Kicking off the Masters World Cup races, competitions for Master skiers over the age of 30 will take place in Theodore Wirth Park, approximately five to seven kilometres from the Minneapolis city center. The first competition is on Jan. 20, with the final races on Jan 26. Then the annual City of Lakes loppet festival welcomes approximately 11,000 skiers from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4 with such events as loppets, tours, snow sculptures, skijoring with dogs, snowshoeing, and so on.
The Park features 759 acres of diverse ecosystems in a stunning urban forest. The serenity of the park and woods sets it apart from the bustling metropolitan area; visitors often forget that they are in the heart of a city. The 29 kilometres of trail stretch to the Chain of Lakes, with its additional eight kilometres, making this system among the longest urban ski-trail networks in North America.
“This promises to be one of the best, easiest overall travel experiences. We have an international airport within 20 minutes of the ski trails, with the host accommodations in between. The host village is in downtown Minneapolis, with easy access to restaurants, attractions and a variety of accommodation levels. With a huge concentration of a competitive, active local Masters skiers, the event will be very well rounded in terms of competition and nightlife,” said Nels Dyste, chief of competition.
John Munger, the Loppet Foundation's executive director, expanded, saying, “There are not many places in the world where there are 3.5 mil- lion people all living in a place that can support cross-country skiing. As well, in Minneapolis our founders set aside all the best land for the public good. Because of this we are able to run an entire cross-country-ski marathon right in the heart of the city. It's pretty unique to be able to do that in this size of a metropolitan area.”
The community gets behind the various projects, making it all possible. Munger went on to say, “We have an incredible ski community in the Twin Cities – probably the biggest single concentration of skiers in North America, if not in the world. We could not have done any of this without our fantastic community.”
Much work has been done to prepare the area for the best possible event, yet the executive director is a bit nervous, hoping the weather cooperates and that its new trailhead complex, consisting of a new building and stadium area, will be completed on time.
“We had a really hard summer, with lots of rain and some unfortunate surprises,” said Munger. “It turned out that a soil test was wrong, and all the soil on the building site had to be replaced. Completion is set for mid-january.”
Part of the overall Trailhead and Trails and Recreation “upgrade” includes more snow via additional snowmaking machines, enhanced water capacity and just more stations in production. Last year, a cooling tower was also added to allow for snow-making in warmer temperatures.