Gold Rush celebrates 35 years on Sunday |

Gold Rush celebrates 35 years on Sunday

Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk Skiers take off in a mass start at last year's Gold Rush at the Frisco Nordic Center.

FRISCO – The equipment may be better, and the atmosphere may be different, but when the 35th annual Frisco Gold Rush kicks off Sunday at the Frisco Nordic Center, the sport will still be the same as it was for the first one. At the first Gold Rush, when Gene Dayton was kicking and gliding his heavy Nordic skis along the old rail road grade between Breckenridge and Frisco, passing skiers dining on wine and cheese while lounging on quilts along the side of the course, he never thought this would become his life.Three and a half decades later, Dayton and his wife Therese are in their 17th year as operators of the Frisco Nordic Center, and have raised an Olympic cross country skier in their son, Matt. Even though the course has moved and the wine and cheese has been replaced by chili and beer, the Gold Rush is still going as strong as ever. “It’s a great fundraiser for the high school Nordic team,” Gene Dayton said. “And that’s why it was originally created, to send our kids to the Junior Olympics in places like Alaska and Maine.”

Close to 300 skiers of all ages and abilities are expected to compete in classic (5 and 10K) and skate (5, 10 and 20K) races beginning at 9 a.m. on Sunday. There will also be two snowshoe races (5 and 10K) and a kids treasure hunt on skis. This will be the first Gold Rush with 5 and 10K races in both disciplines.The premier race of the day will be the 20K skate race at 11:35 a.m. “The 20K will bring the elite racers in the state,” Gene Dayton said. “It’s definitely set up for the well-trained athlete.”But like the original Gold Rush, the event isn’t limited to the best. “The average person can do it,” Dayton said. “All they have to do is keep going.”

The Gold Rush’s longevity is indicative of the sport’s growth over the last 30 years. The Daytons have had the perfect vantage point – the top of the Rocky Mountains – to see the evolution of Nordic skiing.”In the first year at the Nordic Center, a busy day would be 10 skiers,” Dayton said. “Now on a busy weekend day, 350 skiers is not uncommon.”Therese Dayton credits the growth to the town of Frisco.”The event would never go off without Frisco,” Therese Dayton said. “They just make sure everything goes perfectly.”

What it comes down to for the Daytons and most of the Nordic community is the love for the sport.”I love tele skiing and alpine, but I wouldn’t make it through a winter without cross country skiing,” Therese Dayton said. “It gets my endorphins going and makes me happy.”Registration for the Gold Rush can be done online at or in person at the Frisco Nordic Center by 1 p.m. Saturday. Parking will be limited, so a shuttle will provide transportation from the Summit County Commons parking lot, three-tenths of a mile west of the Frisco Nordic Center entrance. Andy Frame can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 236, or at

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