The Green Mountains aren’t highly visible here, on the shores of Lake Champlain.
But in Burlington, Vermont, on and around the campus of the University of Vermont, you can feel their presence.
The Green Mountains that wind around Burlington – in the distance in tiny burgs such as Jericho and Stowe – are home to some of the best skiing in New England, both Nordic and Alpine.
These mountains are friendly and inviting, not unlike the San Juans in and around Durango.
Rogan Brown sees the similarities – and appreciates them.
Brown, a 2010 Durango High School graduate who honed his Nordic skiing skills with the Durango Nordic Ski Club, recently qualified for the NCAA Skiing Championships, scheduled Wednesday through Saturday in Lake Placid, N.Y., as a Nordic skier for the University of Vermont.
A fifth-year senior at UVM (that’s the school’s common name, an abbreviation of its Latin name – Universitas Viridis Montis, or University of the Green Mountains), this will be Brown’s third consecutive trip to the NCAAs. That this year’s event will be contested close to Brown’s new home – and at the same site as the recent Eastern Region Championships, where Brown qualified for the NCAAs and the Catamounts won the team title – should help him, Brown said. So, too, will his experiences in his old home – and the smooth transition he’s experienced between the two.
“Absolutely,” he said of that easy transition from Durango to Burlington.
“I kind of wanted to branch out from the western states schools and Burlington looked like a cool city. I walked on to the team and never looked back. It’s been a great decision.
“Durango was an awesome place to grow up. It promotes such a unique lifestyle. It’s great to have that. I feel right at home in this community.”
That comfort level has carried over to his skiing in recent years. At last year’s NCAAs, he finished 13th in the 20-kilometer skate race, he said. Then, at the recent Eastern Region Championships at Lake Placid, he was second in the skate race and fifth in the classic race.
“It was a good weekend,” he said.
“I’ve been progressing the past few years. Each year I’ve been bumping up my training, working on my strengths and weaknesses. That kind of progression and training projects over to good results in races.
“My strengths are in the skate technique. I’ve dialed that in. I’m a little weaker in the classic technique. I’ve been working on that a bunch and seen some good progress. It’s been cool to see that throughout the year.”
An extremely snowy winter in New England has made for great conditions for Brown and his Catamount teammates this season. And regardless, college skiing is a big deal at Division I UVM.
“Vermont doesn’t have a football team. We have a pretty good hockey team and basketball team. But the ski team stacks up there,” Brown said. “It’s a big part of the community.”
Much like Durango.
“Durango has always had a plethora of talented athletes and coaches that have come through there,” Brown said. “It was awesome as a kid training with (those coaches) ... They’re real dedicated people. It was awesome to work with those people.
“I came home for the (holiday) break and it was sweet to see them revamp that (the Durango Nordic Ski Center facility) – to get some new furnishings.”
While at the old facility, Brown said he was third in junior nationals in Under-16 and had top-10s at the U.S. nationals. Then, at UVM, he said he trained on his own his freshman year before making the ski team as a sophomore. He said he’s trained at the Bend Endurance Academy in Bend, Ore., the last four summers.
All for this week – the culmination of his collegiate career.
“I’m used to the stress of NCAAs,” Brown said. “It’s just another race.
“But it’s good that it’s kind of on my home turf.”