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Reviving Nordic Fun and Community
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Jon Holmquist leads jim McClatchy, Muffy Ritz and Kevin Klepser up a tough hill on the Trail Creek Loop.
   
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Nordic lore of Sun Valley, which once billed itself as Nordic Town USA, is a rich one.

There were early fun races on the Elkhorn golf course that started near the Elkhorn lift and crossed Elkhorn Road to follow the ups and downs of the golf course on the other side of the road.

“We had to wear Nordic gear that illustrated how Nordic clothing was in the days of long gone,” said longtime Nordic enthusiast Jenny Busdon. “Andy Munter was my partner and he looked pretty spiffy in his knickerbockers and cap. I wore a short fur coat that belonged to my mother and was a hundred years old, a long skirt and the cutest hat.

 
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Dan Chudleigh double poles the first part of the race course.
 

“We had to jump hay bales and go under and around all different structures to get to the end of the race,” she added. “It was hilarious!”

Another early race took skiers around Bill and Annie Vanderbilt’s Nordic trails on what is now the Big Wood Golf Course. It was one of seven low-key races in the Smoky Mountain Nordic series, recalled Katherine Sheldon.

“I did a classic race on the course before I even knew how to ski,” she added.

And in 1986 Nordic racers took to the streets of Ketchum at night, following a course that started on Main Street and climbed the hill by Silver Creek Outfitters to Leadville Avenue before going down 4th Street back onto Main Street.

 
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Don Shepler, longtime manager at Galena Lodge, thrilled spectators with his streaming colored hair.
 

“The snow was trucked in—there was hardly ay traffic in those days so it was easy to do,” said Busdon. “And the prizes were loaves of bread!”

Busdon followed that up by organizing the Gourmet Ski Tour, an event that took costumed skiers along the Harriman Trail from Baker Creek to SNRA where they stopped along the way for a magnanimous feast of hors d’oeuvres provided by Cristina Cook of Cristina’s, as well as gourmet beer, homemade soups, desserts and other foodstuffs.

And more recently Vamps Founder Muffy Ritz introduced the Inga Lami, which lured skiers dressed in Viking and Norwegian costume to the Sun Valley Nordic Center for salmon and lox, chocolate goodies and prizes donated by outdoor shops.

Events that brought the Nordic community together fell by the wayside during the pandemic. The Blaine County Recreation District shuttered the Galena Lodge Benefit and the Harriman Tea and temporarily  shelved Ski the Rails, although that is scheduled to return Feb. 11.

 
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Connor Marland, Martin Aulie and Tom Dehart navigate the twisty course along Trail Creek.
 

And Muffy Ritz is determined to reintroduce some of the fun of old by resurrecting the Inga Lami on Feb. 19.

Busdon tried to recapture a bit of the fun and community by bringing back the Billy Goat Loppet, a 10K fun ski race Saturday at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.

“We used to have fun races practically every weekend,” she said. “This is why Ted Angle and I decided to bring back the Billy Goat Loppet because we really seem to lack these fun community Nordic races today. It was a popular event before the pandemic, and we didn’t want it to disappear in the dust.”

Contestants turning out for Saturday’s event ranged in age from 10 to 73. They toed the starting line despite a starting temperature of 9 degrees which made the skiing slow going in shady areas.

 
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Ten-year-old Cody Lloyd, the youngest competitor, was thrilled to hang in there with the big guys.
 

“This is a true citizens’ race,” said race official Steve Haims.

Anika Miller, a 27-year-old former ski racer at Montana State University, took first place among the women acing the course in 28 minutes and 54 seconds. She was one minute off winner Zachary Beatty’s pace and fourth among all men and women.

“I grew up in McCall and came here from Bozeman, Mont. And this is the best place in the country for Nordic skiing,” she said.

The Billy Goat Loppet was James Sattler’s first Nordic race.

“I had some downtime while the kids were skiing at Dollar Mountain so I thought: Why not?” said Sattler who finished just out of the top 10.

Ten-year-old Cody Lloyd, who is on Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s alpine and Nordic teams, was proud to test his speed against the older skiers. Accompanied by his mother, Rachel Wolfe, he finished the hilly course ahead of several others as he skied it in 44 minutes and 10 seconds.

“It was exhausting,” he said minutes after the race. “But I wanted to do it for exercise and for fun. I like going fast!”

Cody’s grandmother Carolyn Lloyd beamed as she took her place along the sidelines—something she did with her children and is now doing with her grandchildren.

“I need a spreadsheet to keep track of all five grandchildren’s activities,” she said.

Muffy Ritz took fifth among women, finishing the course in 35 minutes despite noting that she recently qualified for Medicare. She hopes to keep the stoke going with the return of Inga Lami in mid-February.

The event sponsored by The Elephant’s Perch will be open to all ages and all sexes and will be held at Quigley Nordic. There will be prizes for the best Viking or Norwegian-themed garb. The event will start at 11 a.m. and culminate with a potluck outside the Quigley yurt about 12:30 p.m.

The Inga Lami is a sister race to the Norwegian Birkebeiner, a tribute to the story of Norwegian warriors who carried the infant King Haakon Haakonsson to safety on skis.

“I just like the story,” said Ritz, who has skied the Norwegian Birkebeiner five times, coming in fourth once. She has skied the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis., 18 times, winning it twice. “We’ll have prizes, and the $20 entry fees will go to The Advocates. In our case, it’s not a race. Look at it as a Sunday stroll dressed in old Norwegian outfits!”

TOP TEN MEN AND FEMALE FINISHERS IN THE 2023 BILLY GOAT LOPPET

MEN:

Zachary Beatty 27:50

Miles Delaney 28.07

Sam Young 28.38

Connor Marland 29:23

Dan Chudleigh, 29:24

Martin Aulie 29:30

Tom Dehart 31.41

Matthias Fostredt 31.45

Don Shepler 32.21

Jeff Ford 32.56

WOMEN:

Anika Miller 28.54

Liv Jensen 33.21

Regan Nelson 34.10

Hannah Smay 34.23

Muffy Ritz 35.29

Allison Beatty 37.11

Naomi Goldberg 37.29

Alice Oline 37.33

Kirsten Dehart 38.00

Becky Ludwig 38.06

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