Sports

Snow Bowl, Rikert set to open later this week

RIKERT NORDIC CENTER is set to open on Wednesday, Dec. 9. Skiing will be limited at first, but there will be no limit on the number of visitors, according to area manager Barney Hodges.

RIPTON/HANCOCK — Yes, the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and Rikert Nordic Center will be doing business this winter, with both areas opening some trails starting this week.
Both areas had targeted earlier dates, but uncooperative weather pushed back their early-December plans. Rikert manager Barney Hodges is happy to say that center will now open at least one loop this Wednesday, Dec. 9. 
“First the college allowed us to open, which was great. And then we decided to postpone the opening to Dec. 1, weather permitting. And the weather didn’t permit,” Hodges said late last week. “Now the target date is Dec. 9, and we’re going to hit that, because we’re going to get the right weather this week.” 
It will take a while before more skiing is available. 
“In this case we’ll have a half-kilometer loop of man-made snow,” Hodges said. “As soon as we get another weather window we’ll continue making some snow on the 5-kilometer loop, but it usually takes several weeks or a month to get the snow made there. And hopefully the weather doesn’t go back into the 60- to 70-degree range.”
There is good news for fat bike enthusiasts. Hodges noted Rikert does rent out the bikes, and patrons can bring their own. A dry summer means trails have a solid base for riding, he said, as well as for snow-making.
“Our bike trails appear in great shape,” Hodges said.
Mike Hussey, the general manager of both the Middlebury College Snow Bowl and the college-owned Rikert Nordic Center, said the alpine area had to twice postpone its opening date before settling on Saturday, Dec. 12.
“That (date) is as firm as mother nature allows at the moment. We have had VERY little snowmaking weather. We have captured all the available hours, but the warm temps and rain in between have been a setback,” Hussey said in a Monday email.
Like Rikert, it will take a while before all trails are open. To start with, one of the two main lifts will be available, the one to the left of the base lodge. 
“The current plan is to open at least two trails on the Sheehan lift and continue to make snow when the temperatures allow in an effort to open more terrain,” Hussey said.
The lift furthest from the lodge, the Baileys Falls lift, will not open this winter, Hussey said, although skiers with “alpine touring” gear can make use of the trails it accesses.
He is confident visitors will enjoy the Snow Bowl this winter, and remain safe while doing so. 
“Our commitment is to provide a safe and fun experience for folks to enjoy the mountains this year. In today’s ski world, that means enough room to have people spread out and not overcrowd the base of the lift,” Hussey said. “We are as excited as everyone else to start skiing and riding.  We really appreciate people’s patience and understanding while we are working hard to get this season up and running.”

SAFETY PROVISIONS
Hussey and Hodges will also be asking for patience and understanding with a number of new provisions and precautions designed to keep patrons and staff members safe this winter.
The two areas will share a number of requirements: 
• Season passes and day tickets will be sold only at www.middleburysnowbowl.com or www.rikertnordic.com. Season pass use will not be limited; day ticket sales could be. 
Hodges said the areas will not start out limiting patrons, but might do so. The systems will be more like registration to allow for contact tracing rather than reservations, at least at Rikert.
“It’s not a registration requirement in the sense that we’re going to limit people,” he said. “Although, if we only have a half-kilometer loop and we have 200 people on it, that’s going to be a problem, too. So whereas we’re not limiting access numbers-wise yet, this system will allow us to do that if we needed to.”
• Masks will be mandatory.
• Use of the lodges will be restricted to restrooms and “grab-and-go food service.” When taking breaks from skiing, patrons must stay outside or in their vehicles. Booting up, taking breaks, and eating must be done in vehicles or outdoors. Bags must be stored in vehicles.
• Parking will be for ticketed customers only. No trailers or recreational vehicles will be allowed in parking lots. Per state order, idling vehicles are prohibited.
• Rentals will be available, but might be limited, and seasonal rentals are advised. Only a limited number of customers will be allowed in shops at a time.
 • Access to handwashing for vendors and customers will be provided.
At the Snow Bowl:
• The area will be open Wednesdays-Sundays.
• Lift lines will be managed by recommended guidelines for physical distancing. Guests will be asked to self-group.  
• Snow School will be grouped by families or traveling groups with online registrations. Lessons will be 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Lessons will be individual or by private pod. All students must ride the chairlift independently or have a designated rider available.
• Rentals must be booked online.
At Rikert:
• The area will not host events or competitions.
• The center will be open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
• The “Milk House” will be designed as the information center.
• Ski/snowshoe/fat bike rentals will be handled in the lodge. 
• Nordic lessons will require a reservation and credit card payment by phone. 
Hodges summed up for both area managers.
“We’re really excited to have an outdoor space for people to go to and recreate, and we anticipate when the winter does get going that it’s going to be a really strong winter,” he said.

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