Friday, November 23, 2007

Galena gal is still going strong

Jenny Busdon is the Nordic ski Energizer Bunny of the valley

Express Staff Writer

Jenny Busdon Photo by Willy Cook

Despite her petite size and distinctive, bright blond, muffin-top hair, no one would dare to call Jenny Busdon a pip-squeak. She is, in fact, a powerhouse. A formidable fundraiser and instigator, she is partially, if not wholly, responsible for a number of the best aspects about being in the Wood River Valley in the winter.

Let's start with her accomplishments: She pushed for season-long grooming of the Boulder Mountain Tour trail. She chaired a campaign to save Galena Lodge in 1993. She co-chaired (with Dick Hare) a campaign to bring electrical power to Galena in 2004. In 1999, following Pamela Harriman's will, she spearheaded fundraising for improvements to the Harriman Trail and continued up-keep. She organized the annual Galena Benefit—one of the first of the big dinner-dance benefits now considered commonplace—and she ran the Gourmet Ski Tour for 14 straight years. Along the way she and her husband, Nello—with whom she's been married for 41 years—opened the first authentic Italian restaurant in Ketchum, Piccolo Pasta, in 1984. Of course there's more from this active cross-country instructor and competitor. To keep track of her busy life, she's been keeping a daily diary since she was 16 years old.

"In 1993, because of the success of initial fundraising to groom the Boulder Tour trail, a committee was formed of Andy Munter, Bob Rosso, Steve Wolper, Will Van Ert and Bill Vanderbilt to 'Help Save Galena' which I, again, spearheaded. They basically said to me, 'Jenny, it is all yours. Go for it.' There was some skepticism because I was given a little over three weeks to do it, but with great help from newspapers, radio, TV and a great supporting community—I tell you, I was everywhere—the rest is history. That was how I first got involved and am still as passionate as ever after 15 years."

Now she is a member of the Galena and Trails Advisory Council, a "sounding board" and fund-raising arm of the Blaine County Recreation District that meets every month to keep things operating smoothly and seamlessly up north and, now, at Quigley Nordic, near Hailey.

"Not only have we been able to do some amazing improvements at the (Galena) lodge over the years, because of so much community generosity, but we now have six Piston-Bully machines for grooming," Busdon said. "And this year a new Murphy Bridge so we can now groom with one of these big machines to connect the Boulder Flats part of the trail to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters."

In 1963, when she was 21, Busdon came by ship to Canada from her home in Litchfield, England. Her sister, who lived in Vancouver, hosted a welcome-to-Canada party for her. In her building was an Italian man, who spoke very little English. He too was invited.

Two years later they were married in England. They lived in Vancouver for two years and then discovered the mountains of Whistler, where they moved in 1967.

"There was a tow-rope and a gas station. That was it," she said. "Nello and I were involved in the Chamber of Commerce to make Whistler what it is today."

In 1975, Busdon was named Whistler's Citizen of the Year.

"When we moved we were fanatic downhillers," she said. "But these Norwegians came to Whistler for Nordic skiing and we thought, 'That looks good.' So we started getting into it."

One year, they traveled south to Sun Valley and fell in love, as many do, with the sun and dry snow.

Nello was a successful contractor but in Ketchum they knew no one. So they imported Nello's Italian mama from Trieste and with her recipes opened Piccolo.

"It was a popular little place," Busdon said. "We made fresh bread and pasta every day. It was the best way of getting to know people. After he began getting clients we sold it."

Because it was next to the Elephant's Perch, they also became friends with proprietor, biker and Nordic skiing buff Bob Rosso. Busdon remains essential partners with Rosso in the organization and hosting of the annual Galena benefit.

By then she was teaching at the Sun Valley Nordic Center with Hans Muehlegger. When the Blaine County Recreation District decided to begin a campaign to buy Galena Lodge from Steve Haims, Busdon was primed for the challenge.

"Galena has certain magic. It has so much history," she said. "People were sending money to us. Some days we'd get $5,000 in the mail. We had big thermometers all over town that I raised to show what we'd made. At one point I was raising it to $15,000 when Andre Heinz (son of the late Sen. Henry John Heinz III and Teresa Heinz-Kerry) came in. He took a brochure home. Then Teresa called. She said she was willing to give the full $325,000 to buy the lodge but it was with the understanding that the community would create an endowment to run it. It was really smart. She wanted the community to have a sense of ownership. The community really got behind it."

Years have gone by and the work she began keeps growing and enabling growth. She worked for Andy Munter at Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum for many years until her retirement last year, but she and Nello continue competing. In 1994 she won the Gold Relay at the World Masters.

"I beat the Canadians, Russians and Norwegians," she said. "We've had quite a life and I can look back and read it all in my diaries."

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