The history of ski racing in Sun Valley is as rich and as impressive as anyplace in the country. And the future is looking pretty bright, too. It is as if the slopes of Baldy and Dollar were blessed by the ski gods, Ullr and Skadi, to groom the fastest and strongest skiers and snowboarders to ever ride on snow. Sun Valley has been home to the best in the alpine sports scene since shortly after inventing the world’s first chairlift back in the 1930s. It’s a tradition that’s staying strong and is proudly on display as Sun Valley hosts events like last weekend...
Skiing & Riding
"Everyone can do it, from little old grandmas to little kids," Ivana Radlova explained, as another cross-country ski season kicked off at the Sun Valley Nordic Center. "Traditionally, it hasn't necessarily been an American sport, but it's hugely on the rise because just about anyone can go out there and have fun. And it really is beautiful out there."
Originally from the Czech Republic, Ivana has been the Nordic director for Sun Valley for a handful of years. The mother of two young sons has been skiing all her life, including as a member of her homeland's 1988 Winter Olympic team in Calgary, Canada.
Ivana originally came to the States to ski and attend the University of New Mexico before she could even speak English. After school, she spent years coaching at the University of Colorado-Boulder and holding a similar position to the one she has now, at the resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. So Ivana knows the cross-country, or Nordic, skiing industry as well as just about anyone. She said she's been happy to watch a sport long popular in other snowy parts of the world begin to really catch on and appeal to more and more Americans.
"People are trying to be more healthy and exercise more, and Nordic skiing and snowshoeing are great ways to do that," Ivana explained, in her rather strong Eastern European accent.
With Sun Valley now officially known as "Nordic Town USA" and the community's signature event, the annual Sun Valley Nordic Festival growing in popularity every year, there's no doubt cross country skiing is on the rise in the heart of Idaho. Ivana said there are a handful of reasons in particular why cross country skiing is becoming more popular, both in the old school-style "classic" method or the popular freestyle or "skate" style, as well as snowshoeing.
The first reason is that Nordic skiing-and snowshoeing especially-are pretty easy to learn and terrific forms of outdoor exercise. It's pretty easy to become at least adequate enough to go out there and have some fun. "You don't need to be a world class skier to enjoy yourself. If you can walk, we can get you out there and have a good time," Ivana said.
Since cross country skiing requires a simpler and more a basic skill set, it's also easier for families to stay together relatively speaking-while Nordic skiing or snowshoeing, whereas alpine sports can often separate groups into different skill sets. Ivana also said that thanks to things like Sun Valley Nordic's popular Kids' Loop that follows the "The Mitten" by Jan Brett along a snowy tour, it's pretty easy for youngsters to enjoy the sport, too.
"Kids just want to play and are great self-learners. If you just expose them to cross country skiing, don't force them and let them play and explore, they'll have fun and enjoy it," she said.
The second reason is that it's a lot less expensive than downhill skiing or snowboarding. An adult day pass at the Sun Valley Nordic Center is only $24 and kids under 12 are free. Renting Nordic ski gear is also much less expensive than downhill gear, and it only costs $10 to use the snowshoe trail.
Finally, perhaps the ultimate reason why people love and are drawn to Nordic skiing and snowshoeing is that it gets participants out into the stunning natural beauty of Sun Valley and its surroundings.
"It's just so beautiful out there," Ivana said with a smile. "It's tough not to enjoy yourself."
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