Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Idaho Ski Trip and the Boulder Mountain Tour

Continuing on our quest to ski all the American Ski Series Marathons, this year Erik and I targeted the Boulder Mountain Tour and got our teammate Ben and his wife Starr to join us.

We left Minnesota just as the temps plummeted at the end of January. After driving most of the day Saturday and Sunday as well (including on a very icy I-90), we arrived in Bozeman with enough time for a ski before sunset on the Sourdough Canyon Trails

Rough driving conditions on I-90 between Billings and Bozeman.

Garmin map of our Sourdough ski. Too bad we didn't make it to Mystic Lake.

It was a cold ski:)

A very cold ski according to the thermometer along the trail.

But a very beautiful ski! I'd highly recommend this trail for anyone in the area. Had we had more time and the temps been warmer, it would've been nice to make it up to the lake.

On Monday we finished our drive to Sun Valley (technically the town of Ketchum) where we got in an afternoon ski at the Quigley (Squiggly) Trails. It was cold again in the single digits. 

Warming hut yurt and looking up valley at the Quigley Trails.

And looking down valley at Quigley.

Tuesday we waited for temps to warm up and then drove up to Galena Lodge in the afternoon to ski their famed trails. Erik and I initially made a plan to skip most of the black trails but then Ben's friend saw our Quigley ski on Strava and said we had to do Cherry Creek and Psycho. Challenge taken. Galena sits at over 7,000 feet and the snow was cold so we skied quite slow except for the long downhills. It was beautiful skiing although definitely not rolling by Minnesota standards. We climbed for many sustained minutes to whiz downhill in a single minute. Some of the corners were intense but the trails wide and freshly groomed so Erik and I had fun doing big skid turns.  


Our Galena ski.

And corresponding elevation profile. Almost 2,000 vertical feet in 15 miles or twice as hilly as the Birkie Classic course.

Ben and Starr skiing at Galena. No frost = warmer.


I love this photo with Ben showing how deep the powder was off the trails at Galena!

We hit up Psycho as our last "run," best described as a downhill run. Erik and I both side slid the initial very steep pitch. I did skid turns down the rest of the run which was super fun.

View from the top of the steep pitch on Psycho. You can kind of make out the lodge below me.


Wednesday Erik went downhill skiing and Ben and I headed back to Quigley to do the Vakava workout for the week: 3 x 15 minutes of 30-30s classic skiing. This was mostly double poling and we both took the rest incredibly easy. 

A complete loop of the Quigley Trails!

Seriously hard (and fresh) corduroy at Quigley.

Me skiing at Quigley.

In the afternoon Ben, Starr, and I went to the Lake Creek Trails, home of the SuperTour. These trails were incredibly deceiving. Somehow I have trouble figuring out the slope amidst the wide-open landscape. Sure, I did the hard trail twice but was quite surprised to find I did 1,000 feet of vertical in 1.5 hours. No wonder why I had to jump out of the track so much, even with my skins.  

Lake Creek Trails all out in the meadows.

Careful crossing the bridge to the Lake Creek Trails if you are tall!

Thursday we skied the Boulder Mountain Tour course. For anyone not familiar with this course, it's a 34 km point-to-point with a fairly substantial drop of 1,500 feet and just 480 feet of climbing (per my Garmin). I was glad to see the course, learn that there was only one sketchy corner, and also to be able to just enjoy the views not racing.  

On Friday my friend Kathryn came up from the Salt Lake City area (also to race) and we hung out, doing an easy ski again at Lake Creek Trails. They had groomed some fun rollers into their course and we did these a bunch of times! 

My Garmin map of the Boulder Mountain Tour course.

Saturday it was time for the Boulder Mountain Tour. As for the race itself, well, I wasn't sure what to expect with the course profile and starting at over 7,000 feet. I submitted a qualifier time and got into the Women's Elite Wave (technically Wave 2) -- I both felt privileged and not really deserving. The course started in a very wide area with a gradual uphill that was really slow on the cold snow. From there we had a long swooping downhill followed by another climb, another downhill, and the only blacktop road crossing that brought us to the main Harriman Trail.

Boulder Mountain Tour elevation profile.

By now we'd already had two of the significant climbs out of the way. The course wound gradually downhill and then about 15 minutes into the race we hit the steepest hill followed by the only gnarly descent with a big left-hander that I had skidded around on our practice run but this time snowplowed.

I found myself skiing behind a para skier with one pole. She skied away from me on every downhill with great technique but I would catch up to her on the uphills. It was interesting watching her V-2 and switch into a V-1. I thought it would be good for me not to pound the uphills too hard since we were at elevation so I stuck behind her on the uphills till the first feed station. 

Photo of the Boulder Mountain Tour course.

One elite wave woman passed us on this part of the course. Her technique wasn't very good- she stood up on the downhills and even snowplowed around very easy corners but she had an engine and a very fast V-1 (in arguably V-2 sections) and she just skied away from me like I was standing still. I can't help but wonder if skiers with a good engine but deplorable technique would be very successful if they mimicked more "ideal" technique or if they've simply found the technique that works best for them? I've wondered this myself in terms of classic striding where I've never been good at getting a stride glide but seem more efficient to just run. It's not pretty but maybe it's just better for me.

The first feed station came 42 minutes and about 13 km into the race. After taking down some energy I continued on the false flat and eventually caught the para skier, passed her, and didn't see her again.  Around 20 km to go there's a bit of an uphill but this is followed by a nice downhill section from 18 to 16 kms to go. From there I don't remember much other than being passed by lots of Wave 3 skiers, some in big packs, none of which I could hang onto. It was mostly fast skiing on gradual downhill but not super fast conditions and from 15-5 kms to go almost entirely out in meadows. We returned mostly to the woods for the last 5 km and this section flew by and also included a couple hills. Only one Wave 3 skier passed me in those last 5 kms although lots of skiers came in shortly after I did. 


View from the course.

It's always easy in hindsight to think I could have and should have pushed harder in the early hills but it's hard to know if that would have negatively impacted me or worked to my advantage. I learned many years ago how important it is to keep working hard even on downhill sections and I did work the whole course. I also know fast flat-ish skate courses are not my strong suit. That's why I made sure to be back in Minnesota for Mora:)  

Erik and I on a sunny course preview day at Galena.

Thanks for reading!