Friday, February 2, 2007

Boulder Tour racers hoping for a fast ride

32nd annual Nordic tour returns Saturday

Express Staff Writer

Bend?s Patrick Weaver leads a tight pack of Boulder Mountain Ski Tour racers during the early stages of the 2005 race?the second 32-kilometer fastest race in tour annals. Conditions could make Saturday?s 32nd Boulder Tour one of the fastest in memory. Photo by David N. Seelig

The course is looking fast, the field of skiers is formidable and Race Day is nearly here for the 32nd annual Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Ski Tour scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 3.

"It's looking great," race director Kevin Swigert said last Friday of the 32-kilometer trail in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum.

Swigert expected between 900 and 950 skiers for Saturday's wave-start race.

"It's maybe the best prepared course we've ever had because we've had the time and weather conditions to fine-tune it and widen some sections," he said. "And we've got a pretty outstanding field of racers."

There have been six different men's winners of the Boulder Tour since 1996, and four former champions are registered for Saturday.

Entered are Subaru Factory Team racers Carl Swenson (1998-2000) and Ben Husaby (1996) and Fischer's Nathan Schultz (2004) and 2006 winner Zach Simons.

"It's a really, really strong field," said Swigert, a three-time Boulder Tour winner himself. "With the course being as fast as it is, and with a lot of skiers focusing on the Boulder because of the lack of snow around the country, it could be the race of the century here."

The high-quality Elite Men's field of about 56 racers will kick off the race at 10 a.m. Saturday. Elite Women (about 52) follow right after. Then come the third and fourth waves packed full of very aggressive men and the faster citizens. In all, there will be nine waves.

Last year there were 782 skiers ages 11-79 finishing the 19.8-mile freestyle ski tour from Galena Lodge's Senate Meadows to the SNRA headquarters eight miles north of Ketchum. Winning in relatively slow times were Ketchum-based Simons (1.22:12) and Brooke Hovey (1.30:33, 42nd overall).

Neither Hovey nor 2005 and 2004 Boulder female winners Suzanne King and Rebecca Dussault had registered as of last Friday. Nonetheless Swigert expects a good women's field including the following registered Boulder racers:

Fischer racer Kate Whitcomb, Subaru Factory Team racers Kate Underwood and Abigail Larson, Rossignol's Kate Pearson and current SuperTour women's runner-up Martina Stursova, along with Fischer's Nicole DeYong.

A fast course means it will be tough for the leaders to break away until the final sprint at the SNRA finish, Swigert said.

"If it's fast, it will be a drafting race," he said. Fastest skiers will arrive at the finish line about 11 a.m. Saturday.

Age classes, 16 in all, range in five-year increments from 12-and-under to 85-and-over.

Race organizers have dealt successfully with an ice dam problem located 1k above the finish line, Swigert said. Skiers will follow the road shoulder closely for about 200 feet, but except for that situation the course will be the same as always.

"Even if we don't get more snow this week, I'm confident that we'll have real good conditions," Swigert said. "Eric Rector of Blaine County Recreation District has been prepping the course constantly."

Visit to get race results by midday Saturday.

Today, Friday, Feb. 2: The Wells Fargo Boulder Mountain Tour Expo will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at nexStage Theatre on Main Street 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.

"The skiers can get a good equipment preview of next year's stuff at Friday's Expo," Swigert said. "We'll have a good representation of a lot of different companies there."

Course inspection will be allowed Friday at no charge until 4 p.m., when the racecourse will be closed. At all other times, use of the course requires a $9 trail fee.

Saturday, Feb. 3: Shuttle buses to Galena Lodge from the Ketchum Park & Ride will run from 7-9:15 a.m.

Traffic headed north to Stanley can still get through, but no private cars are allowed at Galena Lodge without an Officials Parking Permit. Buses back to Ketchum leave the SNRA starting about 12 noon.

The post-race awards party will be held in a new location, The Community School gym in Sun Valley, from 5:30-7 p.m. Swigert said participants are encouraged to attend the party and then support the local restaurant community afterward.

Sunday, Feb. 4: As part of the Wells Fargo Ski Festival at Galena Lodge, free cross-country ski demos and free clinics will be available starting at 10 a.m.

Organizationally, Boulder Mountain Tour Ltd. is a non-profit entity that organizes and promotes the Boulder Mountain Tour ski race and supports the sport of cross-country skiing.

Boulder Mountain Tour Ltd. contracts with Warbonnet Entertainment LLC, a local organizing company, to supply the year-round management of the event. Warbonnet Entertainment LLC is owned and operated by Swigert, a former U.S. Nordic Ski Team member, three-time national champion and former head coach of the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Nordic Team.

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