SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Armed with plenty of shovels and smiles, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation crew has been moving snow to make the next stop on the SuperTour circuit happen at the Lake Creek venue in Sun Valley, Idaho.
“We’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to do both races [at Lake Creek], with the sprint race happening here for sure,” Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation (SVSEF) Nordic Director Rick Kapala said on Wednesday afternoon.
With close to six inches of snow currently covering the trails, according to Sun Valley’s assistant nordic program director Kelly Sinnott, local volunteers and coaches are putting their shovels to work to increase that numerical amount by the work hour.
The SuperTour races are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with a classic sprint followed by 10- and 15-kilometer classic individual starts. On Thursday morning, temperatures were below freezing, around 28 degrees Fahrenheit in Sun Valley.
“We spent hours [on Tuesday] shoveling the course and there’s a crew out there today as well,” Sinnott said on Wednesday.
While a decent snow storm might be the preferred way of covering the race course, many of the volunteers don’t seem to mind scooping snow for the sake of this weekend’s SuperTour races.
“I was out here yesterday, I would say three-plus hours,” said Mel Dyke, of Hailey, Idaho, a snow-shoveling volunteer, and webmaster for 5B Nordic News.
“There were three crews of 15-20 people yesterday,” he said. “I’m just doing it because it’s fun.”
While pushing snow piles is not everyone’s idea of “fun,” the dedicated group of individuals working out on the trails for free will make the Sun Valley SuperTour races possible.
“We’ve got a community of people that just jump in and do it. And we’ve had a few low snow years so we’ve had to do a lot of this,” said Bob Rosso, another volunteer and owners of Elephant’s Perch sports speciality shop in Ketchum.
“We’re die hard cross-country skiers,” Rosso added. “When the race coordinators call out for help, people show up.”
Still, even with a soldiery of willing snow-shovelers, why not use host trails with enough coverage nearby?
Kapala points to the quality of the race course at Lake Creek as motivation for making it the preferred race site.
“One of the biggest concerns that the coaching community has with regards to the early SuperTours is that we’re able to have appropriately difficult courses,” Kapala said.
“We could go to Galena, and we could make the races work there … but putting the work in here gives the athletes an opportunity to test themselves appropriately on the kinds of courses that they need to be prepared to ski on,” he said. “These are homologated, FIS [International Ski Federation-standard] courses, they have A-climbs and that’s important.”
On top of the promise of challenging racers, the Lake Creek venue offers coaches, spectators and skiers a perspective like no other.
“One of the unique things about the Lake Creek venue, is it’s really open,” said Kapala. “You can stand in one spot and watch the entire race happen.”
Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.