RECORD NUMBERS HIGHLIGHT 39TH ANNUAL UP HEALTH SYSTEM GREAT BEAR CHASE SKI MARATHON
CALUMET, MI – A record 811 skiers enjoyed a perfect day for cross country skiing Saturday for the 39th annual UP Health System Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon at the Swedetown Trails on Saturday.
Former Olympian and six-time national champion Brian Gregg took the men’s title in the 50km skiathlon, while U.S. Biathlon Team member and former Michigan Tech skier Deedra Irwin won the women’s title. The skiathlon incorporates the two different styles of cross country skiing – 25 kilometers using the traditional classic diagonal stride technique and then 25 kilometers of the freestyle or skating technique.
“Conditions were excellent, with moderate temperatures, no wind, and a great snow base,” said race director Angela Luskin, Health and Fitness Manager at UP Health System Portage. “As they do every year, skiers said they enjoy our course, and we have the best snow conditions in the Midwest. Our groomers did a great job, and I can’t say enough about our volunteers. Without them, we would not be able to put on a race of this caliber.”
The Great Bear Chase also includes competition in each technique at distances of 50km, 25km, and 10km.
The 50km freestyle titles were claimed by Nikolai Anikin (Duluth, MN) for the men, and Ali Towle (Watertown, MN) for the women. The 50km classic winners were David Chamberlain (Minneapolis, MN) and Elspeth Ronnander (St. Paul, MN).
Two Wisconsin high schools won the 25km freestyle: Olivia Dreger (Marathon, WI), and Drake Hacker (Sussex, WI). The 25km classic event winners were Jane Straka (Nashotah, WI) and Lars Dewall (Lakeland, MN).
In the 10km distance, Madeline Koltun (Stillwater, MN) and Daniel Pederson (Milwaukee, WI) took freestyle wins, while Dleanor Bennett (Wausau, WI) and Steve Eles (Houghton, MI) won the classic event.
“About 80 percent of our participants come from outside of our immediate area, which means almost 650 skiers and their families are renting hotel rooms, eating at restaurants, and supporting our local economy,” said Luskin. “Cross country skiing is a silent sport, but has a large impact for local businesses not only on Bear Chase weekend but throughout the winter.”
Some 150 volunteers are needed to plan the event, set up the course and start and finish areas, provide several aid stations for skiers, and prepare a huge pasty luncheon at Calumet High School for racers.
The Great Bear Chase is also the concluding race in the CXC Ski Marathon Cup, which includes six of the biggest cross country ski events in the Midwest.
Results and photos are at www.greatbearchase.com. The 2020 Great Bear Chase will take place March 7.