Sunday, March 24, 2019
Boulder Mountain Tour Crowns Sun Valley Skier
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Caitlin Gregg and Matt Gelso blew past last year’s winning team of 1 hour 33 minutes.
 
Sunday, February 4, 2018
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

Matt Gelso is living proof that if you try long enough and hard enough you can do it.

The tall redhead with Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s elite Gold Team sailed across the finish line of the Boulder Mountain Tour well in front of the 787 racers behind him, including Patrick Johnson who crossed the line three seconds later.

Gelso covered the 34 kilometers—a little over 21 miles—in 1 hour 10 minutes and 28 seconds—about as fast as anyone’s covered the race course since it was lengthened from 32K.

 
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Caitlin Gregg is in second behind Anja Gruber as the women’s elite turn a corner near Galena Lodge.
 

And a good 20 minutes ahead of last year’s snowy 1 hour 33 minutes time.

Caitlyn Gregg, who placed sixth in the team sprint in the 2010 Olympics, defended her 2016 Boulder Mountain Tour title, crossing the finish line in 1 hour 17 minutes and 41 seconds.

She was well ahead of Bozeman’s Anja Gruber and Bridger Ski Education Foundation’s Heather Mooney, her nearest female competitors.

The 2015 World Championships bronze medalist has been kidded about being blessed with superpowers ever since she was struck by lightning from a weather phenomenon called thundersnow while jogging to the Nordic trails in West Yellowstone in November 2017.

 
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The men begin to spread out early as they ski through Senate Meadows.
 

The electric current surged up her left leg and out her left arm, burning her jewelry on her skin.

But Gregg gave credit, instead to the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation for a super wax job on her Madshus skate skis.

“I felt great and my skis were amazing. And the course was amazing, absolutely amazing,” said the 37-year-old. “It was beautiful, just beautiful. It was fast and it was a perfect Sun Valley day with a tailwind most of the way.”

Gelso, 30, has climbed the podium at Super Tour races, Nor Ams and the U.S. National Championships. He’s won an individual NCAA championship and he’s skied in World Cups and World Ski Championship races in places like South Korea, Sweden and Finland.

 
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A finish line crowd enjoyed unseasonably warm temperatures.
 

But a BMT win has eluded the former University of Colorado racer, as he’s placed second, fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth since 2011.

“Today’s race was hard, believe it or not. This is such an abnormal course. I don’t know of any other where you end up skiing the last 15 K in relatively flat conditions like this. Your body feels weird at the end because it’s not used to doing the same thing for an hour,” he said.

Gelso found himself in a pack of seven who spent the first third of the course surging and slowing, everyone jockeying for a lead as they skied up Hawk’s Hill. As the trail started flattening out at Prairie Creek, they dropped two guys from the pack. Two more fell off on the downhill near Russian John.

Duluth, Minn.’s Bryan Cooke fell behind at Cathedral Pines, eventually coming in third at 1 hour 11 minutes and 11 seconds.

 
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One racer ran, rather than skied, to warm up.
 

“Patrick Johnson and I raced neck and neck the last 100 meters and I had just enough to leave him behind,” Gelso said.

This year’s race was one of the warmest in memory with the event’s 300 volunteers able to shed gloves as they set up the course in the pre-dawn hours at Galena Lodge.

A porta potty blew over at Frostbite Flats north of SNRA and a snowmobile slid down a bank along Gladiator Creek. But otherwise, co-chair Kelly Allison pronounced it all good.

While conditions were fast for the elite waves, those following encountered sticky snow in the sun as the temperature climbed toward the low 50s.

Muffy Ritz, who had been excited to ski on real snow following the manmade snow in last week’s World Masters in Minneapolis went “over the handlebars” and landed on her chest as the sticky snow brought her to a dead stop.

“Manmade snow is more consistent. This was slow and fast, sun and shade,” she said.

While Gelso and Gregg raced for fame and $8,400 in prize money, nearly 700 skiers behind them raced for other things.

“I do it because it feels good when I’m all done,” said Ellie Ellis. “This is my sixth time doing the full Boulder and I’ve improved my time every year, with the exception of last year when it took me three hours in all that snow. I’m young. I’m 62 so I’ve got a few more good Boulders left in me.”

Linda McClatchy, buoyed by a single scrambled egg and a package of vanilla Gu, concurred.

“It’s a goal that keeps me moving throughout the year from dryland training in summer to skiing in races at Yellowstone and Teton Ridge,” she said as she prepared to take her place on the starting line. “Last year with all the snow was so horrible, though. It wasn’t skiing. It was survival. This one should be a lot easier. And my goal, as always, is to have a smile on my face as I finish.”

Del Pletcher has skied most of the Boulders since they began 43 years ago.

“I do it because it gives me reason to come and ski. It’s hard to come out and ski sometimes because it’s hard work.” He said. “Last year was one of the hardest because there was so much new snow. But I just stood in the middle of the track and double poled.”

Twelve-year-old West Gardner was among a half-dozen members of the SVSEF prep team. Who were challenging themselves with the Boulder for the first time.

“I did the half last year and conditions were really, really bad. I decided this is a bigger challenge. I plan to not go too hard in the beginning and fire it up in the last few K,” said the Wood River Middle School student.

“We’ve skied this before. We just haven’t raced it,” said Sammy Smith, a 12-year-old homeschooler with the SVSEF’s prep team. “I don’t have any strategy. I’m just going to ski.”

Gregg says she plans to hang around Sun Valley for a few more weeks while she trains for the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis.

“I’ll spend my dollars in Sun Valley!” she said. “The trails are in fantastic shape, absolutely gorgeous.”

 

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