VOLUNTEERS ARE THE LIFEBLOOD OF THE BOULDER MOUNTAIN TOUR
Every year, on the first weekend in February, hundreds of enthusiastic skiers line up at Galena Lodge to race the 34 kilometers to the finish line of the Boulder Mountain Tour. For the racers, their journey is just beginning. But for the race organizers and volunteers the sound of the starting gun represents the conclusion of months of careful preparation, and sets in motion the final, masterfully planned, process of executing a world-class race.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of the Boulder Mountain Tour. From coordinating bib bags to managing aid stations to timing, our tight-knit community makes this race happen again and again. Most have been involved with the BMT for more than two decades and remain dedicated supporters of this iconic event.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and we thank everyone for their unflagging enthusiasm and expertise!
Head of Volunteers
Years volunteering: 34
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Skiing start: I started skiing on the West Seattle golf course in grade school. Skiing in one form or another and playing in the snow has always been a part of my life.
History with the BMT: I like to support and get involved in the things I have a strong interest in and passion for. I started out as a racer in the Tour, and evolved into a volunteer. I have held many volunteer positions over the years: aid station set-up, trail maintenance, timer, communications relay, parking assistance, and now the head of volunteers. I enjoy working with like-minded folks who want to help.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? I get the satisfaction that I’m helping to support and perpetuate a sport and lifestyle that has so many benefits: camaraderie, healthy workout, a beautiful setting. This is a great XC skiing community; easy to work with and a joy to recreate with.
Years volunteering: 22
Hometown: Nevada. Wood River Valley resident for 45 years
Skiing start: I cross-country ski and snowshoe in the winter – anything to play outside.
History with the BMT: In 1998 the Ketchum Chamber of Commerce, under whose umbrella the BMT had previously been managed, hired Roberta Heinrich and myself to move the race forward as its own entity. We oversaw the race with the BMT board of directors from 1999 through 2002. We have stayed on the committee since then organizing our beloved bib bag volunteers!
Favorite part about the BMT? The people we work with. Those devoted, tireless members of the BMT committee as well as the ever-changing roster of engaged volunteers.
Years volunteering: 22
Hometown: Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota
Skiing start: I began cross-country skiing in 1971 and have been an on-again, off-again skier ever since. I appreciate the physical benefits of the sport and the incredible system of trails that are available here in one of the most beautiful areas in the country
History with the BMT: I began racing in the BMT in the mid 1980s. Since that time, I have been aware of the importance and potential of the race on a community level as well as its national significance in the Nordic world. From 1999 to 2002, my business partner and I were co-directors of the BMT. We grew the race to 1,000 racers, 350 volunteers and 33 committee members.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? There is a true sense of community, purpose and pride in putting together a world-class race. I continue to participate because I believe it is truly a great event for our community and because of the people I have come to know and work with over the last 20 years.
Years volunteering: 20-plus
Hometown: Staffordshire, England
Skiing start: Nordic skiing has always been my passion for many years. My husband, Nello, and I graduated from the Canadian Association of Nordic Ski Instructors and developed a successful after-school ski program for kids in Whistler. My family competed in European Loppet races and many local races. When we moved from Canada to the USA in 1984, it was the dry snow of Sun Valley that was the big draw. To use blue wax instead of klister was a delight!
History with the BMT: I have volunteered to head the BMT registration room for the past 20-plus years. I love the energy that this race brings to the community; being in the registration room you witness this first hand. It is great to see the familiar faces that come from all over the USA and Canada each year to enjoy what this race offers.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? I love to give back to this community I adore and to the sport of Nordic skiing that brings me so much joy. I entered the Boulder Mountain Tour for the first time in 1985 and continued to do it until four years ago. Having participated in so many races (I won a gold medal in the Masters Worlds, racing for the USA in Canmore, Canada in 1995) the BMT is very special. I was inducted into the Sun Valley Ski Hall of Fame in 2012.
Years volunteering: 15-plus
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Skiing start: I was born into a family who loved skiing, and began skiing at the age of two. I ended up competing at the collegiate level and beyond, traveling and racing in many national and international events. I moved to Ketchum after a conversation with Rick Kapala convinced me to continue ski racing. Today, my two amazing kids are both continuing their ski racing in college as SVSEF alumni, and enjoying the life of skiing like I did…How lucky am I to be part of a multi-generational family of skiers?
History with the BMT: I attended and raced for the Montana State University Ski Team in the mid-80s where I became good friends with Jon Engen. We decided to race the Boulder Mountain Tour together in 1989. Unfortunately, the weather turned just before the race and the roads were closed. We had to cancel our trip, but race organizers were so kind and still sent us our gift bags!
What keeps you involved with the BMT? I competed most of my life and am so happy I can now return the favor! I have many great relationships from a lifetime of skiing, now I get to reconnect with many old friends who come to participate in the BMT every year. The BMT stands out from other marathon ski races thanks to the views down the course, the participants, and the people who put the event together (now and in the past!). The best thing I’ve learned about volunteering for the BMT are all the people involved…who they are, what they do, and why they appreciate this sport as much as I do.
