"Thirty seconds to start" booms from the loudspeaker through lung-biting-cold air. Nervous muscles and stomachs tighten as we wait for the starting gun. The sounds of skiers wishing each other luck, of boots clipping into bindings and of sideline cheerleaders go silent. All that I hear now is the gentle swish of skis against the snow, creaking poles and heavy breathing. The race is on.
This is the Boulder Mountain Tour. On February 7, and for the 34th consecutive year, racers set off from Galena Lodge for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area Headquarters, 32 kilometers south along the Harriman Trail.
No matter how many times I’ve raced the Boulder, it never gets any easier. But then, is a race ever supposed to be easy? By the finish, elites and novices alike share the same feelings: exhaustion and euphoria. As one, we join the post-race, endorphin-fueled blab-a-thon.
A racer at heart, I can find plenty of Nordic options in the valley. My favorite is Lake Creek, where the trails vary from a peaceful cruise along the river to the gut-busting, lung-bursting South Bench Trail. It’s no wonder that the Sun Valley Junior Nordic Team is one of the best in the country; this is their training ground. To the north, Galena Lodge trails include Psycho and Schitzo, but there’s plenty of relaxed terrain, too. And then there’s Prairie Creek Loop, where views of the Boulder Mountains make me stop and realize why I live here.
On any given day on the Sun Valley Nordic Trails, you will find hordes of women dutifully practicing their technique. These would be the illustrious Vamps. Starting 12 years ago with just four women, today we are 130 skiers strong. We play dress up, we laugh and we ski hard.
Nordic skiing is my passion—whether in competition or just teaching the V1. So many people come to Sun Valley to ski Baldy and end up discovering the incredible world of Nordic. I often laugh about it, but my goal remains to teach every woman in our valley to Nordic ski.
—Muffy Ritz was a Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Nordic coach for ten years. She founded VAMPS (Vimen and Muffy’s ProgramS) in 1996.