Today the Skimeister and I glided around the trails at Rikert Nordic Center in Ripton, Vermont. The sun was bright and the temperatures were warming through the day. We just had to get outside!
Rikert is owned by Middlebury College and it is situated on the Bread Loaf campus. If you were driving Route 125 you would recognize the Bread Loaf campus by its mustard-yellow buildings. They are rather stunning when surrounded by white snow and blue sky.
We put on our classic cross-country skis and headed out for a rather long loop. We started with a bit of a climb on the Battell trail and then continued climbing slowly on the Gilmore trail and Upper Gilmore trail. We were getting "out there" and it was very quiet. We would not see other skiers for some time.
Upper Gilmore is a brand new trail that is great because it allows you to avoid the snowmobile-tracked Forest Road 59. We then connected with the Brown Gate trail, which features a mellow, straight downhill stretch where I just pointed my skis in the tracks and enjoyed the ride.
Out here in the pretty “backcountry” area of Upper Gilmore and Brown Gate trails, they only pack a narrow trail with an attachment that also makes tracks. For the most part that was great, but on a couple of downhills, it was not wide enough to allow for a snowplow that would check your speed unless you had metal edges. I did not have good edges so I barely survived the first long hill and then had a small wipeout (with a soft, snowy landing) on the next hill that required a sharp turn. Phew!
Other backcountry trails in this northern end of the trail network are not packed or groomed at all. The Catamount Trail also winds its way through this forested area. There's a lot of snow here due to last week's big storm.
We soon reached a viewpoint that we had been looking forward to. It is on Brown Gate near the intersection of the Frost Trail. There's a frozen beaver pond with pretty trees and mountains beyond. Just up the hill there's a gorgeous view through the trees of the spine of the Green Mountains. Breadloaf Mountain (looking a bit like a loaf) stands tall. It's a pretty spot.
With our arrival on the Frost Trail, we were back on the manicured trails of the main Nordic trail network. Everything was groomed fresh and wide and the tracks were sweet. Skimeister had not been to Robert Frost's cabin before so we skied down the Frost Trail to the cabin and the Frost Fields. It's a modest cabin with a nice mountain view.
It was time to make our way back to the Nordic center so we selected the upper half of Upson's Figure Eight trail (seriously, it's a figure 8) and then sped down Cubeta. We finished with a short climb to the Nordic center, which is housed in one of the yellow buildings.
Here in the meadows surrounding the center you see many finely groomed tracks often used for race training and ski competitions. You also will notice some snowmaking guns which allow Rikert to open a few kilometers even when Mother Nature is not cooperating.
Rikert is well worth the time to explore. Head for Ripton and just look for the bright buildings!
Rikert Nordic Center At A Glance
- Located in Ripton, Vermont
- 12 miles east of Middlebury on Route 125
- 50 km of groomed cross-country ski trails
- FIS-certified 5-km race course with snowmaking
- Snowshoe trails
- Rentals, repairs and waxing room available
- Nordic ski lessons available
- Center with wood stove, soup, drinks and ski shop
- Fully ADA Accessible