contributed photograph

Kevin Bolger stands elated at the podium in Lahti, Finland, where his debut 11th-place finish in the World Cup was the best in history by an American.
contributed photograph

Kevin Bolger stands elated at the podium in Lahti, Finland, where his debut 11th-place finish in the World Cup was the best in history by an American.
Minocqua native Kevin Bolger, who races cross country for the U.S. national ski team, now lives in Sun Valley, Idaho and, from his description, the founding fathers could not have been more accurate when naming that town. 

“The name speaks for itself, “ Bolger said. “It’s sunny everyday. In the fall it’s crystal clear weather. Blue skies everyday and like mid-70s. It’s not too hot but still warm enough in the fall that you can get out and train without a shirt.”

It doesn’t sound like a place you’d be anxious to leave with winter fast approaching.

But for Bolger, the fast approaching winter is exactly what has him anxious to leave.  

“I just need to get over there and get on snow. That’s the biggest thing,” said the U.S. skier, referring to the Nordic countries of Europe where he’s heading next week for World Cup competition. “With this sport you have to like to be outside and be outside in winter.”

Fortunately for Bolger he has the Northwoods in his blood and he thrives on both.

He also thrives on a pair of skis.

Bolger, a former back-to-back state champion with the Lakeland Nordic Ski Team, has had quite a year on the trails. 

According to U.S. Ski team stats, which are referenced when the team is assembled, while racing for the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation, Bolger took three first-place finishes on the U.S. Supertour, the top traveling competitive skiing circuit.

In Ishpeming, Mich., and Boseman, Mont., he won freestyle sprints and in Craftsbury, Vt. he won a classic sprint. These are in addition to a handful of seconds and thirds throughout the season.

His fantastic run on the tour enabled him to get to the World Cup last March.

“I was leading the overall Supertour with the best results and the most points and then that qualified me to go to the World Cup,”?he said.

It also made him a member of the U.S. national team and in his World Cup debut Bolger finished 11th in Lahti, Finland, in a freestyle sprint which was the best debut by an American in World Cup history. And this monumental feat could not have taken place on a bigger stage.

“It was probably the coolest experience I had for racing up to date,” Bolger said. “It’s the primo stage. I mean, that’s where you want to get to. That’s where everyone wants to race.”

He explained the reason the lights are so bright on events overseas is skiing is a huge part of life in the Nordic countries, not only for the athletes but for the spectators as well. It’s engrained in their culture.

“Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia — those guys are born with skis on their feet,” Bolger said. “I mean, it’s their sport. It’s the real deal. There’s no messing around.”

The challenge of skiing against such legendary competition is the reward for him.

“There’s so many hurdles and obstacles you have to overcome and there’s no short cuts in this sport,” he said. “Whatever you put in you get out.”

This year what he hopes to get out of the sport is to move up from the “B” team to a spot on the U.S. national “A” team.  

“In a broader term, the U.S. national team is broken up into an ‘A’ team, a ‘B’ team, and a developmental team, the ‘D’ team,” Bolger explained. “And with the ‘A’ and ‘B’ team the only difference is the ‘A’ team is fully-funded.”

Therefore, Bolger has been back in the Midwest speaking at and hosting benefits to help cover some of the many expenses he’ll take on over the course of the year. 

“It’s going well. I’ve had some good success,” he said. “I’m not at my end goal by any means. There’s still room to get more. I’m still looking for a title sponsor.”

When he asked what he looks for in a sponsor, Bolger said he wants a company that is as enthusiastic about skiing as he is.

“Once you’re in a sport you’re in a certain kind of world, and there’s people who are super excited about that and you kind of find those people and kind of find those companies,” he said.

Bolger should have no problem living up to his end of the bargain if passion is at the core of the agreement, which is evident by how he spent a recent morning while visiting Minocqua, far, far away from Sun Valley.

“I woke up and it’s 32 degrees and pouring rain,” he said. “No one wants to go out in that, but then I think about all the stuff I want to do for my goals and then also the people that have supported me. That’s just icing on the cake motivation to get out there and work harder.”

To support Bolger and the U.S. ski team, donations with specific instructions can be made at usskiandsnowboard.org.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.

com.