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La Coupe du Monde, Quebec

Nordic skiing World Cup races are rarely held outside of Europe’s skiing nations, where almost every winter weekend they are watched by the kind crowds North America can only manage to turn out for events like professional football. But last weekend the World Cup sprints came to an 800-meter hairpin-turn course of manmade snow in front of the provincial parliament building in Quebec City. Americans and Canadians from across the continent, especially from northern New England, Ontario and Quebec, showed up to cheer for the teams and skiers they never get to see — not just the North Americans but a total of 150 skiers from 15 nations, from Russia, Sweden and Finland to Australia. American Kikkan Randall (Alaska), top two photos, in black, combined with teammate Jessie Diggins (Minnesota), photos below, with her game face on before the individual race and taking one of the many corners, to win the team sprint event Friday, a first for the US. In that same cornering picture, in the third black suit in the pack, is Barton and Craftsbury Vermont’s Ida Sargent.

Quebec’s local hero Alex Harvey, third photo below, leading the pack, and Devon Kershaw (Ontario), had the potential to win the team sprint, but failed after Harvey got tangled up with another skier on the tight course. Randall won the individual sprint on Saturday. Scroll down for more, including the tiny helicopter/camera drone that swooped over the course.  You can watch the men’s and women’s team sprints from Quebec here. Link to some of the mini-copter footage is here.

By the way, there was not a flake of natural snow in Quebec until it snowed lightly on Saturday. Organizers hauled in an estimated 20,000 cubic meters of manmade snow to build the race course. Racers glided next to the city’s ancient stone walls and each heat started below the Porte St. Louis, built in the 1600s and rebuilt in the nineteenth century, and then followed the Grand Allée — the main street — for the first 100 yards.

 

 

 

Also posted in Canada, cross-country skiing, Skiing, Snow, Winter

Stick Season, High & Low

When the fall leaves hit the ground, it’s Stick Season. The reason for the name is obvious but the attractions of this sixth Vermont season aren’t. It can mean raw, gray days with rain and sleet. But it can also be beautiful, as it has been for the past two days, with temperatures in the 60s. At its best, the lowering sun streams through the leafless woods and strobes through the trees as you drive along. People are scrambling to get their fall outdoor work done, but it can still be incredibly quiet and calm, as we wait in that spot between autumn and winter for the seasons to change. Above, Waterbury Reservoir; below, Worcester Mountain.

 

Also posted in kayaking, mountains, Stick Season, Travel, Vermont, water

Biking Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands

Two generations and a Croatian flag in the town of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar in Croatia’s Dalmatian islands. I had the good fortune last week to be traveling there with a Vermont Bicycle Tours group. Tourism in Croatia, on the rise in the 1980s, evaporated with war in the 1990s, but it is booming now. It’s no wonder: the clear, blue water of the Adriatic, a sunny and mild climate (even in September), stunning scenery and cityscapes, architecture that dates to the Roman Empire and earlier, fascinating Mediterranean culture and cuisine and people who are for the most part very friendly, despite the turmoil of the past 20 years. I met these two after following a man hauling grapes in a motorized cart through the narrow cobblestone streets and into his konoba (wine cellar). Below: a view typical of the islands — Pucisca on the island of Brac; a resident of the Brac hilltop town of Skrip, from which the limestone to make Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split was quarried; VBT cyclists in action; and building with stone on Brac. Limestone  is everywhere — there’s far more stone than soil —and everywhere it’s in use, from pathways to walls, terraces, roofs, tiles and virtually every building. Vineyards and olive trees are everywhere too. Lesson learned: It’s not a good idea to eat an olive directly off a tree. Click here for a gallery from the trip.

Also posted in Bicycling, Croatia, Europe, farming, roads, Travel

The Notch, Natch

It’s been one of those Decembers in north-central Vermont: virtually no snow. But there was a little bit over the weekend, packed down on the Smugglers Notch road in Stowe, now closed to traffic for the winter but open for skiers, ice climbers, dog walkers, strollers, sledders and anyone else who wants to venture past the gates that block each end. It’s almost the only cross-country ski option around, except for the Craftsbury Nordic Center, which successfully hosted hundreds of racers on a 1.5-kilometer loop Saturday and Sunday. Stay tuned. We’ll be shoveling soon enough.

 

 

Also posted in People, Skiing, Snow, Vermont, Weather, Winter Tagged , , |

You Definitely Better Not Shout

Nearly 1,200 Santas champ at their beards before the start of the first Ri Ra’s Santa 5-k Run and Walk on Church Street in Burlington, VT, Sunday. Let’s see: Beard: check! Hat: check! Santa jacket: check! Santa Belt: check! Baggy Santa pants: check! And off they went, to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation. Below, those beards can be a problem. Maybe some starch?

Also posted in Christmas, Colors, People, Vermont

NCAAs at Stowe

Slightly late putting this post up, but the NCAA nordic ski championships were held at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe in March.  The weather for the skate race on the first day was beautiful. The second day, for the classic race, it poured. More pictures are here.

Also posted in Skiing, Snow, Vermont, Winter

Last Ride, November

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Also posted in mountain biking, Vermont Tagged , , , , , , |