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Case Study: Craftsbury GRP

Story by Aaron Smith, Photos Courtesy of Craftsbury GRP

It's pretty tough to graduate from college and then turn around and tell your parents that you're "just going to train" for the next 3-5 years. The fact is, however, that if you want to make the jump from amateur to professional nordic racer, "just training" in your 20's is what you have to do. Most nordic skiers won't reach their peak performance levels until their mid to late 20's - much later than some other sports.

So if you are serious about becoming a professional skier, just how can you make full-time training in your 20's work for you in the U.S.? That's where Craftsbury Green Racing Project (CGRP) comes in.

Founded in the Spring of 2009, The Craftsbury Green Racing Project was launched to fill the gap that exists after collegiate skiing, and serve as a bridge from collegiate racing to national and international-level competition. The CGRP is based at the scenic and sprawling Craftsbury Outdoor Center in Craftsbury, Vermont, which was purchased in November 2008 and restructured into a non-profit organization with the following mission:

  • to support and promote participation and excellence in lifelong sports with a special focus on rowing, running, and nordic skiing;
  • to use and teach sustainable practices; and
  • to protect and manage the surrounding land, lake and trails.

By working with the Craftsbury Outdoor Center, athletes are able to spend their time training and staying focused in exchange for promoting the Center and maintaining its grounds through a series of green projects.

The projects for each year are chosen through a joint brainstorming and prioritization process that gives skiers the chance to suggest and design projects that align with the Center's mission. Some examples of past projects include analysis of current heating/power systems at the Center, improved management of property, production of local food on the Center's property, design of a compost facility for the dining hall, removing invasive milfoil in the lake water, as well as community outreach programs including coaching a junior ski program.

So what these athlete's do at the Center is definitely "Green", but how do they make traveling around the country and across the ocean to the larger racing venues a green endeavor? As much as they do back at the Center, there's still no arguing that jet fuel isn't exactly the greenest method of transport.

Enter Brighter Planet.

The Craftsbury Green Racing Project works with Brighter Planet, a Carbon Offset Company, to help offset the carbon footprint generated by their travel. Although it is not an 100% complete answer (and Craftsbury admits this in their own announcement of the partnership) the effort launches it in the right direction and helps fund Green projects that otherwise would not have been able to get off the ground. This partnership helps reduce the impact they have getting themselves to world class events, and helps further the mission of the Center. It's pretty slick, really.

How does an athlete become part of this program?

Selection of athletes for the Green Racing Project is based on a combination of performance criteria (such as top-20 EISA ranking for the current year,top-10 USSA birth year ranking) and a written application explaining why they think the program is a good match and what skills or interests they would bring to the green/sustainable aspect of the program.

Gordon Vermeer is a good example of the kind of skier who joins and benefits from the Green Racing Project. Vermeer started racing with the CGRP in 2012 and is from Podiumwear's home state of Minnesota. Gordon started skiing in Minneapolis and raced during his high school years at Minneapolis SouthWest High School. Afterwards, he attended Dartmouth College and raced with the nordic team there, earning spots on the podium at Williams' and Middlebury's carnivals. He was a regular in the top-ten and earned 10th and 13th-place finishes at NCAAs. Vermeer wanted to pursue his racing career beyond college so, rather than doing something more traditional like joining the workforce and trying to keep up training on his own, he joined the Craftsbury Green Racing Project.

Vermeer's non-skiing interests are a perfect fit for the team and for the Craftsbury Center's mission. He majored in Economics/Math with a focus on Finance and Statistics and is currently interested in the energy sector and efficiency issues. He is on the right path both for his skiing goals as well as for his goal of making the world a better place.

Currently, the CGRP roster consists of 14 skiers (7 men and 7 women) from Vermont, Alaska, New Hampshire, Maine, Wisconsin and Minnesota. Three of the project's members are currently members of either the U.S. Ski Team or the U.S. Biathlon Team.

Women's Team:
Ida Sargent (U.S. Ski Team), Susan Dunklee (US Biathlon), Hannah Dreissigacker (US Biathlon), Clare Egan, Maria Stuber, Amy Glen, Caitlin Patterson

Men's Team:
Bryan Cook, Dylan McGuffin, Patrick O'Brien, Tim Reynolds, Alex Howe, Nils Koons, Gordon Vermeer

It is very evident that these skiers are thriving in this program. Recent results in national and international races proves this point. Here are a few examples of results from the past few weeks:

Minneapolis, MN SuperTour Jan 21-27 2013:
Classic Sprint

  • Pat 4th
  • Alex 7th
  • Dylan 9th
  • Nils 16th
  • Gordon 20th

 

Noquemanon 50K Ski Marathon, Marquette, Michigan

  • Maria 2nd

 

U23 World Championships, Liberec, Czech Republic
10K Freestyle

  • Caitlin 14th (top American)

 

World Cup - Sochi, Russia
Freestyle Sprint

  • Ida 6th

Classic Team Sprint

  • Ida (+ Sadie Bjornsen) 5th

 

It is clear that these men and women are succeeding. Fifth and Sixth in the World Cup - Wow! We are looking forward to seeing these skiers blossom into our nations nordic superstars.

We here at Podiumwear are honored to work with Craftsbury Green Racing Project and supply them with their distinctive green and black suits. We believe in their racing goals as well as their environmental goals and are excited that a program of this caliber is active in the U.S. skiing community. We hope you agree that these athletes deserve our support and our admiration.

For more information please visit : http://www.craftsbury.com/grp/grp/home.htm