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Skiing Town to Town in a Magical Corner of Vermont

Mar 03, 2023   |   The New York Times

Olympians Judy Geer ’75 Th ’83, and Susan Dunklee ’08 are highlighted for their work at the Craftsbury Outdoor Center and its Green Racing Project in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Where the coaches are Olympians

The town of Craftsbury, population 1,343 (2020), is in a rural region known for logging, farming, maple syrup and lately, Olympic athletes.

In 2008, a new era dawned when the 35-year-old Craftsbury Outdoor Center was purchased by Judy Geer, 69, and Dick Dreissigacker, 75, Olympic rowers who lived and worked in nearby Morrisville. Mr. Dreissigacker is a co-founder of Concept 2, which makes high-tech oars and indoor rowing machines that are found in fitness centers and homes around the world. When the couple bought the outdoor center, they turned it into a nonprofit foundation with a three-part mission to promote sports, sustainability and stewardship.


“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.


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 happens on the snow in Craftsbury.

“I love the interaction between all the groups,” she said. “We have normal people in camps, we have Olympic development athletes, and I especially like that little kids get to be coached by Olympians. And we have a lot of women coaches. That’s really good for all the kids here.”

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