Craftsbury Snow-Shoveling Project

Tim Reynolds
Posted February 24th, 2010

Just five days before the 2010 Craftsbury Marathon, a deluge complete with 50-mph winds swept over the ski trails at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and much of New England. In less than 20 hours, the 50-kilometer race course went from perfect packed white powder to thin dirty slush. In the fields, open water ran the snowy trails to mud, while branches and fallen trees littered the wooded loops that were otherwise spared the watery runoff. Things didn’t look promising for the Marathon, which, besides occasional Phish concerts, provides arguably the biggest influx of people to the Northeast Kingdom. Needless to say, it’s a big deal for the town and for the visitors alike to cancel.
So, what do you do with wrecked trails, no significant snow in the forecast, and 800 skiers expecting to race 50 kilometers on your trails in only five short days? You get out the shovels.
At the Outdoor Center, it was not only a case of what needed doing, but also of what had already been done in anticipation of that elusive scourge, the January Thaw. The grooming staff at the Outdoor Center runs what might be a lucrative snow farming operation if they could package and sell their produce at market prices. These guys literally started moving snow onto the ski trails when it first fell in early December. Without this solid base they built up over the next two months, with the old-school method of snowmaking, we wouldn’t even be talking about the Craftsbury Marathon. The rains would have washed away everything. Instead, they preserved a chance, albeit it brownish and littered with trees, and with a lot of work we could make the Marathon happen.
The sheer volume of people who showed up after the rain to move snow blew me away. From the Outdoor Center we had the Green Racing Project skiers and also a handful of rowers training with the Small Boat Training Center. Groomers, office staff, even some of the kitchen staff put their bread making and paper shuffling on hold to lend a hand to the almighty shovel. The principal of Craftsbury Academy offered all of his high schoolers up for labor for a good part of the day. Burke Mountain Academy skiers came over to help, too, and countless other folks showed up after work, shoveling snow and picking up branches as a full moon rose over the ridgeline.
All told, almost 100 people turned out in tiny Craftsbury to manually relocate what Mother Nature refused to give.
Hard work, unmatched community support, and about an inch or two of fresh snow mixed in with the icy base left the shortened Marathon course in pretty good shape on Saturday morning. If you had seen the condition of that 12.5-kilometer loop on Tuesday, you wouldn’t have believed it was the same trail.
Our fickle Vermont winter threw one more curveball on race day—it was 10 degrees below zero at 8 a.m.. Many of the volunteers standing out in the cold, manning feed stations, and organizing the starting waves were the same people who had shown up in droves to shovel snow.
This year’s Craftsbury Marathon was a testament to the tightly knit Craftsbury community. I might be a newcomer here, but being a part of this community that cared so deeply and did so much to make this ski race happen left a very permanent impression. An enormous thank you goes out to all who helped make the race happen. I’ve received emails all week from former coaches, old teammates, and friends who all raced the Marathon and were grateful and impressed that Craftsbury managed to pull off the race in such good style. Apparently it takes a lot more than a rainy thaw to spoil winter in the Kingdom.
Tim Reynolds, a recent Middlebury alumnus, works and races for the Craftsbury Outdoor Center’s Green Racing Project, a professional cross-country ski racing team in its inaugural year. Check out the team at