Buses and Biffies
Years volunteering: 40-plus
Hometown: Duluth, Minnesota
Skiing start: I did some cross-country skiing in college while working part time at a local ski shop, but it wasn’t until I got to Ketchum that it became much more of a lifestyle. I skied the Boulder most years and lots of other fun races around town. And then, lots of days with now 38-year-old baby Henry on my back, young Henry in a sled, and little kid Henry skiing on his own.
History with the BMT: My first experience volunteering for the BMT was in the late 70s when there was a call for help building a temporary bridge across the Big Wood where the Murphy Bridge now stands for race day. I showed up and was totally entertained watching three icons in early Nordic skiing; Bob Rosso, Joe Czismazia, and Phil Puchner use ropes, winches and an old Jeep to put a bunch of logs in place for the race the following week. I was amazed at their dedication to making the race work.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? The BMT’s history sets it apart from other races. It is called the Boulder Mountain Tour for a reason. Although the majority of skiers have always been skiing as fast as possible, many locals would enter the “tour” with lunch and maybe a bottle of wine in their backpack, especially for all those years that the trail was groomed only for the race. Some of that energy still exists with people that ski it every year as a community event, with less importance placed on their finish time. Working on the BMT is not just about the race, I also see the passion of the lifestyle and connection to snow and winter that the skiers embody. When I’m shuttling out-of-town skiers, I consistently hear them comment on how beautiful the Boulder Mountains are, how great the tracks are, and how friendly the community is. All reminders of the gratitude I feel for what an incredible community we live in, including our generous race sponsors and agency partners who make the BMT possible every year.
Chief of Start
Years volunteering: 30
Hometown: Detroit Michigan. Has lived in Wood River Valley since 1987
Skiing start: 1974
History with the BMT: I have skied a few BMT’s but mostly have helped with the start crew. I learned the “start trade” from Bill and Annie Vanderbilt way back when. In my role and that of the Sun Valley Ski Foundation Nordic Team is that the SVSEF Nordic staff and parents as well as other supportive volunteers have committed to owning the organization of the BMT start. That is where all the fun begins!
What keeps you involved with the BMT? A couple things. The enthusiasm of the skiers is really amazing. Folks just love being a part of the event. And, the fellow volunteers are really motivated to deliver a great experience to all the participants and that powers all of us to stay involved and give back to the community.
Food + Start
Erin Zell and
Years volunteering: 14
Hometown: All over the place, mostly Virginia
Skiing start: We started skiing by breaking trails up and down the mountains in Oregon on winter routes, we never spent much time on groomed trails until we moved to the Wood River Valley. Our first groomed experience was in the free learn-to-ski clinics at Galena during Demo Days with Bob Rosso. We immediately got skate and classic skis and never looked back!
History with the BMT: We inherited our role with the BMT when we started operating Galena Lodge. Galena plays a few roles in the BMT. First off, we are the start location, everyone is dropped off at the Lodge to await the start of the race. We also provide the soup and cookies at the end of the race. Though this is not strictly a volunteer role, we provide some staff volunteers to help us with this role. We serve close to 60 gallons of soup and about 1,500 cookies and brownies that day. It takes the better part of an entire workday for one person to bake and package all the cookies and brownies (even after they are mixed). We trade off racing the event or managing the food tent at the finish line each year and they’re down at the finish setting up and heating soup before the racers even start!
What have you learned volunteering at the BMT? We pretty much just love being involved with the BMT. From the racers that come up to check out the course early to the volunteers that show up at 6 a.m. the day of the race to the support staff that helps us set up and take down the food tent, it is all an incredible community day! Volunteering allows you to be involved in an event in a different way. It is rewarding, engaging and fun without the pressure of having to race. It is so important to support community events, they are the backbone of our community.
Bag Transfer Coordinator
Years volunteering: 30+
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Skiing start: I was invited to join a group of skiers from the Elephant’s Perch on a tour out to Boulder City in 1974. It was my first time on skis. We were on wooden skis and klister for the 14-mile round-trip journey. Looking back, it was incredible spring corn skiing. I kept trying to telemark and would just crash and burn. A friend skied up after one of my crashes and asked, “You wonder why we do this? That’s why! You crash and burn, and get back up!” That’s all I’ve done here since.
History with the BMT: In the early days of the BMT, everyone who raced helped put the race on. Many hands make light work. In the 1980s, I became a paid fireman and stopped racing, but stayed on with the race committee as bag transfer coordinator.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? For me, volunteering is what you do for your community. It has always been an important part of my life. I love running into people in the grocery store who say, “See you at the BMT” and I get to wave and yell back, “Yep, you will!” My favorite part of race day is working with volunteers to meet racers just after the finish line with their bag of dry clothes. The look on those skiers’ faces and their appreciation is the most incredible moment. I’ve stayed involved with the race for moments like those and because of the other passionate, dedicated people I get to work with. It is just a whole lot of fun, and the only way to spend the first weekend in February!
