The volunteers are ready and they're experienced – from the Foundation's Loppet Ski Festival, which hosts up to 11,000 people, to the Luminary Loppet, which sees 8,000 participants. What makes the Masters World Cup unique is that people come from all over the world to compete.
Mike Erickson, events director at the Loppet Foundation, attributes the City of Lakes Loppet success to its never-give-up attitude. “Our volunteers are amazing. If there were some sort of contest where volunteers from various events could compete against each other as to whose volunteers are the best, I think ours would win, hands down,” says Erickson.
When asked how many volunteers it will take to run the event, he said, “Hundreds, literally. It is a huge year what with these two big events happening one after the other. There will be a lot of moving parts for us, but we are ready for it. The weather is cooling down and winter is right around the corner.
“If people leave here having had a great experience on snow and getting a feel for how good our outdoor community, our parks system, our downtown nightlife and amenities are, and leave wanting to come back again, then it will be a success,” said Erickson.
For Olympian Brian Gregg, the Masters World Cup was the first-ever international ski race he attended, when in 1997 in Folgaria, Italy his mother and father competed. The event made an impression on him. He recalls sitting in a pizzeria and talking to a man who seemed pretty old to his youthful eyes. He asked the man if he had skied that day, and the man responded, “No, I raced today.” The man was in his mid-eighties, and this encounter helped Gregg to grasp that skiing is a lifetime sport.
He's excited that the 2018 Masters World Cup is in his backyard and because a large group called the LEMONS (Loppet Elite Masters On Nordic Skis) is training for it. As well, Gregg notes that staging in Minneapolis is unique because the city's 7.5km snow-making loop is so close to downtown and part of an urban setting, making it is feasible to take the bus to the trails. While the Masters World Cup will be on his radar, Gregg will be preparing to make the U.S. team heading to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The U.S. Master Championships staged by the American XC Skiers (AXCS) in Minneapolis last year served as a Test event for the Masters World Cup. J.D. Downing, AXCS national director, said, “Because the snow/ weather situation was very challenging, it actually ended up being the best possible test of the back-up plans for the MWC2018 and of the ability of the Loppet Foundation organizers to get the job done no matter what. In less than a week, the organizers were able to lay out a similar man-made snow loop as a “fail-safe” 7.5km loop to be buffed out for the MWC2018.
“I skied in the non-official National Master 2017 races last winter, and I was truly blown away by how good the ski conditions were given the super-short timeline that organizers had to work with. I also really enjoyed the terrain of the course and know for a fact that skiers of all abilities also had a great time.
“Obviously we all want lovely natural-snow conditions. Given that the courses are entirely on grass golf fairways, smooth dirt road and paved park paths, you can literally ski the longest 15 kilometres on as little as four to six inches of natural snow,” said Downing.
Downing added he believes one truly unique feature of the Masters World Cup is that its event design allows skiers the chance to appreciate the global connection of skiing on an intimate level. On the start line, everyone is within a five-year age group, so one is experiencing each event with a worldwide sampling of one's peers. “That's an incredibly cool thing to be a part of,” he said.
The last time the event was in North America was in 2011 in Canada at Sovereign Lake, B.C. Before that, it was hosted in Mccall, Idaho in 2008. “The event energizes a whole new demographic of skiers, leading to interest not only in the annual Masters World Cup events, but also helping motivate more skiers to stay excited about cross-country-ski events overall. That's an increasing challenge worldwide, particularly when we have inconsistent weather/snow conditions. Because the MWC is such a fun, exciting and inclusive event, it really is proving to be one of the best recruiting tools for finding what I call ‘motivated Masters,'” he continued.
There are a few changes for this round of MWC races. A new World Masters Association (WMA) rule going in effect for the MWC 2018 is that skiers will be able to pick any three races offered in one's age/gender category. In 2018, athletes can choose to employ both techniques for any race distance, rather than having to pick one.
The local operating committee of the MWC and the WMA organization believe the expansion and simplification of the rules to allow skiers to participate in any three events without technique restriction will increase participation. “While we are unsure how exactly this will be seen in registration numbers, we especially expect a bump in local participation – those who want to try, but are intimidated by the process or unable to commit a week off of work,” said Dyste.
“While ultimately this was a decision by the WMA, and separate from our operating committee, I think the intent was to further engage more potential athletes with the WMC event by making it easier to participate,” he added.
The chief of competition is expecting a large number of the athletes to be comprised of American and Canadian skiers, but he is hopeful that having the option to condense one's race schedule will lead athletes who may have been on the fence in the past year to take a leap and give it a shot.
“Take the opportunity to ski and party hard for a few days and then do a bit of travelling with friends, spouses or partner,” stated Dyste. “We hope our friends to the North will come down and support us, and we expect to have a very strong North American contingent.”
Minneapolis will be the sixth U.S. city to host the Masters World Cup event. Other U.S. venues have included Telemark, Wis. in 1983; Lake Placid, N.Y. in 1986; Anchorage, Alaska in 1992; Lake Placid, N.Y. in 1998 and Mccall, Idaho in 2008.
For more information or to register for the 2018 Master World Cup, please visit www.mwc2018.com.