Friday, April 16, 2021
Virtual Boulder Hopes to Stoke Enthusiasm in Newbies and Race Veterans Alike
You’ll have to imagine the airhorn blowing when you plant your ski atop the starting line in the Zions Bank virtual Boulder Mountain tour.
Sunday, December 27, 2020


Anne Jeffery was on the fence about competing in the Zions Bank Boulder Mountain Tour this year. But she jumped at the chance to do it when the early February event went virtual.

“That means I can do it without risking getting knocked down,” the Bellevue resident said. “I’ve done it six or seven times. I came in second place in my age group in 2010. But I’ve also been knocked down a couple times in the crowd.”

Training for the Boulder, even though it’s virtual, pushes Jeffery out the door to ski more often than she would, otherwise. It gives her reason to push herself, building her endurance by skiing longer and building her speed with intervals. And it gets her friends out to ski as they accompany her on her longer skis, which she has increased bit by bit to 20 kilometers.

“I ran in St. Luke’s virtual FitOne in September, and it was great fun because they had a phone app where every mile someone would cheer me on, telling me, ‘Congratulations! You’ve gone a mile.’ I just find I do better if I have a goal to work towards.”

Boulder Mountain Tour organizers hemmed and hawed about whether to have the cross-country ski race, which brings some of the top skiers from all over the world, this year. But it quickly became apparent they couldn’t do it a race that would have brought hundreds of skiers to Sun Valley because of COVID.

“Putting a thousand people on the starting line and getting them to the start by bus was just not safe,” said Jamie Lieberman, who is on the Boulder Mountain Tour’s board of directors. “But it’s not cancelled. We decided we could do it virtually, and we’re trying to get skiers from other parts of the country to ski it in their communities.”

Locally, skiers can elect to ski a 30-kilometer course from Galena Lodge to the finish line opposite SNRA headquarters north of Ketchum. Or, they can ski the Half-Boulder, a 15k course that starts at Baker Creek and ends opposite SNRA.

They can do it any day between Feb. 1 and 7, 2021.

Cost is $39 for adults and $25 for those 18 and under. Racers will get a SWIX Boulder race hat and a raffle entry. To enter, go to and click on “Registration.”

Participants will be encouraged to post their times and photos of themselves. There will be prizes for the oldest and youngest participants, best costumes and most enthusiastic.

“It’s much more personal this year,” said Lieberman. “You compete against yourself to try to achieve your fastest time. It’s not like I’m going to beat Johnny Hagenbuch, but I might beat myself, last year’s time. You go do your race. And, if you go out and do it and have fun, it doesn’t matter if you do it in two hours and 20 minutes or four hours and 30 minutes.”

The BMT is offering training plans for those who sign up.

“Nordic skiing is one of the safest outdoor pursuits you can do these days in winter with your friends because it’s socially distanced. And the virtual Boulder gives you the opportunity to feel like you can participate in something,” said Lieberman.

“It’s about getting out there, having something to work for. It’s about having fun, calling up friends in other towns and saying: Do you want to do this with me? If so, let’s all do it on such and such day. You can still have that excitement and the stoke of sharing something together in these days when it’s not safe to travel yet.”

Lieberman says the virtual Boulder offers a way to continue enthusiasm for the event during a challenging year.

“I think people like to look forward to the event. And, the fact that it doesn’t occur in its traditional form, which is the same for a lot of events this year, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Look at the Sun Valley Music Festival. We set up a screen in our backyard in a safe place and had a few people over to watch. And it was great. It was not the same, it was a different experience, but we had fun.”

The upside is the number of entrants don’t have to be limited. Participants can start at 8 in the morning if they’re early risers or 2 p.m., if they’re not. And people like Anne Jeffery who might not ski the Boulder with a thousand people might like trying to ski it with 10 people.

“Maybe you do it with your family,” Lieberman said.

Proceeds from local entry fees will go to a charity that local racers vote on.  Racers who participate in other regions will get to vote on their favorite charities to give entry fees from their region to.

“If you live in Death Valley and roller ski, you can do it on roller skis,” said Lieberman. “If you live in Norway, you can do it in Norway.

“The great thing is you’re challenging yourself. Whenever you give yourself a physical challenge to work towards there are a number of benefits that happen through that. You make your body stronger. You make your mind stronger. No question it makes you a healthier person. And, if you do it with friends, you make those friendships stronger. And that’s huge.”




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