First Aid Stations
Years volunteering: 25-plus
Hometown: Salinas, California
Skiing start: When I was in college, I rowed for San Diego State University and eventually made the U.S. National lightweight rowing team, so I had a solid aerobic background when we moved here. Cross-country skiing shares many of the same traits as rowing; your fitness and technique are equally important.
History with the BMT: I volunteered for many years on the start set up crew and finish line. Last year, I learned the complexities of setting up the four aid stations along the course. I was recruited to the Board of Directors a few years ago when the BMT was transitioning from being run for many years by Kevin Swigert.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? I continue volunteering to be able to feel that in whatever small way, I am contributing and making a difference to one of the very important pieces of our community. One of the things that makes our community so strong is the individual commitment to volunteer and non-profit organizations. The most rewarding part of volunteering is being a part of the community institution, which is the BMT.
Back Up Timing
Years volunteering: 18
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Skiing start: I started skiing as a way to enjoy the snow in New York. It would snow for a few hours, and I would bust out my first pair of wooden skis with three-pin bindings as a teenager and get out in my backyard.
History with the BMT: I used to compete in the 1980s. The trail was only groomed a few weeks before the race happened, so it was your only chance to get out and ski the course. Eventually, the BCRD started grooming all the time and you didn’t have to race to ski the trail. I decided that if I wasn’t going to race anymore I might as well help out, and started helping with back up timing.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? It isn’t about what you’re doing but the people you’re doing it with. My daughter was a competitive XC racer with the SVSEF team, and I started volunteering to help with timing at her races. I ended up timing for the BMT because of my experience helping at those races. I’ve competed in other long-distance ski races and the BMT truly stands apart. It is a really great event and its fun working with other people who are supporting it.
Years volunteering: 20-plus
Hometown: Bitterroot Valley, Montana
Skiing start: My father was a member of the Swiss national biathlon team, each winter he brought me and my brother to Sun Valley to ski when we were young. While we skied on Baldy, he would go off and cross-country ski with Leif Odmark. There is nothing more calming for the soul than enjoying the beauty of nature while exercising on snow.
History with the BMT: I began working at the BMT start area, after a few years, we created a crew to focus on setting up all the start area sponsor banners to make sure they looked excellent for the sponsors and participants. For the past thirteen years I’ve also volunteered my photography for BMT publicity.
What keeps you involved with the BMT? The most rewarding part of volunteering at the BMT for me is seeing so many happy faces of friends and people you don’t know having a great time all on one day. We live in a great community filled with wonderful, giving volunteers and it is special to work with and be around them.
Finish Area Construction
Years volunteering: 8-plus
Hometown: Bethel, Maine
Skiing start: I began racing in the Bill Koch Youth Ski League as soon as I could shuffle on snow and be incentivized by a lollipop at the finish. I skied through middle school, high school, and most of my time at Bates College.
History with the BMT: I had skied the BMT a few times and Bob Rosso approached me about serving on the board. Aside from my roles on the board (they made me Board President when I didn’t show up for a meeting one day) I’ve worked at the start line several times. The last two years I organized the race finish. It takes several days, and I’ve been blessed to have a crew of wonderful volunteers to set up and take-down everything you see at the SNRA finish. I’m grateful to Nappy and his crew for having done this work for the last century, it’s no small task!
What keeps you involved with the BMT? Despite having been involved in this race for about 10 years – as a skier, volunteer, board member – it took me until 2018 to fully get it. Specifically, I remember two moments. The first, I was in Atkinsons’ Market a day or two before the race, and everywhere you looked, people were obviously here to race. You know the look – they’re fit, wearing Nordic clothes, and look confused in the aisles of an unfamiliar grocery store. The impact was obvious, our little town was filling up during an off-peak week in February! The second moment was watching local David Lloyd trying to keep up with his smiling 5-or-6 year-old son as he crossed the finish line. The impact of a local event like this is captured in moments, and it’s moments like these that make the Wood River Valley a great place to live. Volunteers make the community go round. Period.
Chief of Course
Years volunteering: 47
Hometown: Newport Beach, California
Skiing start: We used to roll up to these old ski areas in the mountains of California and then we would make the run up to Mammoth. One year I wanted to get away from the scene, I heard about Sun Valley from some friends, packed all my belongings and the rest is history. In the 70s, the cross-country skiing was out on the golf course. It was a great crew of people.
What keeps you involved with the BMT: It’s the basic stuff. All my life I have been active in sports; surfing, biking, running, skiing, swimming…The people I have met through these sports are really important to me, and the people that help are the lifeblood of our community. It really makes a difference when you step in to help, and someone steps up with you. When that happens, nothing can stop you and the energy it takes to make these events go year after year.
Writer Emily Williams grew up chasing her family as they were kayaking rivers, climbing peaks, and skiing the powder of the Wood River Valley. Her passion for the outdoors grew as she did, deepening with every new adventure. She started cross-country skiing on the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation’s Devo Team in third grade and never looked back. She is now the Head Coach of South Devo and Striders cross-country ski programs with SVSEF.