Come to Sun Valley and enjoy a great cross-country ski race. That’s essentially the message of Boulder Mountain Ski Tour organizers, and Nordic skiers are buying into it.
Over 800 cross-country skiers are due for the 2013 SWIX Boulder Mountain Ski Tour Saturday, Feb. 2 north of Ketchum in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The Groundhog Day race starts at 10 a.m. in Senate Creek with top finishers coming to the SNRA finish about 11:15 a.m.
It’s the 38th running of the 32-kilometer (19.8-mile) freestyle race, putting the Boulder right up there with the 41st American Birkebeiner in Wisconsin Feb. 23 as the most venerable Nordic races in the U.S.
Why is the Boulder so successful? Race director Kevin Swigert credits its committed organization, the generally great snow conditions here in early February and the always-superb course preparation.
“Nobody makes the effort into putting on a race like we do,” said Swigert. “We’ve got a committee of over 30 people, and many have been working the race for 20 years or more. What it means is the Boulder has one of the best reputations of any race out there.
“The effort we’ve made as a community over the last four years by linking the Sun Valley Nordic Festival with the Boulder seems to be slowly paying off. This year we have massive numbers of skiers from outside the region—skiers from 28 different states, a lot from the Midwest and New England, over 100 from Boise and plenty from the Salt Lake City area.”
It doesn’t hurt the expected turnout that the American Cross Country Skiers (AXCS) National Masters Championships are being held at Sun Valley this week. Saturday’s Boulder Tour is the 2013 national freestyle championship for the 15-year-old organization of citizen racers 25-and-up.
Swigert said all age class champions in Saturday’s Boulder Tour will also be considered national champions.
For instance, all age class champions last February when 714 skiers finished the 32k race received complimentary entry to the 2013 Boulder Tour. If they repeat Saturday, they will also be national champions.
Local class winners in 2012 were Kaitlyn Landis, Alexa Turzian, Brooke Hovey, Morgan Arritola, Elizabeth Youngman, Katherine Nalen, Linda McClatchy, Gabriele Andersen, Del Pletcher, Grace Dyck, Andy Andrews, Shana Thoreson and Charley French. JoAnn Levy, 71, finished her 37th Boulder Ski Tour in 2012.
This year, the Boulder Tour is offering prize money of about $6,000, Swigert said. It will be paid to the top five men’s and women’s places, with the winners receiving about $1,600 apiece, the second-place finishers $500, third place $300, fourth place $200 and fifth $100.
Monday, Swigert had counted just over 700 registered skiers for the 32k Boulder and another 100 for the fourth-year, non-competitive Half Boulder 15k (9.3-mile) race. He expected those numbers to rise before today’s registration deadline.
The field includes a number of disabled athletes and Paralympians hosted by the Ketchum-based Wood River Ability Program who are looking forward to participating in the Boulder and this week’s AXCS National Masters races as sit and stand-up skiers.
Factory skiers from companies like Fischer, Rossignol, Atomic and Salomon will make the Elite field very competitive. Swigert said, “The Men’s Elite field is very deep, just a little back from the top skiers in the country. Nobody will run away with it. You’ll probably see six or seven guys going for it, and four or five women.”
Among the Elites are 2011 Boulder Tour king Sylvan Ellefson of Vail, Colo. and last year’s women’s runner-up Morgan Arritola, 26, of Ketchum. The 2012 winners were Matt Liebsch, 28, of Minnesota (1.13:34) and, for the third time, Rebecca Dussault, 31, of Colorado (1.18:13) by just one second over Arritola.
Some of the top skiers may choose to instead race at the 33k City of Lakes Freestyle Loppet Marathon on Sunday at Minneapolis, Minn. or the 32nd annual Craftsbury (Vt.) Classic 25k and 50k on Saturday, Feb. 2.
This year’s awards ceremony/raffle is Saturday from 5:30-7 p.m. in the Limelight Room of Sun Valley Inn.
Boulder participants should attend the Tour Expo on Friday, Feb. 1 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Wood River YMCA along Warm Springs Rd. They also can inspect the course Friday—no trail fee required through 4 p.m. on Friday, only.
Swigert encouraged racers and spectators to take advantage of the Galena Lodge buses leaving Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum starting at 7 a.m. Saturday and continuing through 9 a.m.
Shuttle buses will run from Hemingway School to the Baker Creek start of the Boulder Half from 9:30-11 a.m. for racers and spectators. Buses will go from Hemingway to the SNRA finish between 9-11 a.m.
No public parking is allowed for the race at Galena Lodge and there is also very limited parking in the SNRA finish area—mostly in the Barlow Road area which is a decent hike south of the finish line. Shuttle buses at Barlow Road are due to run continuously from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
On Sunday, Feb. 3, the SWIX Boulder Mountain Tour Demo will be held at Sun Valley Nordic starting at 10 a.m.