SkiTrax - - Gear Test -

The Sun Val­ley Nordic & Snow­shoe Cen­ter is clas­sic cross-coun­try ski area de­sign (no pun, truly!), in that sev­eral eas­ier trails di­verge from the stag­ing area, lead­ing to more dif­fi­cult routes and then to the re­ally chal­leng­ing stuff. Set at ap­prox­i­mately 6,000 feet, it's mostly sin­gle­track and skate lane, and mostly de­light­ful be­gin­ner-to-in­ter­me­di­ate ter­rain – there's roughly 300 feet of el­e­va­tion change on 14 trails, to­tal­ing a lit­tle more than 40 kilo­me­tres. Much of it is on golf-course grass, and much of it winds through sage, with some as­pen and pine, com­ple­mented by great moun­tain views, in­clud­ing alpine ski­ing on fa­mous Bald Moun­tain (aka “Baldy,” at 9,150 feet).

Most trails are one-way due to short steep down­hills, and al­most ev­ery­thing is groomed daily. Sun Val­ley is a recre­ation-crazy re­gion, so you see many skaters, in­clud­ing lo­cal folk of ma­ture years who are frankly “tear-ass­ing” along the trails. If you're lucky, you may see elk, deer, moose and even wolves.

You can also en­joy 14 kilo­me­tres of snow­shoe­ing, in­clud­ing some ded­i­cated trails, and 16 kilo­me­tres of fat­bike routes shared with skiers. A typ­i­cal sea­son starts a lit­tle be­fore Christ­mas and runs through March, with 100 inches of snow in a good win­ter.

The Cen­ter it­self is a golf club­house in the off-sea­son, though I sus­pect sum­mer vis­i­tors don't think of it in quite those terms. It's im­pos­ing: 58,000 (not a typo!) square feet of wood pan­el­ing, mar­ble and brass, with a restau­rant and bar. The ex­te­rior is river rock, with wrap-around ter­races. You can rent skis, snow­shoes or fat­bikes and ar­range in­struc­tion.

Just as im­por­tant to the vi­tal­ity of the place is Ivana Radlova, the Nordic di­rec­tor. Friendly and quick-wit­ted, with an elfin grin, she's pas­sion­ate about cross-coun­try ski­ing. She also has re­mark­able Nordic cre­den­tials - NCAA cham­pion at the Univer­sity of New Mex­ico, mem­ber of the Czech Olympic team, as­sis­tant coach at the Univer­sity of Colorado, and has worked at cross-coun­try ar­eas in Colorado, Idaho and New York. In offhours, she's a mas­sage ther­a­pist, as well as a mother to two boys.

Radlova dreams of snow­mak­ing for a two-kilo­me­tre teach­ing area for tough snow years, and would love to open at Thanks­giv­ing, but that may be a while down the road.

I chat­ted last March with old friend Steve Haims, a fun-lov­ing guy, Sun Val­ley cross-coun­try-ski fix­ture and chef who works at the Cen­ter and is for­mer owner/op­er­a­tor of Galena Lodge. He says that most vis­i­tors, skiers and snow­shoers are women, and a typ­i­cal skier is fifty-plus. He says the Nordic Cen­ter has “very be­gin­ner-friendly” ski­ing and staff, and while lo­cal fat­bik­ers are avid en­thu­si­asts, these bikes don't dam­age the trails for skiers.

Set in the spec­tac­u­larly rugged Saw­tooth Moun­tains, Sun Val­ley Nordic en­joys 100 inches of snow in a good win­ter with a cu­mu­la­tive 200 kilo­me­tres of awe­some trails. Known as "Amer­ica's First Des­ti­na­tion Ski Re­sort", Sun Val­ley ra­di­ates charisma, beauty an

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