More and more, Vermont’s elite athletes are competing in Nordic sports long before the snow falls.
An Historic Win
This past summer, Tara Geraghty-Moats had a moment she’s been training for her whole life. On August 19, the West Fairlee ski jumper and cross-country skier stood on the podium, tied for gold, in the first Federation International du Ski (FIS) Ladies Nordic Combined Summer Grand Prix in Germany. Crowds cheered.
It was an historic day, the first time women have been able to compete at an international FIS event in Nordic Combined. The event, which challenges skiers to both ski jumping and Nordic skiing (on roller skis) has previously only been open to a men’s field.
A ski jumper who barely missed qualifying for the 2018 Olympics, Geraghty-Moats is a former biathlete and junior Nordic racer who is as at home cross-country skiing as she is jumping. A few weeks later, she led the pack in the Climb to the Castle, a steep rollerski race up Whiteface Mountain, near the Lake Placid facilities where she trains.
Though Geraghty-Moats was disappointed that Nordic Combined remains the only winter Olympic sport that is not open to women, she’s excited to see it on the FIS international circuit this year and as a World Cup event for 2019/2020 season. This winter, she’ll be competing both as a ski jumper on the World Cup and in Nordic Combined on the Continental Cup circuit.
Ski Fests, Without Snow
Each fall, Lake Placid celebrates its Olympic heritage during the Flaming Leaves festival (Oct. 6-7) as Olympic caliber ski jumpers compete for the US Cup. The town makes a festival out of it with barbecues and blues music, craft fairs and kids events.
Seeing the success of Flaming Leaves and recognizing the fact that the Northeast (and Vermont, in particular) is home to a host of Olympic-caliber Nordic athletes and seeing the potential for a new, off-season spectator sport, the New England Nordic Ski Association has ramped up its off-season racing.
In August, the organization brought the world’s fastet Nordic sprinter, Ludvig Sogne Jensen, to race in Lake Placid in a sprint and then an agility duel with Andy Newell (Jensen won the first, Newell the second, which required hopping around on rollerskis). Jensen then came to Burlington for sprint races, as part of a rollerski weekend. The big race of that weekend, August 16, was the tenth running of the App Gap Challenge, sponsored by Bag Balm.
This one brought out many of the women’s Olympic team: Caitlin Patterson led the pack, followed by Olympic teammates Ida Sargent, Katherine Ogden and Sophie Caldwell. Route 17 was closed for the event and the course was lined with spectators.
This fall, NENSA puts on the NENSA Fall Classic at the Ethan Allen Biathlon Club Oct. 13, followed by a repeat on Nov. 3 of last year’s Elite Invitational, which took Caldwell and a number of other Olympians up the back roads of Stowe to finish at the Trapp Family Lodge. nensa.net
Biathlon for Beginners
While rollerskiing may not be the easiest sport to, um, jump into (though NENSA does have a small demo fleet and Skirack in Burlington has a good selection of skis and poles), Craftsbury Outdoor Center has a creative way to introduce people to the sport of biathlon. On October 6, as part of its Fall Fest, the training center is hosting a Singletrack Shootout, a race where even newbies can run or bike the singletrack trails and then pick up a rifle and try for the targets. There’s a shooting and safety clinic in the morning and Craftsbury Outdoor Center supplies the range, ammo, safety equipment and rifles.
Featured Photo Caption: Members of the U.S. Olympic team set off on the App Gap Challenge. Photo by Reese Brown.