Skiers, including Henry Bogert of Sun Valley, front, prepare for some time on the trails around Galena Lodge on Wednesday.
Express photo by Roland Lane
Cross-country skiing in the Sun Valley area has grown by leaps and bounds in the past 20 years. As a result, the Wood River Valley was designated last summer as an official Olympic/Paralympic training site for Nordic skiing.
The valley’s great leap to become a world-class Nordic skiing destination has its roots in a small log cabin built in the 1870s about 28 miles north of Ketchum at the foot of the Boulder Mountains.
Galena Lodge was operated for many years as the last outpost before northbound travelers entered the sweeping Sawtooth Valley beyond Galena Summit. In 1992, the lodge owner was set to call it quits and put the place up for sale, but there were no buyers. The lodge, along with several miles of Nordic trails that skiers had cut into the rough terrain over the years, was poised to become history.
“Without a sale, there would be no grooming for skiing on the trails surrounding it,” said Jenny Busdon, a longtime supporter of Galena Lodge and Nordic skiing in the area.
The Boulder Mountain Tour trail (now known as the Harriman Trail) was only groomed once a year for the 30-plus-kilometer Boulder Mountain Tour race.
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 National Recreation Area headquarters some 32 kilometers to the south.
“It had to be done in order for our sport to survive in the valley,” Busdon said.
The following year, with the support of the board of the Blaine County Recreation District, Busdon and her group of Galena Lodge supporters succeeded in getting the lodge taken off the market for three months to give 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. The rest was raised by the community.
“It was such an exciting, exhilarating time to witness everyone in the community coming together in order for us to buy this historical lodge.”
After the Recreation District closed the deal to buy the lodge in 1993, the group established the Galena Benefit in 1996 to secure funding for 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 historic lodge—a jewel in the heart of the Idaho mountains and a very special place in everyone’s hearts.”
Today, the Boulder Mountain Tour is the highlight of a weeklong Nordic Festival that draws top racers from around the country and even the world. The Boulder Mountain Tour might not exist if Galena Lodge had not been saved as a winter destination.
The race takes place on the beautiful Harriman Trail, which runs between the Sawtooth National Recreation Area headquarters and Galena Lodge. When it was inaugurated in 1973, it consisted of a handful of diehard local cross-country ski racers, and was run along the highway on a makeshift trail across public lands. Eventually, an exquisite trail was gradually built to accommodate skiers in the winter and mountain bikers and hikers in the summer.
Finished in 1999, the Harriman Trail consists of numerous bridges that have been built with generous donations from benefactors and local businesses.
The names of the many donors who helped make the trail, and the Nordic Festival, a success, are on plaques along the trail.
Galena Lodge is also now a winter and summer destination, offering horseback rides, winter yurt camping, mountain biking and hiking access, as well as Nordic and backcountry skiing.
Tony Evans: email@example.com
Galena Benefit this Saturday
The 18th annual Galena and the Winter Trails Benefit party will take place Saturday, Jan. 25, from 5:30-10 p.m. in the Limelight Room of the Sun Valley Inn. The cost is $110. Prizes during this year’s fundraising auction include trips to City of Rocks, San Francisco, the French island of Corsica and the Mayan Riviera of Mexico.