Sun Valley Nordic Fest turns 10

There once was a time when Nordic, or cross-country, skiing wasn’t very highly thought of—or thought of all, for that matter—in most parts of America.

Sure, some heavily-layered folks near the Great Lakes were big fans, but much of that was due to their Northern European heritage, which passes the tradition of Nordic skiing down from generation to generation like plates full of sauerkraut and sausages across the dinner table.

As for the rest of the country, including right here in the nation’s original ski resort, our general opinion of the sport had best been summed up as, “Meh.”

But that first began to change here in the Wood River Valley in 1971, when the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) began offering a cross-country ski program. Things took another glide towards Sun Valley’s love affair with Nordic skiing when the Boulder Mountain Tour (BMT) began in 1973. By 2010, the sport had grown so popular that a group of locals founded the Sun Valley Nordic Festival.

The annual celebration of cross-country skiing is one of the big reasons Sun Valley is now officially known as “Nordic Town USA.” It is, however, just one of the good reasons.

The Wood River Valley is proud to be home to over 200 kilometers of groomed Nordic trails.  This includes a wide variety of terrain and all at great altitudes to ski or train, with our local trails running at elevations from 5,167’ in Bellevue to 7,290’ at Galena Lodge.

We also have a long season, usually spreading from November to May. We have great local shops full of knowledgeable experts at places like Backwoods Mountains Sports, the Elephant’s Perch, PK’s Sporting Goods and Sturtos. The Sun Valley Nordic & Snowshoe Center is, naturally, world-class as well, for those looking for lessons.

Heck, we have become such a cross-country skiing mecca that even the best Nordic Ski Team in the world, Norway, has trained here to prep for the Winter Olympics and the U.S. Olympic Committee designated Sun Valley as the first Nordic Olympic Training Site and Paralympic Training Site in the nation.

The good news is that our love of Nordic skiing seems to be contagious. Cross-country skiing has been gaining in popularity for years now, especially with men. So if you haven’t gone Nordic yet, this would be the prefect week to join the movement.

There’s lots of cross-country skiing fun happening as part of the festival. Things kick-off with the Nordic Town USA Sprints in downtown Ketchum on Wednesday night, followed by the SVSEF Clinics on Thursday, the 47th BMT on Saturday, the Demo Day and BBQ Day on Sunday and Ski the Rails on Saturday, February 8th.

Fun, easy-to-do, family-friendly, extremely healthy, always beautiful, affordable and open to everyone, it’s easy to see why countless locals and over 5 million Americans are happy to call themselves Nordic skiers.

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By Mike McKenna

This story originally appeared in the Chamber Corner for the Wood River Weekly.

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