JIM FREDERICKS AND MUFFY RITZ LAUNCH GMVS NORDIC TO SUCCESS THROUGH THE 1980s – FACT 16 OF 50
It was in 1981 when Jim Fredericks was hired to provide an elite-level program to cross-country ski athletes, just as GMVS did for Alpine athletes. “It was the year World Cup skiers were just starting to skate ski in classic races,” notes Jim. He goes on to tell a story about a turning point in his career while coaching at GMVS, which led to remarkable success: “I took the GMVS team to the Craftsbury Opener and I asked a UVM Norwegian skier and NCAA champion what he was using for kick wax. He told me he wasn’t using kick wax even…Pal ended up winning the race easily. On the way home I told my skiers we were only going to practice skate skiing until we nailed the technique. We did just that and began winning almost every race we entered that season. Back then there weren’t any specific skate races so the people who learned how to skate well would have a huge advantage.”
During his time at GMVS, Jim incorporated cross-country running and cycling into the regular training regime, and trained over twenty Junior Olympic Team athletes, including two National Champions, while also placing skiers on the U.S. Ski Team in 1984 and 1985. In the summer months many college, national, and Olympic team athletes trained under Jim on the GMVS campus.
In the spring of 1985, Jim was injured in an auto accident and the following fall Muffy Ritz, a former member of the U.S. Ski Team from Minneapolis, MN, was named the new Nordic Program Director – a position she served from 1985 to 1989. When she took over the program, skating was still in its infancy and she had just won the Birkebeiner, the largest and one of the longest cross-country races in the country (54km from Cable to Hayward, WI). It was a first for her and the first time the race was won by a skater, not a classic skier. That fall at GMVS, the team trained with roller blades thinking they would be better than roller skis, which were at the time, classic. As it turned out, roller blades were much easier and less effective than roller skis. “I actually think we deconditioned with those rollerblades,” reflects Muffy, “but boy, were they fun and they had brakes!”
During her time coaching at GMVS, Muffy continued to compete at a high level. She was instrumental in developing Junior Olympic, Junior World Championship and Olympic athletes, and brought a spark to the school that extended beyond the cross-country program. In the late 80s, under the leadership of GMVS Alpine Director Werner Margreiter, GMVS Alpine athletes would train once a week with the cross-country skiers and Muffy would lead an 8-mile run through the Camel’s Hump forest. The addition of the Nordic program added a flavor of grit, endurance, and adventure to the GMVS campus that still stands today.