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Skiing Town to Town in a Magical Corner of Vermont

Skiing Town to Town in a Magical Corner of Vermont

Vermont schoolchildren and residents of the three neighboring towns ski free at Craftsbury, and a season pass costs just $50. Elite post-collegiate athletes in cross-country skiing, biathlon (which combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship), running and rowing train at no charge as part of Craftsbury’s Green Racing Project. They dream of competing in the Olympics, but they also coach children in the local ski club and schools and help keep the campus running. Six members of the G.R.P. competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“The model here of embracing balance and finding value that’s derived from something other than just your sport — that’s derived from how you contribute to your community — is what made the sport sustainable for me,” said Susan Dunklee, 37, a G.R.P. member, three-time Olympian and the most decorated competitor in the history of American biathlon. She is now the director of running for G.R.P.

In 2014, Mr. Dreissigacker and Ms. Geer transformed the humble campus by constructing an airy, ultra energy-efficient touring center and gym. Modern cabins replaced an old ski dorm a few years later, and the communal dining hall was expanded; it now features local food, including produce grown in gardens tended by the athletes. The campus gets its heat and hot water from a central heating system powered by wood, solar energy and waste heat from snow-making. Most of the electricity comes from large solar panels that are visible on roofs and around the ski trails.

Craftsbury’s sustainability focus is driven both by idealism and practical concerns. New England experienced its warmest January on record this year, leaving many cross-country ski areas unable to open. But Craftsbury opened before Thanksgiving thanks to its innovative snow storage system. Each winter, the center uses snow-making equipment to create a mound of snow, which it then buries beneath 18 inches of wood chips. It is stored through the summer, then used on the trails the following winter. Mr. Dreissigacker explained that he had seen this method of snow storage used successfully in Scandinavia. In Craftsbury, it has been a success: About 60 percent of the snow survives the summer heat, and the stockpile enables Craftsbury to open for skiing in November.

Ms. Geer, who can be seen in her oversize down jacket directing volunteers at the countless races and festivals at the center, said that her greatest reward is seeing the magic that…

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