|Galena Lodge was saved 20 years ago, thanks to a dedicated group of Nordic skiing enthusiasts.
Kicking off the Sun Valley Nordic Festival this year will be the 17th annual Galena & the Trails benefit party. The efforts of local Nordic skiing enthusiasts to save Galena Lodge about 20 years ago marked a turning point for the sport in the Wood River Valley.
Now that the Wood River Valley has been named an official Olympic-training site, perhaps this is a good time to reflect on the community generosity and determination that helped put this area on the Nordic-skiing map worldwide.
“In October 1992, things didn’t look so good in the Wood River Valley for cross-country skiing,” said benefit organizer Jenny Busdon. “In fact, things looked pretty grim.”
Galena Lodge owner Steve Haims had given up trying to make ends meet and decided to put the lodge, built in the 1870s, on the market for sale.
“Without a sale there would be no grooming for skiing on the trails surrounding it,” Busdon said. “Big Wood Nordic (north of Ketchum) had closed due to real estate development, Warm Springs golf course had ceased to be groomed and the Boulder Mountain Tour trail (now the Harriman Trail) was only groomed once a year for the 30-kilometer Boulder Tour.”
In October 1992, Busdon was approached by Wood River Valley Cross Country Ski Association members Andy Munter, Bob Rosso, Will Van Ert, Bill Vanderbilt and Steve Wolper to attend a Blaine County Recreation District (BCRD) meeting in Hailey.
“Their intention was to meet with Mary Austin Crofts, executive director of the Blaine County Recreation District in those years, to see if there was any interest of this organization to take over grooming of the Boulder Tour trail for the complete cross-country ski season, rather than for just the race itself, consequently opening up another ski trail system for the winter months,” Busdon said.
Busdon spearheaded an effort to raise $40,000 in three weeks to cover the cost of grooming the Harriman Trail all season long. The trail today connects Galena Lodge with the Sawtooth Recreation Area 34 kilometers to the south.
“It had to be done in order for our sport to survive in the valley,” Busdon said.
Yet Galena Lodge still remained unsold and closed and in jeopardy of being torn down by the Forest Service.
The following year, with the board of the Recreation District backing Busdon and her group of Galena Lodge supporters, Haims was approached to see if he would consider taking the lodge off the market for three months to allow them time to try to save it with a new buyer, one that would support the Nordic skiing that had come to surround the historic property.
The Help Save Galena campaign was born, with the goal of raising $350,000 in three months. Philanthropist Teresa Heinz (now Teresa Heinz Kerry) donated $325,000 to the group. The rest was raised by the community. After the Recreation District closed the deal to buy the lodge in 1993, the group established the Galena Benefit in 1996 to secure ongoing maintenance costs and trails development.
“I worked with a wonderful, enthusiastic, hardworking committee, and of course everyone in the Wood River Valley knows that we were successful,” Busdon said. “It was such an exciting, exhilarating time to witness everyone in the community coming together in order for us to buy this historical lodge—a jewel in the heart of the Idaho mountains and a very special place in everyone’s hearts.
“Fundraising did not stop in 1993—it had only just begun! No tax dollars are used at all. We are constantly having to raise money for what we do at Galena and also in Croy Canyon in Hailey. This is our biggest fundraiser of the year.”
Last year the benefit raised $185,000. This year’s benefit will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Limelight Room in the Sun Valley Lodge, featuring a live and silent auction and a raffle for a 2013-14 BCRD Nordic/Sun Valley Nordic season pass.
Live auction items include an Ultimate Vintner Dinner at Galena Lodge, a weekend with 2012 Olympic mountain bike bronze medalist Georgia Gould, a Nordic skiing getaway in the Methow Valley in Washington and a summer climbing package from The Elephant’s Perch.
Call 578-5459 for a seat or table, or email Megan Stevenson at email@example.com or stop by the Recreation District offices at the Community Campus in Hailey.
Tony Evans: firstname.lastname@example.org