This snow-filled winter has been a blessing for Sleeping Giant Loppet organizers.
After years of minimal snowfalls that meant trail groomers had to hand shovel snow onto the course, they can breathe easy knowing that this season the course is covered.
Peter Gallagher, Sleeping Giant Loppet co-ordinator, says the snow has made for excellent conditions at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, which will host the annual cross-country skiing race on March 1.
“Our grooming staff are thrilled to be able to work with this much snow,” Gallagher said at the event’s media conference at the Kamview Nordic Centre Tuesday.
“It’s easy on the equipment and they are tickled about being able to provide the best course they have in years.”
Thunder Bay Nordic Trails manager Peter Crooks said the course will likely be in optimal condition when the Loppet begins.
The base of snow is so high that low-hanging branches of some trees have to be trimmed and cleared.
It’s a good problem to have, Crooks said.
With just more than a week to go until race day, Gallagher is optimistic registration will exceed the 820 that hit the course last year.
Competitors have a variety of distances to choose from, beginning with the eight kilometre mini Loppet all the way to the full 50-kilometre event.
As per annual tradition, the organizing committee awarded the ceremonial No. 1 bib to an influential member of the Nordic ski community.
This year, they selected Gerrie and Herman Van Duyn to receive the No. 1 and No. 2 bibs.
The couple, who will be celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary on race weekend, are veterans of the Loppet and have only missed a couple in the event’s 36 year history.
However, Gerrie thought she would never make it through her first race.
“I remember, (the first time) my husband and I, we were at the 10 kilometre mark and we thought we died and we would never finished, but we did finish,” she said.
Since then, they have embraced the sport. Herman played a pivotal role in helping get the chalet at Kamview constructed, and now their grandchildren are growing into avid skiers.
For Gerrie, the best part is the feeling of satisfaction after completing a long ski.
“It feels really good after you’re done and you’re part of the community. Even a couple of days or weeks after you still have that high feeling.” she said
Organizers made one major change to this year’s Loppet, announcing that all events would start one hour later than originally scheduled.
The delay comes after a similar move last year due to extreme cold temperatures, which was received favourably by participants.
While it was something that had been contemplated all year, Gallagher said the committee had to wait for a weather forecast to ensure temperatures wouldn’t be too warm in the early afternoon.
If the current forecast stands, racers will have ideal temperatures with a high approaching - 10C.
“It gives it a little more time to warm up,” he said. “People gave us a lot of feedback that they liked the extra hour in the morning if they have family to get the kids organized and it’s a fairly long drive.”
In addition to the Loppet, the fourth annual RBC Sleeping Giant Sprints will be held on the evening of Feb. 27 at Kamview.
Online registration is available until Feb. 26 with in-person registration available at Kamview on Feb. 27-28. Race day registrations will not be accepted. Information can be found on their website.
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