The Nordic Character
An individual sport that builds a community
PHOTOGRAPHY Mark Oliver
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Still, he believes the ODT is a crucial element to the Foundation’s efforts.
“Through our program, we’ll raise kids through school and get some high school kids who are some of the best in the country. At that point, why would we stop helping them?”
The ODT is geared toward 18- to 22-year-olds who want to compete at top levels in the United States and internationally. Because skiers who’ve come up through the Foundation need a high-level, competitive training program with equal peers to train with, the ODT also accepts a limited number of top skiers who want to relocate to Sun Valley from other parts of the country. This winter, of 11 skiers on the ODT, five have moved in from “typical Nordic hotbeds” including Vermont, Minnesota and Alaska, Kapala said.
These elite imports are a benefit to the community, Kapala said. They not only contribute to the Valley’s community, but also act as inspiring role models to the younger skiers in the program.
“The other kids who are part of the program go, ‘Wow, I’m part of this thing that’s bigger than any one of us individually.’”
At each level, the program boasts strong community support. At the elementary level, youngsters are introduced to skiing and taught the fundamentals in the after-school program at Quigley Canyon in Hailey. About 10 years ago, private landowners worked with the Foundation to develop the Quigley area, which is easily accessible just east of downtown Hailey. Today, the popular trails are managed by the Blaine County Recreation District (BCRD) and are open to the public. A generous, silent donor also provided the funds for a modular team center at the site for the young Nordic team members. The BCRD also runs a warming yurt for skiers on the Quigley trails.
Middle school and high school skiers train on land owned by the SVSEF at Lake Creek. Donations also provided for a 4,000-square-foot training facility there that houses offices, lockers, workout rooms and a ski-waxing room. In exchange for public access, the BCRD also grooms all of the Lake Creek trails.
Lake Creek and Quigley each offer 10 kilometers of groomed trails. In all, the Valley boasts a large, integrated cross-country trail system—including the Harriman, Sun Valley and Galena trails—totaling over 200 kilometers. It’s an extraordinary system for experienced athletes or novices, and roughly 3,000 people buy annual passes each year.
Meanwhile, in Sun Valley, the Ski Education Foundation was the first nonprofit ski club in the country, according to Kapala. The nonprofit corporate model, which allows the Foundation to raise money and receive charitable gifts, served as an economic model for similar programs in ski towns across the country. From fundraising to dry-land conditioning and on-snow results, the Foundation stands as a venerated model for Nordic skiers everywhere. >>>