Visionary and Pioneer
The genesis of cross-country skiing in North America is highlighted by Vermont’s Trapp Family Lodge, the first cross-country-ski area on the continent, followed likely by the first groomed operation in Colorado: Breckenridge Nordic Center (BNC) in 1971, the creation of one Gene Dayton, who later also ran Gold Run Nordic (also in Breckenridge) and Frisco Nordic, just down the road.
Dayton is an interesting, genuine and affable fellow, with an unassuming manner and friendly chuckle. Originally from Northern Illinois, he went to Florida State University on a swimming scholarship and later became U.S. Masters champion in the butterfly (he still swims regularly). He first saw the Rockies in his late teens, was drawn to the mountains and moved to Colorado in 1967, at the age of 24. Four years later, Breckenridge Nordic emerged.
The Center has grown and “sophisticated” enormously over these years, and it now encompasses 1,400 acres, including a mix of some 40 kilometres of ski and snowshoe trails. There’s up to three kilometres of snowmaking around the new, magnificent 10,000-square-foot lodge, built of local spruce and fir logs.
BNC is high-altitude – you start at 9,800 feet and go up from there, mostly through forest, but with some open space and splendid views of the Ten Mile Range and Continental Divide. Trail and hut names give a feel for Dayton and second wife Therese’s sense of humour (moderate route Gluteus Minimus, along with real climber Gluteus Maximus) and religious devotion (Hallelujah Hut on the “upstairs” trail system).
Dayton loves the Nordic variety that Colorado offers, believing that “Backcountry is the epitome of the sport, and cross-country ar-