrived back at the car, the bad memories of clumping snow had faded.
Though we’d had only a little over an hour to ski in between appointments, it was good to get up to Rikert — before the forecast rain could settle in a day later and turn it all to crust.
Which, indeed, is what happened. But there is an old saying: “Make hay while the sun shines.” An another saying slightly less old, “Go skiing whenever there is snow.” I’ve never actually made hay, but I’m a big fan of the wisdom of that second saying. So, knowing Rikert would be more crowded than usual with the activities of the Winter Carnival, after our weekly date at the Middlebury Farmer’s Market — fresh greens and root vegetables, local eggs, and baked goods from two different local bakers: Bread Loaf Kitchen and Good Companion Baker — we headed out past the northeastern corner of the county and up to Sleepy Hollow Inn.
Vermont does not lack for cross-country ski centers with beautiful views. And Sleepy Hollow can compete with any of them. The iconic curves of Camel’s Hump dominate the landscape, and the trail up the big knoll to Butternut Cabin offers great views of that mountain-dominated and densely forested landscape with barely a road or house in sight.
The conditions were about the opposite of what we’d experienced at Rikert. Though nearly all the trails still offered plenty of snow cover, with only a few thin patches on some exposed south-facing sloped, the rain that had followed the big snowstorm, and then been followed in term by a drop in temperature, made for some fast trails.
It was Saturday. Fortified by the morning’s scones and morning buns (pictured), and with no appointments, we stayed out to nearly dusk. We cruised up the hill to the cabin to get our cardio going, paused to admire the stunning vista of Camel’s Hump, cruised down the hill — perhaps just a bit faster than we really wanted to go — and then, thanks to that fast going traversed nearly the whole width of the trail system from east to west and back before hopping back in the car as the sun disappeared over the hills.

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