On a quiet morning in late December, my teammate Hannah and I unrolled a couple of shooting mats and unfolded the legs of an old spotting scope. We were setting up for biathlon practice along the back edge of Craftsbury’s lower ski stadium. 50 meters away, through a tunnel of trees, four black and white metal targets perched on rustic cedar scaffolding. A grid of cables suspended their reset ropes above a gully. This is our home training grounds. Although we both race on the National Team now, we love spending time at home, at the venue where we got our start.
Our rustic shooting range. Photo: screenshot from WPTZ news.
After zeroing our rifles, we skied several loops around Lemon’s Haunt, a 2 km trail where I remember racing as early as six years old. During our interval workout, Hannah and I wove in and out around packs of local junior and youth skiers. We all wore matching uniforms of the Green Racing Project and Craftsbury Nordic Ski Club. We looked like one big team. As we pushed hard side-by-side to ski faster, we certainly felt like one unified team too.
Craftsbury’s up and coming skiers, sporting their snazzy new uniforms. Photo: Callie Young
Later for my afternoon workout, I left my rifle at home and savored the longer trails that took me far from the shooting range. I packed a headlamp in my waterbelt because I usually finished after dark. I tried to go as long as I could without turning it on. I enjoy the challenge of skiing in the dark; it helps improve balance. Besides, I like to think I can predict every dip and turn of Craftsbury’s trails.
In the two weeks I was home, I went through several sets of headlamp batteries, but not simply because of the night skiing. On the Sunday before Christmas, northern Vermont awoke to an ice storm. The forest was coated in thick ice and looked like a crystal palace! All day long, we heard the gunshot sound of tree trunks snapping and the broken glass shatter as branches tumbled to the ground. Our team house was without electricity for five days as utility companies scrambled to repair downed lines across the region. We made sure to keep our wood stove well stocked. It took the Outdoor Center’s staff, plus loads of volunteers, several days to clear debris off the ski trails.
View of the ice storm near my parents’ house in Barton. The storm and subsequent cold snap created perfect ice skating conditions on Crystal Lake for Christmas day. Photo: Stan Dunklee