Friday, January 24, 2014

Nordic Festival a cure for the winter blahs

All grown up, it goes beyond racing


Nordic skiers gather around a warm fire during the Sun Valley Nordic Festival.
Express file photo

Racers return to the 20-mile Boulder Mountain Tour Nordic race year after year, decade after decade.
    In its 39th year, the race is a singular event that spawned the area’s signature celebration of winter, the Sun Valley Nordic Festival, a great way to banish the January blahs.
    The week-long festival begins tonight with a welcome celebration at 5 p.m. at Ketchum Town Square and includes races, lectures, tours and a concert. It’s a something-for-everyone event that draws participants from all over the nation.
    Events are listed at and on Page 9.
    Kids who grew up watching parents race in what’s affectionately known as The Boulder now have their own kids watching them. The event is not only a celebration of sport, it’s about family and good friends made along the way.
    While elite athletes test themselves against other top performers, garden-variety athletes can skate and glide to their own personal bests. Competition is not required, and those bent on touring can participate in gatherings on skis or snowshoes or simply listen to a lecture.
    Everyone can be part of the sheer fun of celebrating winter as part of the crowd at head-to-head sprints in downtown Ketchum or by swaying to the music at the Reggae in the Mountains concert that caps the week.
    Local skiers started The Boulder. They simply wanted to see who was the fastest on a snowmobile-flattened track from Galena Lodge south to the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters. The race grew up over the years with new techniques, ski technology and marketing to become a “must-do” event for those who love winter.
    Several years ago, community organizers realized that Nordic fever was manifesting itself in many different events and concentrated them into a single week to create the festival.
    This year’s sunny skies are likely to continue through race day on Saturday, Feb. 1, which bodes well for a fast track and solar-powered fun.
     The weather means tiny mistakes in ski prep and waxing won’t make or break times. Nearly every racer has known the heartbreak of the wrong wax job in new snow, which can make skis like wearing a pair of cement shoes, but that likelihood is low this year.
    The weather also means that supporters can bask in relatively balmy temperatures as they wait for favorite racers at the finish.
    January blahs, be gone.

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