Going Nordic 

The Gateway Sport

Freshly groomed Nordic ski trails are becoming a huge draw to the Wood River Valley for professionals and weekend warriors alike.

Thanks to the diligent efforts of some dedicated fans, the Sun Valley area is now a designated Olympic training destination for the U.S. Nordic ski team, meaning anyone who has aspirations of competing in the Big Games--or at least catching a glimpse of some who may be headed for Sochi, Russia, in 2014--the key is to find a couch to surf in Blaine County and show up.

Those serious about training will find avid and skilled coaching through the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation and VAMPS, run by Nordic powerhouse Muffy Ritz, among other opportunities. Thrift stores, ski swaps and seasonal work can fill in the gaps on the way to Nordic greatness. Phil Liggett may even announce your name in prime time with his silky announcer's voice. Don Wiseman, one of the key people behind getting the Olympic designation, is not only an enthusiast and one of the sport's greatest supporters, he also looks at the expertly groomed ski trails as a gateway to other challenging mountain sports like mountain biking and even backcountry skiing--sports that require elevated experience and skills, and add to the enjoyment of the vast public lands surrounding the Wood River Valley.

A quick way to learn the Nordic terrain is to print the 200K challenge card for the Sun Valley Nordic Festival--which runs Jan. 25-Feb. 2, 2014--at svnordicfestival.com. The sheet is a one-stop shop for information, including a guide to and passes for the trails, which are mostly managed by the Blaine County Recreation District.

Sun Valley Resort also has 40 kilometers of skiing on terrain surrounding the Sun Valley Clubhouse on Trail Creek Road. Mat Gershater can be your online guide with his Sun Valley Nordic skiing video.

Finally, anyone looking to test their skills can head to Galena Lodge, where food and rejuvenating beverages await all levels of skiers--from those who tackle trails like Psycho to casual visitors who come for a wee bit of saucer sledding with the kids and the dog.

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