Minturn event attracts more than 400 cross country skiers
MINTURN — Usually when skiers pack this small town during the month of February, they’ve been brought here by nearby Vail and Beaver Creek resorts.
Over the weekend, however, Minturn provided its own attraction as the largest Nordic race ever to hit town filled the streets with cross-country skiers and their families, coaches and staff.
A University of Denver NCAA Invitational combined forces with a junior national championship qualifier, hosted by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, to bring more than 400 Nordic athletes to Maloit Park on Saturday, Feb. 10, and Sunday, Feb. 11. In addition to being the biggest cross-country race ever to hit Minturn, it will likely prove to be the biggest Nordic race in the state of Colorado this season, as well.
Back in 2015, the International Ski Federation visited the Maloit Park venue to give it their stamp of approval. The idea was to pave the way for bigger events like the one that took place over the weekend.
“One things we talked about when they visited was could this venue have this many people out there, and actually make it work?” said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail Nordic program director Dan Weiland.
That question was answered on Sunday as a successful weekend of racing wrapped up.
“The key piece was how well the event was run,” said Kevin Sweeney, director of skiing for University of Utah. “The course is in great shape, you’ve got medical support, you’ve got a really good track setting … this venue has really developed to be a great race venues in the state of Colorado.”
One thousand VOLUNTEER HOURS
Sweeney said the dedication involved in getting the course ready was obvious.
“I’ve hosted events, so I know what it takes,” he said. “It takes machinery, it takes money, it takes man and woman hours — you need a hard-core crew that’s willing to shovel.”
The volunteers from Ski & Snowboard Club Vail were exactly the hard-core crew needed, Weiland said, as the worst of both snow situations occurred in preparing the Maloit Park venue — not enough snow in getting ready for the race, then too much snow on race day.
“We had 10 parents per day, every day, for 10 days in a row leading up to the race,” Weiland said. “And then for the last big push we had 20 parents out here. There was probably 1,000 man hours put in.”
Volunteer Claude Goldberg was among the volunteers. Her son, 18-year-old Nathaniel Badger, competed in the races.
“We shoveled for almost three hours straight,” Goldberg said of her shift with her husband, Lance Badger. “We had a good crew out here.”
‘COMPETITION IN THE WEST’
Teams came from as far as Fairbanks, Alaska, to compete in Minturn over the weekend.
Sweeney and the University of Utah Utes arrived on Thursday and stayed in Minturn at the Eagle River Inn.
“We pretty much booked out the whole inn,” Sweeney said. “We wanted to be close to the race venue, but not too close, so it’s the perfect blend. We really enjoy the town’s atmosphere — it’s low key, people have been very welcoming, and there’s good food.”
The Utes enjoyed lunch at Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Eagle before leaving the region on Sunday. But after a string of impressive race performances for the Utes over the weekend, the trip will be memorable for more than just the food.
“The fact that it’s getting that close to the (NCAA) championships … programs such as Utah, we’re looking for some serious, hard racing,” Sweeney said. “To not only get in shape, but to size up our competition in the west.”
In addition to being a University of Denver Invitational, the race was also the last chance for local athletes to qualify for the 2018 US Ski & Snowboard Cross Country Junior National Championship this March in Soldier Hollow, Utah. For coverage of the local athletes who qualified, see Page A33.
In terms of area, it’s the county’s smallest conservation deal ever. In terms of location, it’s one of the county’s rarest acquisitions.