Vincent Rossano | Reader Athlete Feb-Mar 2013

Age: 66
Residence: Montpelier
Family: Wife, Carole; daughter, Elizabeth; son, Vincent Ross; stepson, Micum
Occupation: IT Director, Montpelier School District
Primary sports: Nordic skating, road cycling

Every winter, Vince Rossano of Montpelier dreams of an unblemished surface of big, black ice to skate across. Whether it’s the Inland Sea or the Connecticut River, Rossano loves getting out on his Nordic skates and traversing across the frozen water. In the summer, he trades his blades for the two wheels of his road bike.

VS: How did you start Nordic skating?
VR: I was in Sweden in the spring of 1977, and I saw a pair of wooden strap-on ice skates in a sporting goods store. I asked if they were for decoration, but the cashier said they skated with them in the archipelago from island to island. I thought that would be great fun, but at that point, it was the end of the season. Then 11 years ago, I saw an article [here in Vermont Sports] about Jamie Hess who runs the Nordic Skater shop. The skates he was selling seemed like an evolution of the ones I had seen in Sweden, so I immediately put down the magazine and called him. I took the skates to Ottawa, and within 15 minutes, I had a big smile on my face as I was flying past the hotshot hockey skaters.

VS: What is the appeal of the sport?
VR: It sounds like a cliché, but there is a feeling of freedom. It’s not effortless gliding, but in that nirvana situation of black ice and a tailwind, it’s thrilling. When you skate out of City Bay in North Hero, and you see 7 miles of ice heading across to the Georgia shore, with the islands to the north and south, it’s just great. I also skate on small ponds and enjoy it, but the best is big ice. My commitment to the sport was sealed the first time I got out on Lake Champlain and skated 20 miles. Obviously there are dangers, but we often find times when we are comfortable enough to let loose. I love cycling, but riding is limited by the roads. On the ice you feel like there are no limits.

VS: Do you have a favorite spot?
VR: Normally, I would say the Inland Sea on Lake Champlain, but last winter, Malletts Bay was so good it made me feel like I had a new favorite. Another type of Nordic skating I love is on rivers. When the Connecticut River is frozen, you can skate 10 miles upriver through forests and meadows.

VS: Have you ever fallen through the ice?
VR: I went in unintentionally a few years ago at Wrightsville Dam, which accomplished two things: it frightened me, but once I got out, it also made me realize that it wasn’t going to kill me. My wife bought me a dry suit, which I frequently wear, so hopefully the next time I go in by mistake, I’ll be in less danger.

VS: What other gear do you have?
VR: I’m 66 and not as flexible as I was, so I often wear pads on my elbows, knees, and butt, as well as a helmet. I also carry a rope and wear spikes around my neck, which can be used if I need to pull myself out of the water. I use poles for propulsion, stabilization, and testing the ice. The poles have really sharp points, which we use to measure the ice’s thickness, as well as to help us negotiate rougher ice or cross over pressure ridges.

VS: Living in Montpelier, how do you know when the ice on Lake Champlain is good?
VR: In the early days, it was hard. I knew a few people I could call but not many. Then Jamie Hess started sending out a weekly e-mail, which was helpful, but we realized we needed more people to report. Now we have a listserv called VTNordicSkating, which has close to 300 members who report on conditions. That’s a huge thing because driving 40 miles to skate is something I’ll do happily, but driving 40 miles to see that you can’t skate is a bummer. It’s been helpful to get reports from around the state so we have some idea of what we’re getting into in these days of trying to burn less fossil fuel.

VS: Tell us about your road cycling?
VR: I have to admit, I do less and less every year. This year I rode under 2,000 miles whereas I used to ride at least 2,500 miles. I used to race back in the 1970s. In those early days, the best athletes in America weren’t cycling so the competition wasn’t as strong, and it was a lot of fun.

VS: Do you have any favorite routes?
VR: I ride from Montpelier to the Mad River Valley and Mad River Glen or up to Morrisville and Worcester, up in moose country. In Vermont, we have beautiful places to do our outdoor activities so both cycling and skating give me the thrill of exertion and covering distance. When I’m feeling good on the bike and I see a hill, I get out of the saddle and I’m cranking, and there’s the thrill of total exertion. Skating is like that too. When you open up full bore, the ice is just flying past you. Even on rough ice, you can get into a rhythm and just blast through the stuff.

VS: I understand you also have a fledgling acting career?
VR: I started acting back in the 1970s in community theater in Barre. I had also acted a little bit in college in the 1960s before I dropped out. When I went back to school at the University of Vermont, I was involved in some productions and was part of the Champlain Shakespeare Festival, doing 40 shows in ten years. After I got remarried and had children, I put that on hold, but five years ago, I decided to get back into it. I’ve done some Shakespeare productions and a few other things, and when I retire, I plan to do more. I think it’s good for the brain. I played Prospero in The Tempest, and I had to learn 700 lines. Cycling and skating exercise my body, but acting exercises my brain.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with two spoiled orange cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”