If the weather holds, meaning nights stay cold and no snow falls this week, expect hundreds of rocket ships to blast off Saturday for the 30th Boulder Mountain Ski Tour.
That's the prediction of Kevin Swigert, race director of the 2005 Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour set for Saturday, Feb. 5 starting from Galena Lodge north of Ketchum.
Swigert said Monday, "If there's no snow all week and we maintain cool nighttime temperatures, it's going to be rocket ship out there with a few interesting corners. I don't think it's going to be a wax race. It could be as fast or faster than it was two years ago."
Two years ago, Minnesota's Eric Meyer (1.06:27.6) and Ketchum's Brooke Baughman (1.12:36.1) set the course records on the 32-kilometer Boulder layout that's been used since 1999. Last year it was a tough slog—the winning times 17 minutes slower than in 2003.
A fast course means it will be tough for the leaders to break away until the final sprint at the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters finish line eight miles north of Ketchum, Swigert said.
He added, "If it's fast, it will be a drafting race."
The elite men's field is decent, Swigert said. It starts with reigning American Ski Marathon Series (ASMS) champion Patrick Weaver and includes 2003 Boulder Ski Tour champion Meyer plus last year's local winner Nathan Schultz of Bozeman, Mt.
Weaver, 35, is a two-time Olympian from New England who finished 16th in 15-kilometer classic at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah.
Swigert said the three will challenge for the 2005 title, and "there's a strong group of men real close to that level."
Local interest in the elite women's race will be high because of the presence of 18-year-old Morgan Arritola of Fairfield, who finished fourth overall in the national 15k freestyle race Jan. 3 in Utah.
Swigert said, "Morgan made the World Junior team skiing real well at nationals. We're excited to see what she does in the Boulder. She fits in well with the top three women."
Baughman and last year's women's winner Rebecca Dussault of Colorado aren't competing this year, but there's a chance that 2002 women's queen and last year's runner-up Suzanne King of Bend, Ore. will return Saturday, he said.
Christie Aschwanden of The Netherlands and her husband Wilhelm Aschwanden of Switzerland are in the field as well.
Swigert said about 900 cross-country skiers have registered for Saturday's race from Senate Creek near Galena Lodge to the SNRA. That's about 100 skiers fewer than in 2004. Last year, a record 955 racers finished the ASMS Boulder Tour course.
The 30th annual 32-kilometer (19.8-mile) distance race is set to start at 10 a.m. Saturday. There are nine starting waves, with 50 skiers apiece in the elite men and women waves, and 125 to 150 in each subsequent wave.
Fastest skiers will arrive at the SNRA finish line about 11 a.m. Saturday.
Helping out with the Boulder Tour is a committed group of 300 volunteers, Swigert said.
Interestingly, about 100 entries have never skied a race of this length before, he added. That says a lot about the way the Boulder Ski Tour challenges skiers but still is an attainable goal, Swigert said.
The new ninth wave is for first-time skiers, said Swigert.
The 2005 Boulder Tour events will cover three days. Here is the schedule:
Friday, Feb. 4:
The Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Tour Expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at nexStage Theatre on Main St. in Ketchum.
There, racers will pick up their bibs and BMT clothing bags. They'll learn about wave seeding and find souvenirs and promotional materials. Late bib pickup is Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at Galena Lodge.
Course inspection will be allowed Friday at no charge until 4 p.m., when the course will be closed. At all other times, use of the course requires a $9 trail fee.
Saturday, Feb. 5:
Shuttle buses to Galena Lodge from the Ketchum Park & Ride will run from 7 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.
Traffic headed north to Stanley can still get through, but no private cars will be allowed at Galena Lodge, Swigert added.
After the race, buses back to Ketchum will leave the SNRA starting about 12 noon.
Post-race awards party will be held at River Run Lodge from 6-7:15 p.m. There will be complimentary snacks and a no-host bar offered to all Boulder Tour entrants. Master of ceremonies will be Bob Rosso.
Results will be posted on the event's Web site, bouldermountaintour.com, shortly after the end of Saturday's race.
Sunday, Feb. 6:
As part of today's Wells Fargo Ski Festival at Galena Lodge, free cross-country ski demos and free clinics will be available starting at 10 a.m.