THE VOL­UN­TEERS

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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.

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