The lead pack for both men and women had a distinctly Sun Valley feel during Saturday’s 39th running of the SWIX Boulder Mountain Ski Tour in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area north of Ketchum.
Yet the fastest racer of the 620 skiers who finished the 35-kilometer (21.7-mile) freestyle cross-country ski race was a tall and familiar 27-year-old from the Ski and Snowboard Club of Vail/Team Homegrown out of Colorado.
Reigning U.S. National 30k freestyle mass start king Sylvan Ellefson captured his third Boulder Tour men’s title in four years. He pulled away from the seven-racer pack down the homestretch and clocked a time of one hour, 16 minutes and two seconds.
It was about seven minutes slower than Ellefson’s winning men’s time from last February, mainly because this year’s Harriman Trail course was lengthened from 32 kilometers to 35 kilometers to account for modifications due to low snow conditions. Finishing times were 10 to 20 minutes slower than last year.
Ellefson’s gold medal at the U.S. National Cross Country Ski Championships Jan. 8 at Soldier Hollow, Utah was his first national gold in 10 years as a racer. Former captain of the Bates College Nordic team, Ellefson was also the 2012 Super Tour overall king.
On Saturday, on a sunny morning, Ellefson distanced himself by seven seconds from runner-up Matt Gelso, 25, the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation Gold Team racer who finished in 1.16:09 at the SNRA headquarters finish.
About 26 seconds behind the two leaders, SVSEF Gold Teamer Miles Havlick, 24, claimed third in a photo finish over 2008 Boulder tour king Mike Sinnott, 28. Fifth went to ex-SVSEF racer Patrick Johnson, 24, of Truckee, Ca.
Ellefson, who also won the Boulder Tour in 2013 and 2011, joined a select group of three-time Boulder Tour men’s champions. They are Zack Simons (2009-10, 2006), Carl Swenson (1998-2000) and longtime Boulder Tour race chief Kevin Swigert (1975-76, 1980).
Rounding out the men’s top 10 were sixth-place Mark Iverson of Anchorage, Ak., seventh-place Tyler Reinking of Bozeman, Mt., eighth-place Colin Rodgers of Ketchum, ninth-place Wyatt Fereday of Reno, Nev. and 10th-place Tom Smith, also of Ketchum.
The first-time women’s winner was SVSEF Gold Team racer Chelsea Holmes, 26, who placed 21st overall. She was minutes ahead of SVSEF Gold Team racer Rose Kemp, 23, who was 34th overall, and third-place Brooke Hovey, the 2006 and 2003 Boulder queen.
On the same day that Ellefson collected his national gold medal, four-year Univ. of Nevada/Reno Nordic racer and former Truckee resident Holmes earned her first national podium with a second place in the women’s 20k freestyle race at Soldier Hollow.
Holmes, originally from Girdwood, Ak., said after Saturday’s 35k race, “The girls went out hard and Rose and I took turns poling. We had very nice conditions, especially because of the new snow.”
Rounding out the women’s top five were fourth-place Alexa Turzian of Ketchum and fifth-place Lucy LeGarrec of Freeport, Me., a former SVSEF Junior Nordic Team coach.
In the 6-7-8-9-10 women’s positions out of 236 females were Jennie Bender of Bozeman, Cambria McDermott of Putney, Vt., Emma Garrard of Park City, Utah, Ashley Knox of Hailey and Elizabeth Youngman of Sun Valley.
Organizers of the 2014 Sun Valley Nordic Festival that included the Boulder Ski Tour had $8,050 in prize money available for top skiers in two major events of the fifth annual, 10-day festival—thanks to major sponsor The Sawtooth Club restaurant of Ketchum.
The top 10 men and women of the Boulder Tour each received prize money from $1,000 for first place, $700 for second place, and $500 for third place, down in increments to $50 for 10th. Also, $400 was awarded for Boulder Tour preems.
Prize money was also given to top skiers in the Downtown Jam/NordicTown USA Sprint Relays Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Sun Valley Center field near the Ketchum Post Office. Prizes for men and women were $500 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third.
Thursday’s top three men were Miles Havlick, Mike Sinnott and Sylvan Ellefson. The top three women were Rose Kemp, Chelsea Holmes and Alexa Turzian.
In addition to the 620 finishers at 35k, Saturday’s Boulder Tour event had 147 skiers in the Half Boulder 15k (9.3-mile) non-competitive event from Baker Creek to the SNRA.
Once again, retired Vancouver Canucks hockey legend Trevor Linden, 43, from Medicine Hat, Alberta was one of the Boulder Tour finishers, along with his wife Cristina.
An avid cyclist and skier who finished in about 1:36.00 for 90th overall, “Captain Canuck” Linden played 1,382 NHL games over an 18-year career, 16 of those seasons with Vancouver where he lives after retiring in 2008.
Because of circumstances beyond the control of race organizers, the final Boulder Tour results published online were inaccurate, race director Swigert said. “By the end of this week, we should have an accurate accounting and we will re-install those results on our Web site,” Swigert said.
Solid day for Sun Valley
SVSEF Gold Team head coach Colin Rodgers, who finished eighth despite breaking a pole, said about his racers, “My crew did awesome. We’ve been away for a while, so it feels great to be back in town and training on a course like the Harriman Trail. There were perfect conditions.”
After Saturday’s race, both Holmes and Havlick of the Gold Team said their 2013-14 race seasons got a big boost from their results in the USSA SuperTour event at Bohart Ranch near Bozeman in December. Holmes won her 10k classic race by 43 seconds, and Havlick was a close second in the men’s 15k classic event.
“That result really got me fired up,” said Holmes.
Said former University of Utah All-American Havlick, “I prefer mass start 15k classic, and I had a good result at Bozeman to help me get started on the season. It’s been great to be part of the SVSEF team with everyone so excited about their skiing.”
Havlick’s stretch with his right ski and boot just nipped Sinnott for third place at Saturday’s finish. Havlick said about his best BMT finish, “The BMT is a unique race. It’s a lot like a bike race where drafting makes a difference.
“Seven of us were all right there until nearly the end. The big difference for me was conserving my energy for the last five kilometers. Matt (Gelso) and Sylvan took off in the willows with a little over five kilometers left and the rest of us battled for third place.”
Gold Teamers including Havlick and Holmes are planning to race in USSA SuperTour events Feb. 15-16 in St. Paul, Minn., with Holmes proceeding from there to the American Birkebeiner Feb. 22 in Wisconsin, and Havlick and Rose Kemp traveling to Europe for Swiss Cup races.
The speed of the Sun Valley crew made Idaho an easy winner in the Boulder Tour State Race. Team Idaho finished with 137 points. Utah was second with 284 and Montana third with 300 points.
Out of the 27 age classes, Wood River Valley racers claimed 10 age-class victories. Repeat winners included Linda McClatchy (Women’s 60-64), Elizabeth Youngman (Women’s 50-54), Andy Andrews (Men’s 70-74), Del Pletcher (Men’s 65-69) and Jon Engen (Men’s 55-59).
Rounding out the local age class winners were Grace Dyck (Women’s 70-74), Muffy Ritz (Women’s 55-59), Chelsea Holmes (Women’s 25-29), Rose Kemp (Women’s 18-24) and Miles Havlick (Men’s 18-24).