Today’s post comes from Peter Gallagher, coordinator of the annual Sleeping Giant Loppet event.
Do you want to ski to forget the winter blues?
The annual Sleeping Giant Loppet is a mass-participation cross-country ski festival on the spectacular trail system of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.
The Loppet is a long-standing winter tradition for many Northwestern Ontario families. Mark your calendars: the 44th edition of the event will be on Saturday, March 4, 2023!
The history of the Loppet.
The Loppet began in 1978 as the Thunder Bay Ski Tour.
Guy Latimer, one of two skiers who skied the 41 Loppets. Photo: John Sims
The name was changed to Sibley Ski Tour in 1982 to reflect what was then called Sibley Provincial Park.
The park’s name officially changed to Sleeping Giant Provincial Park in 1988, in recognition of the park’s iconic landform.
In its early years, the event primarily attracted experienced cross-country skiers. At that time, the demanding route normally measured about 50 kilometers.
The tour varied from year to year, and in some cases even ventured onto the ice of Lake Superior.
The challenge of maintaining a trail on the windswept lake soon encouraged organizers to find a suitable location for the land course.
Welcoming the skiers
Approximately 800 cross-country skiers will participate in this family-friendly event featuring distances from 8km to 50km.
The Loppet typically attracts about 100 skiers from the United States, and hundreds more from towns in northwestern Ontario and across Canada.
Photo: John Sims
In addition to the 800 skiers, about 200 volunteers will be needed to run the event. They will perform tasks including staffing checkpoints, parking vehicles, transporting equipment, and timing skiers, just to name a few.
Distances of 20 and 35 km
The Loppet offers a variety of trails for a variety of skiers.
In the 20 km race, some skiers compete for competitive prizes and complete the course in less than an hour. Others enjoy a much slower pace, taking between three and four hours and stopping along the way to enjoy the scenery or take advantage of the refreshment stations.
The tour starts at the Lake Marie Louise campsite and uses the summer road around Lake Marie Louise for the first 15 km. You return to the beginning along a 5 km trail through the forest on the east side of the lake.
The 35km race begins at checkpoint number 2. This event is a non-competitive distance that allows skiers to enjoy the beauty and challenge of the iconic Pickerel Lake and Burma trails.
Are you looking for a challenge? Travel the 50 km!
Following the event’s early traditions, the Loppet includes three 50km distance options.
Elite skiers challenge the 50 km Free Technique test. Photo: John Sims
The free technique distance (skate) of 50 km is the main competitive test of the Loppet. Elite skiers from across Canada and the northern United States challenge each other to reach the awards podium. There are cash and merchandise prizes up for grabs for the top three finishers, both male and female.
For less competitive skiers, the event offers the opportunity to gauge their fitness and complete their goals for the ski season.
A renewed interest in classic skiing led to the establishment of the 50 km classic technique test with its own starting wave and prize structure.
And finally, for those skiers who cannot decide between skate or classic, the skiathlon test allows you to use both techniques during the 50 km route. This group uses the classic technique for the first 22 km and then switches to their skating equipment.
Make it a family affair at the Mini-Loppet
The biggest change at the Loppet over the years has been adding opportunities for entire families to enjoy the event.
Father and daughter share the Loppet experience. Photo: John Sims
The 8km Mini-Loppet is perfect for young skiers just learning the sport, as well as beginners and seniors looking to go down longer distances.
Many parents and grandparents introduce the Loppet to their children by accompanying them skiing. Parents with young children pulled in wagons or sleds are encouraged to join in the fun.
The family smiles at the Sleeping Giant Loppet. Photo: John Sims
The Mini-Loppet includes a refreshment station halfway with hot drinks, cookies and chocolates. All skiers also receive a chocolate medal upon reaching the finish line.
The 8 km test also welcomes paraskiers with visual disabilities.
Families can also participate in the “Four Events Challenge.” This fun team event combines a skier’s race time in each of the four events: 8 km, 20 km, 35 km and 50 km.
There are four different categories for teams. These include; all female, all male, mixed and family (must be a family member). The winning teams receive recognition and prizes at the awards ceremony.
It’s time to run!
Start making plans now to be at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park on Saturday, March 4, 2023!
A father-son bond that creates memories. Photo: John Sims
If you are a skier, there is a suitable distance for you. If you are a cheering family member, be sure to find a cowbell and make plenty of welcoming noise in the departure and arrival areas.
Are you looking for the opportunity to enjoy a winter excursion? Grab your snowshoes to hit some of the non-ski trails and marvel at the talent, determination and camaraderie of the Thunder Bay cross-country ski community.
Online registration is open until February 28 at midnight.
Registration in person will be available at the Kamview Nordic Center on Thursday, March 2 and Friday, March 3 until 8 p.m.
There is There is no registration on Loppet day.