Midwest Racing Season PreviewNovember 21, 2022
It may be hard to believe, but we're just over halfway through November and there's already skiable snow in many places throughout the Midwest, with many more working hard to make snow as we speak. Some might go so far as to call it a Christmas miracle, but as we're still over a month out from the holidays it might be more apt to call it a Thanksgiving miracle?
Nevertheless, the onset of the season calls for a preview of the racing landscape, and so we turn to the calendar to a acknowledge major competitions taking place, go over changes to ongoing events, big and small, and extend a welcome, and bid adieu, to races being added and removed from the pool. Without further ado...
Having only Junior Nationals to focus on last season, the Midwest will once again keep its focus on a singular National level event this season, this time shifting gears to tackle US Nationals which will be coming to the Michigan Tech trails in Houghton, MI, Jan 2-7. The SuperTour will also be making several stops in the Midwest including at the Seeley Hills Classic, Jan 14-15, the Mineapolis JNQ (alternatively known as the Mayor’s XC Ski Challenge), Feb 18-19, and the American Birkebeiner, Feb 25.
Junior Nationals returns to Birch Hill in Fairbanks, Alaska, while the U16 Championships will be held in at the Fort Kent Outdoor Center in Fort Kent, ME. Happening the weekend before Junior Nationals, the collegiate NCAA Skiing Championships will be at the Lake Placid Olympic venue in New York. And, for any Midwesterners looking to take on our northern neighbors, the Canadian Nationals will taking place Mar 12-19 just across the border at the Lappe Ski Centre in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
While there were not quite as many waves being made on the racing scene as in years past, perhaps the biggest splash has been made by the Seeley Hills Classic, which will be moving up two weeks, reverting back to its original weekend, Jan 14th, and competing with the Lapham Loppet in southeastern WI, the Hinderbinder in northwestern WI, and the Pre-Loppet in the Twin Cities. In addition, the Seeley Hills Classic will be a SuperTour stop this season, which has led to the inclusion of a 30K race starting before the usual 42K and 22K races, accompanied by classic sprints the morning after.
A close second in the wave pool is Book Across the Bay which, due to financial pressures, will no longer end in the city of Washburn, WI. Instead, the race will be run in an out-and-back format, starting and ending in Ashland, WI, with a midpoint at Bird Island, just south of Washburn.
Lastly, smaller ripples were made by North American Vasa and MECCA Trails Winterfest, which both added races to their events: a 27K classic race for the former, and 30K freestyle and classic races for the latter.
A pitter-pattering of more minute tweaks include:
- Among the series races, the popular Elm Creek Racing Series will now be held on Tuesday nights (formerly Wednesday nights), and the MadNorSki Race Series will be introducing a Junior Race Series which will take place before the adult races.
- The Lumberjack Jaunt will be shifting from Sunday to Saturday for the 2023 edition of the event.
- The Tuscobia Winter Ultra will have a new 80-mile race start, Butternut Lake Lodge, which will also function as the turnaround point for the 160-mile race. Bag drops will only be available for the 160-mile race (at Ojibwa).
- The Hinderbinder will be implementing self-seeding waves of 20 or less at the start line with the intent that more competitive racers will place themselves in the earlier waves.
- The Great Bear Chase will be collecting bibs at the finish line to reuse next year and reduce waste. Skiers will have the option to purchase their bib during the registration process, with proceeds going towards paying to replace the purchased bibs for the 2024 race.
As the racing scene ebs and flows, new events are added to and removed from the mix each season, with at least three joining the class of 2023. The first two are offerings from the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation: the Ski de She and the Birkie Tour Night Race. The Ski de She is a ski event created just for women, consisting of a 3-day camp Jan 27-29, with competitive racing on Jan 28. While the Camp is limited to 100 participants for the inaugural year, there is an option to register for the races only: 10K and 30K freestyle, and 10K and 20K classic. The Birkie Tour Night Race is a competitive extension of the existing Birkie Tour, taking place Jan 21, in which participants can race on the Birkie Tour course under the stars. Headlamps are required, and distances include a 10K individual race and a 20K team race.
The third class member, the Early Season Team Sprint Invitational, is an opportunity for high school teams to get some team sprint racing under their belt early in the season. The event is open to a maximum of 32 boys teams and 32 girls teams, with each team guaranteed at least two races.
Of course, as the season progresses there is always a chance that more events join the class of 2023, so keep an eye on the calendar for updates!
To the best of our knowledge only a single event has officially met the chopping block since last season: the Three Rivers Ski Rennet. At the time of writing there are, however, still some events that are still awaiting confirmation and thus aren’t showing on our calendar, so check the calendar from time to time to see if any of those eventually materialize.
With many events just on the horizon, it only makes sense to point out the plethora of weekly race series that take place throughout the Midwest. From the Twin Cities to Madison, Duluth to Houghton, these typically mid-week events offer an excellent opportunity to dial in the racing strategy, general fitness, and, seeing as most series races are shorter affairs, exercise those fast twitch muscles.
Check out the full race calendar and start penciling in your own racing schedule. And remember to check our Racing Outlook for updates on upcoming events, as well as the Race Calendar for changes, cancellations, as short-notice additions.
Get those skis out of storage and start waxing, people!
Note: Remember to change the category in the Race Calendar header if you’d like to view high school or collegiate race schedules.