Snow a welcome sight for Loppet organizers
By Matt Vis
While recent snowfalls may have been a burden to some Thunder Bay residents, it has come as a blessing to organizers of the Sleeping Giant Loppet.
The 36th annual installment of the venerable cross-country skiing event is set to take place March 2 at the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
Race organizers held a press conference at the Kamview Nordic Centre on Tuesday as they reported that everything was proceeding as planned for the marquee event on the region’s Nordic skiing calendar.
“I’m happy to report that we will be full course, absolutely,” said Thunder Bay Nordic Trails manager Peter Crooks.
While everything is on track now, it has not been a restful past couple of weeks for event organizers. The lack of snow at the beginning of the month caused organizers to explore contingency plans. Two plans that had been considered were eliminating the long loop for the 50-kilometre distance and just using the loop around Lake Marie Louise, or relocating the event to Kamview, as had been done in 2007.
Event coordinator Peter Gallagher says that recent snowfalls have relieved a lot of stress.
“Absolutely stressful,” Gallagher said with a laugh when asked about preparations for the event. “Some years the park gets more snow than in town, but this year the park has less snow than even at Kamview. . . . Yeah I was thrilled to see that snow, and the (weather forecasts for more snow) over the next week are making me very happy.”
Along with the announcement of the course conditions, organizers also presented the ceremonial No. 1 bib at the press conference. The recipient is long-time Loppet participant and former Sleeping Giant Provincial Park superintendent Al Comeau.
Comeau is a perennial participant in the 50-km distance, where last year he placed 12th overall and first in the 60-64 age group.
For Comeau, the event is an opportunity to ski in a beautiful setting and develop camaraderie with his fellow participants.
“I do the Sleeping Giant Loppet because I like distance skiing, and it is probably one of the most fun routes in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park,” Comeau shared. “It’s just fun getting out with my skiing chums as well.”
Organizers say that so far, approximately 400 people have signed up for the Loppet, which is down a little from years past. They say that lack of snow may have played a role, but emphasize that there is still time and that there is an appropriate event for all-comers.
“That is definitely behind where we normally are at this time,” admitted Gallagher. “My belief is that it is related to the late start to the season that we’ve had, and the low snow conditions we’ve had for a lot of the season. That’s why we’re really encouraging people, if they haven’t done as many kilometres as they have liked, drop down to the 35-km or the 20-km event and participate in whatever way they can.”
Online registration closes on Feb. 26. In person registration will be available at Kamview on Feb. 28 during the RBC Sleeping Giant Sprints, where competitors will compete in head-to-head matchups for cash prizes on a 200-metre course. The absolute deadline for registration will be the next day, March 1 at 9 p.m. at Kamview. Registration will not be accepted on the morning of the Loppet.