Friday, January 27, 2012

Nordic skiers, fans gear up for festival

Third annual event celebrates cross-country skiing

Express Staff Writer

The Wood River Valley's Nordic trails system, and the amenities, programs and people that support them, are sources of local pride. The community is hosting the third annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival so everyone can celebrate—and partake in—the area's lesser-known winter sport.

The festival, Jan. 28 to Feb. 5, promises a week of training clinics, parties, presentations, Hall of Fame inductions and races, capped off by the marquee event, the Boulder Mountain Tour race.

The festival was established to showcase and promote the valley's 200 kilometers (124 miles) of groomed cross-country skiing trails.

"The Boulder Mountain Tour is the anchor event, but it takes a lot of different events and activities to make the festival," said Jim Keating, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District. "We put that together as a community to host something larger that could extend people's stay, create more interest for families coming for the Boulder and celebrate the larger idea of Nordic town USA."

Nearly 20 organizations have come together to host the event, bolstered by local businesses and individual contributors.

"The participants are many—that's part of its unique character," Keating said. "There's low awareness [of Nordic options] but we have an incredible product. By working together we can have a little more impact."

The Recreation District, Sun Valley Co., Boulder Mountain Tour, Sun Valley Marketing Alliance, Sun Valley Center for the Arts and many others are part of a coalition seeking to make sure the world knows about the Nordic system, which led community leaders to dub the valley Nordic Town USA.

"There's absolutely an economic development goal," Keating said. "But, the larger goal ... is driving awareness outside the valley."

Complementing Nordic offerings are different types of recreation opportunities, as well as arts and cultural offerings.

"It's not just about celebrating the trails, but all the different programs, history and culture of the area," he said.

It's a message that seems to be getting out.

"This year, we're seeing a much higher percentage of new participants and out-of-towners," he said.

Among new events this year are the Skin It 2 Win It Randonee Race on Dollar Mountain—a fundraiser for the Sawtooth National Forest Avalanche Center—and the WinterSun Classic 10k and 5k race at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.

"We are locked and loaded right now," Keating said. "We're all ready to go. We're in really great shape for it."

Rebecca Meany:

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