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V2s Get Serious When It Comes to Moving and Having Fun
Muffy Ritz shows skiers a new way of getting back on their feet if they fall.
Thursday, November 16, 2023


Muffy Ritz fell down on the snow on purpose. Then she gathered her class around her as she showed a new way to get back up.

Get on your back, she told them. Lift your skis up in the air and pull them towards you.  Bring your knees down close in and roll over on your side. Getting up from there is a breeze, she added, as she easily stood up.

Ritz, who founded the VAMPS women’s Nordic ski program 27 years ago in 1996, didn’t have to worry about getting the women’s attention. Her V2s, named after a skate ski technique, are ardent students. They’re the first to sign up for classes every winter, they rarely miss a class, they’re eager to see what more they can do to improve, and they return year after year.

Lynda Leach and Anne Jeffery mirror Muffy Ritz as they learn to stay light on their skis while doing slalom turns around markers set up on the snow at Lake Creek.

Never mind that all of them are over 70 years of age and some have been in VAMPS nearly as long as the program has been going.

“They’re fun, enthusiastic and a pleasure to ski with,” said Joney Otteson, who coaches the V2s with Muffy Ritz.

The V2’s are among a myriad of groups who turn out every winter for group lessons offered by the VAMPS and their male counterpart--the DONS (Dudes on Nordic Skis).

Participants range in age from their early 20s to 80s. Some sign up for classes for beginner Nordic skiers. Others choose co-ed classes or classes focusing on classic and skate ski techniques. And still others challenge themselves in groups looking to boost fitness with time trials and interval training.

The smile is all important as skiers practice staying low to ride their skis around a downhill corner.

The season kicks off with sets of three lessons offered prior to Christmas at Galena Lodge. Perfect for those who want a refresher as the season gears up, these lessons include homemade soups and bread each week and a chance to get to know other Nordic skiers over lunch.

Eight weeks of lessons are offered in January and February—usually, at either Ketchum’s Lake Creek trails or at Quigley Nordic in Hailey so that those who work can easily access them.

Classes are taught by Olympic racers and others with a long history of Nordic skiing. They’re augmented with wax clinics, presentations by Olympic racers, fitness experts and tour guides who take Americans on Nordic adventures in Europe, and the season-ending margarita party.

“And in the summer we offer dryland training—eight weeks in which we climb hills, do crunches and pushups, practice moves that help our cross country skiing. We torture them!” said Ritz. “But what’s most important is the coffee and camaraderie that comes at the end of the workouts.”

Jan Wygle chats with Paula Perry, who is an honorary member of the V2s since she is not yet 70.

Ritz started the VAMPS with four skiers in 1996 after one begged her to help her finetune her ski racing. Since, more than a thousand women have passed few, making it one of the most successful women’s cross-country ski programs in the country.

A few years ago, Jamie Lieberman started the men’s components, rationalizing that women shouldn’t have all the fun.

Ritz named her program VAMPS for Vomen and Muffy’s Programs. It was either that, she said, or WIMPS, for Women and Muffy’s Programs. She named the groups within the bigger program Tramps, Scamps, Super Tramps, Champs, Rising Stars and, of course, the V2s.

“If I had to choose just one group to coach, it would be the V2’s,” she added. “I know they will show up, whether it’s a blizzardy day or a sunny warm day.”

Skiers practiced make tight turns in a circle as the last year’s winter season neared the end.

Lynda Leach has taken part in VAMPS for years.

“There’s so much to the sport of Nordic skiing—like balance,” she said. “It’s always good to have a refresher course every year. And each year you learn new things, experienced new ways of teaching that click. We all want to stay young forever, and this is part of that.”

The women panted as they made their way up one of the steep runs at Lake Creek, their skate skis scissoring back and forth as they try to follow Ritz’s admonition to lightly “fall” on their poles for a little extra power.

Whoosh. Whoosh. Huff. Puff.

“I know you can make it,” Ritz encouraged one.

“Poles are like toothpicks,” she told another. “If you jam them into the snow, they will break. Ski as if you’re skiing on egg shells.”

Some women say VAMPS gets them off the couch every winter. And Ritz has tried ways to broaden their experience once they’re on the snow.

She encourages them to ski every one of the 200 kilometers worth of trails in the area surrounding Sun Valley with a scavenger hunt that challenges them to follow clues to a wooden V. Those who complete the challenge are eligible for vests and other prizes.

And she utilizes fun little exercises, like practicing champagne glass hand-offs, to teach them how to grab refreshments while skiing in the 34-kilometer Boulder Mountain Tour.

Many of her VAMPS have not only participated in the yearly race that draws hundreds of skiers from around the nation, but they’ve gone on to take part in the 50K American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wis., and at World Cup Masters in places like Lillehammer, Norway.

 “VAMPS—the V2s--gets me out with people my age for pure enjoyment—it’s not competitive,” said Jan Wygle. All of us want to keep moving. And it’s really fun.”

“The classes are interesting and fun,” added Paula Perry, who was made an honorary member of the V2s since she is not officially old enough to be a V2.

Ritz says VAMPS—and the V2s--works because those who live in Sun Valley are such social creatures.

“I don’t think this would work if it were just about ski lessons—anyone can teach skiing,” she said. “It works because it’s also very social—and women are great social animals. I like to make them feel good, encourage them, tell them they’re doing a good job, give them confidence. And I think they love it because of the camaraderie.”

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