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High School

2003-2004 Racing Season Preview

November 3, 2003

How appropriate to be writing a preview for the racing season as the first big snowfall is hitting the region here in early November...

Last Season Recap

Two in a row -- two bad skiing seasons in a row. For most skiers, the season didn't even start until early February and didn't last more than about 30 days. In fact, most of the racing crowd became very familar with man-made snow skiing conditions. In the Twin Cities, nearly every race was held on either a lake or at a downhill area. Amazingly, almost all of the major area races managed to pull out a race, including the Pepsi Challenge, Noquemanon, Mora Vasaloppet and American Birkebeiner. And most surprising, a new upstart, the City of Lakes Loppet, held its inaugural event in a rather snowless Twin Cities, yet drew over 800 skiers.

Gone But Not Forgotten

As the new season opens, there are a number of sad race depatures to note. Perhaps the most alarming is the demise of the St. Paul series of ski races: the La La Palooza Loppet, King Boreas, and popular New Year's Day races all have fallen due to budget cuts and lack of support. Only the Classic Hiihto survives from the original series. The fun and challenging Governor's Cup is out -- maybe permanently -- a victim of the recent poor winters and difficult calendar dates. The Twin Cities lost two additional events this season as the Ski Games at Battle Creek and the Murphy Challenge are both not on the calendar this winter. The Porcupine Mountains Ski Marathon is cancelled this season but hopes to return in the near future once the new management of the Porkies skiing area has settled in.

New Kids

As much as every season has a few races folding up, every year there are a number of new ones to take up the challenge. This year is no exception.

In mid-December, Wolverine in Ironwood, MI, helps kicks off the season with the Grandview XC Ski Challenge which includes two days of top notch racing. The New Year's holiday weekend is the landing zone for the Ice Age Challenge, a race put on by the Madison Nordic Ski Club. The next weekend Iron County in NE Wisconsin features their trail systems with two days on racing in the Stormy Kromer Pursuit. Near the end of January, Ramsey County helps fill some of the recent racing void in the Twin Cities with a new classical race at Tamarack Nature Center in White Bear Lake, coined the Classic Nordic Challenge.

In addition to those new races, there will be a couple of national series coming to the region this winter. The NorAm series goes super-size, becoming the NorAm SuperTour, with an expanded series of races across the country. The Midwest will host two SuperTour events, one at the challenging Mount Itasca course in Coleraine, MN in mid-January and another one, a week later, on the popular Telemark Resort trail system in Cable, WI. And if all that isn't enough, the National Masters have dropped into the middle of some of the busiest racing action of the season with a nearly week long event hosted in Marquette, MI this winter.

Other Highlights

Some other highlights from this season's calendar:

  • Because of the National Masters invasion, Pepsi Challenge has for this winter at least, moved their race to the last Saturday in January.
  • Snowflake in Duluth opens the season with two days of racing in early December.
  • The third weekend in January continues to remain quite popular, this season hosting at least eleven events.
  • Even with the recent "snow challenged" seasons, racing will go on this season: a number of races will be hosted on man-made snow courses, with many other events using such sites as backups in the event of poor conditions.
  • As it has been for many years now, the Birkie continues to dominate its race weekend with no challengers on the calendar.
  • Maplelag's Lotvola Cup wins the award for the most unique positioning this season: their race will be on Leap Day, February 29th.

Final Notes

While viewing the racing calendar, realize that the first racing dates are still more than a month away. That means you may find the calendar information changing frequently, and that many of the web site links may still contain last year's racing info as those site organizers are working to get ready for this season.

Race Calendars

Without further ado, we present the 2003-2004 racing calendar...

December 2003

January 2004

February 2004

March 2004

Once again this season, we'd like to acknowledge the excellent publication, Silent Sports. Editor Greg Marr readily exchanged information with us throughout the summer and fall as the director's calendar materialized.
This upper Midwest publication should be in every skier's mailbox!
-- Ed.

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