Midwest Racing Season PreviewNovember 12, 2017
With some of the coldest November weather in recent memory, and skiing already underway up north, the 2017-18 racing season is just weeks away. The season promises some changes and exciting racing action, from citizen to international competitions.
It’s Gonna Be Big
City of Lakes Loppet, February 7, 2016
Ambitious plans, centered around three major events, have the Loppet Foundation scrambling this season. The first event is the construction of a new adventure center building, called The Trailhead, going up at Theodore Wirth Park. This building was to be a feature point for the biggest addition this season, the 2018 Masters World Cup (MWC) races, though construction delays make it unlikely the building will open this winter. The MWC will span January 19-26, with over 1000 skiers age 30 and up coming from around the World to compete for titles in three events. And finally, the Loppet is also aligning their own events to dovetail with the 2018 Super Bowl. The huge City of Lakes Loppet race weekend has been split into two weekends, with classical races on January 27th, weekend before the Super Bowl and then freestyle races being running on Super Bowl Sunday, February 4th. And keep your eyes on the Super Bowl coverage -- the famous finishing bridge from the American Birkebeiner is expected to be a key feature in the NFL’s Super Bowl Exhibition in downtown Minneapolis!
Say It Ain’t Snow?
58K field rolls out on Union Street, Vasaloppet USA, February 13, 2016
Last year’s warm weather had some serious impacts, most notably forcing the cancellation of the 2017 American Birkebeiner. The cancellation, only the second time in history, along with concerns over our changing climate, has organizers looking toward snowmaking to help ensure future events. One organization that has dealt with this problem head-on is the Vasaloppet in Mora, MN. After successfully creating a man-made snow course of over 10K the last two seasons, the Vasaloppet crew has announced two permanent course options -- the Legacy course, running from Warman to downtown Mora when the snowfall is good, and the Mora course, using a man-made loop that starts and finishes in Mora for lean snow years.
There are a number of new events and changes to note on the calendar. Because of the Birkie cancellation, 2018 will mark the first time the Kortelopet race will be held on its new date and location -- racing on Friday, starting at Hwy OO and finishing in downtown Hayward. Two winter triathlons have been added: Forest Frenzy in Boulder Junction, WI, on February 17th, and the Stride, Ride and Glide on March 4th in Superior, WI. The Eirawen20 is a new 20K freestyle race scheduled for February 17th in Sturgeon Bay, WI. Moving up on the calendar is the HinderBinder in Camp Forest Springs, WI -- traditionally held in mid-February, it's moving up to January 20th this season. The Lappe Invitational, Thunder Bay, Ontario, usually an early March race, has moved up to January 13th, and the Dammen Nordic Classic in Austin, MN moves from the end of January up to January 6th.
Unfortunately, there are also a few events that will be missing from the calendar this season. The fun and friendly Balsam VinterFest races held near St. Croix Falls, WI, have announced they are not planning to host an event this year and the Minnesota State Pursuit Championships have closed down operations. There are a half dozen additional events that have not announced race dates at this time, but hopefully they will make an appearance on the calendar before first races get underway.
Craig Cardinal and Chip Tabor sprint to the finish, Balsam Vinter Fest, January 23, 2010
For the Kids
Boys U18/U20 field at the button hook, Minneapolis classical JNQ, February 19, 2017
For the juniors, there are a couple of notable changes. The Junior National Qualifier (JNQ) series, now known as the CXC Junior Cup, will hold only two events during the high school season, providing hopefully less conflict between junior and high school racing, with a third and final JNQ race the weekend after the Minnesota State Meet. And at the time of this writing, there is the real possibility that one of the oldest traditions on the high school calendar, the Holiday Relays, might not be held due to struggles in finding a host venue.
The collegiate calendar looks similar to past seasons, with the one addition: St. Olaf is hoping to host an invite in Northfield, MN, on December 10th.
US Nationals this season will be held up in Anchorage, Alaska, January 3-8, with Junior Nationals March 4-11th at Soldier Hollow, Utah, while NCAA Championships return to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, March 7-10th. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be some National level competitions here in the Midwest. Canadian Nationals, March 10-17th, will help ring out the end of the season in Thunder Bay and there will be a SuperTour stop again this season in Marquette, MI, February 15-18th.
And while it technically isn’t in the Midwest, the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea will have most glued to their video streams in February to see Jessie Diggins and hopefully a number of other Midwesterners seeking some of the first cross-country skiing medals in US history.
The 2017-18 Racing Calendar is online. Check back frequently as the season progresses for late additions, cancellations, and race coverage.
NBC Winter Olympics - Cross-Country News Feed
Minnesota Biathlon Race Schedule