Friday, January 29, 2010

The festival has finally arrived

After a year of planning, the 9-day Sun Valley Nordic Festival starts Saturday

Express Staff Writer

The Boulder Mountain Tour race will be one of the highlights of the Sun Valley Nordic Festival. Photo by Mountain Express

The annual Boulder Mountain Tour—dating back to 1975—has come to attract nearly 800 Nordic racers every year, but after a day the skiers are gone and the celebration is over as quickly as it began.

Tour organizers had an epiphany after last year's race: Why not build a Nordic festival around the Nordic race?

"Let's promote the value of something that's already a gem," said Jim Keating, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District.

The rec district and Sun Valley Nordic Center provide 124 miles of groomed Nordic trails in the Wood River Valley.

In a year's time, that seedling of an idea grew into a nine-day celebration running from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7, offering not only skiing and showshoeing but music, food, fun and more—at a discounted price. A festival trail pass will cost $49, allowing access to all 124 miles of trail for nine days. Usually, the price tag would be $297.

And with that pass comes a plethora of other deals valleywide. Local restaurants, hotels and outdoor shops will also give discounted rates to anyone flashing a trail pass.

And the deals are only possible because more than 20 businesses and organizations have joined as the Sun Valley Nordic Ski Alliance to build the festival, hoping it will earn Sun Valley the pseudonym "Nordic Town USA."

Keating chairs the alliance and said it has been a shared "experiment" helped along by the struggling economy.


"People are collaborating for the greater good of the community," he said.

He said half the festival's value has come through efforts by the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau to market the festival far and wide. Since the celebration is new, the word needs to be spread for it to work.

Ramona Duke, public relations and social media manager for the chamber, said the festival has been promoted on the Ski Channel, Snowshoe Magazine and newspapers. But, she said, the greatest achievement has been a piece about the festival in Alaska Airlines/Horizon Air's magazine.

The highlight of the festival will be the 35th annual Boulder Mountain Tour 32-km race, described by race director Kevin Swigert as one of the "premier" cross-country races in the country.

"We'll use the BMT as the hub to the wheel of this festival, as the primary draw," he said.

However, Swigert said, the ultimate goal of the festival is to expand the base of people who participate in the sport. To do that, a Half Boulder race of 15 km is planned for racers who want a little less challenge.

Some other highlights are the 10th annual Best of Banff Mountain Film Festival, Downtown Ketchum Nordic Night and Concert, a 5-km snowshoe race and a presentation by author and Olympic skier John Morton. But that's only a glimpse at everything planned. To view the festival schedule, register for any of the events or buy the nine-day trail pass, visit

"This is such a great collaboration," said Sean McLaughlin, director of Sun Valley Nordic Center. "Hopefully, we can do more things like this."

Trevon Milliard:

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