The Telluride Nordic Center has brought coach/professional athlete Sara Ballantyne to the track for beginning and kids Nordic classes.
Ballantyne, who lives in Ridgway, has built an athletic career over the past 20 years that has, among other accomplishments, led her to the gold in three World Mountain Biking Championships (1987, 1988, 1989) and landed her on the first-ever American team to win a major expedition race at the 1998 Eco-Challenge Adventure Race in Morocco. Much of her time over the last two decades has been spent deep in the midst of mountain-bike and adventure-race competitions, which has not only built her into an ultra-tough female athlete, but created a sportswoman who fully understands the athletic value of wintertime training especially on the Nordic track as well.
"Nordic really is one of the best ways to cross-train for other sports," Ballantyne says, adding that it is not imperative for a Nordic skier to train for other athletic endeavors to appreciate both the physical and mental benefits it can offer. "It is a sport that can supplement well with other aerobic training, and is also just a great winter sport for any level of athlete," she says.
Ballantyne's beginning adult Nordic clinics, held at the Town Park track over the Wednesday lunch hour, offer a welcome environment for new Nordic skiers to learn ski-skating skills. But as Ballantyne attests, the focus of the weekly classes is to deliver more than just time spent on skis and on the track.
"We'll cover the basics of technique, but also spend time doing interval work and talking about training, nutrition, hydration and more," she explains.
Ballantyne brings a solid background in coaching and training to the Telluride Nordic Center's instructor roster. After graduating from the University of Colorado with a degree in psychology in 1982, Ballantyne joined the faculty of Colorado Outward Bound and taught mountaineering courses all across Colorado. Ballantyne moved to Breckenridge and joined that resort's ski patrol in 1985, and soon after initiated her professional mountain-biking career in earnest, emerging as a pioneer for women's mountain-bike racing as the first American woman to race full-time in Europe in 1990 and then going on to win the titles of World Champion and National Champion. She is now an honored inductee into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in Crested Butte.
Ballantyne's livelihood as a professional athlete didn't end with her successful mountain-biking experience, either. She went on to join teams that participated in the grueling, week-long, expedition-style races called Eco-Challenges. Her team was the first American team to win one, in Morocco in 1998, and again in New Zealand in 2001.
As part of her training regimen for these ultra-competitive events, Ballantyne, who has logged hundreds of hours on the Nordic track, began teaching Nordic skiing at the Copper Nordic Center in Breckenridge.
"Nordic is a great choice in fitness in the wintertime," she says. "It's a totally different physical experience than downhill skiing."
Along with the Wednesday beginning adult classes, Ballantyne is leading the school Ski P.E. Nordic Program for second and third graders, which began Tuesday. When she's not out skiing, Ballantyne is a professional massage therapist who works out of her office in Ridgway.
For more information on Telluride Nordic Center clinics and programs, call the office at 728-1144.