Gene Day­ton

Vi­sion­ary and Pi­o­neer

SkiTrax - - Gear Test - By Jonathan Wiesel

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-

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