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Header photo: Dan Ventrudo, via The Chronicle-Journal.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park hosted a highly successful cross-country ski festival on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

The 41st annual Sleeping Giant Loppet attracted nearly 800 skiers. They were supported by 200 volunteers and another 100 friends and family cheering them on.

At least one skier thought it was warm enough to wear shorts! Photo: Frank Commisso

A foot of new snow fell last weekend, creating fantastic trail conditions throughout the park. The temperature started at -12 C and peaked at -3 C. The weather conditions couldn’t have been better!

The festival consists of six different events of varying length and difficulty. 279 skiers participated in the 8 km mini-Loppet and enjoyed a non-competitive day of skiing. The 8 km route is 4 km round trip, with a checkpoint halfway along the route.

family of four skiersThe Loppet is for the whole family. Photo: Lynne Peters

The distance is popular with families with parents, grandparents and children skiing together. The checkpoint becomes a picnic spot as skiers enjoy snacks and refreshments provided by volunteers.

There’s no rush here! Skiers enjoy food and drink at the checkpoint halfway down the 8km trail. Photo: John Sims

The 20 km test had the largest group with 328 skiers enjoying the route that surrounds Lake Marie Louise. Fergus Foster of Murillo, Ontario and Sadie White of Thunder Bay, a member of the National Team Development Center – Thunder Bay, were the first male and female skiers in this event.

These two skiers won’t get lost in a snowbank! Photo: Frank Commisso

The 35km distance is a non-competitive event utilizing the beautiful trails around Lake Pickerel and along the Burma Trail. Forty-six skiers enjoyed the satisfaction of completing this challenging distance.

A group of Year 1 Lakehead University Tourism and Outdoor Recreation students enjoy their first experience with LoppetA group of Year 1 Lakehead University Tourism and Outdoor Recreation students are enjoying their first experience with Loppet. Photo: John Sims

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Skiing approximately 50 km has been the ultimate challenge since the event began in 1978 as the Thunder Bay Ski Tour. The festival was also known as Sibley Ski Tour for many years and the name was changed after the park became known as Sleeping Giant.


There are two different techniques in cross-country skiing. The traditional diagonal stride method is known as the classic technique, and the skate method is known as the free technique for competition purposes.

Brad Folino of presenting sponsor Halfway Motors Nissan with Caitlin Gregg (left) of Minneapolis and Alannah Maclean of Thunder Bay. Photo: John Sims

The skiathlon event is relatively new and skiers use each of the two techniques for half of the course. The champions in each of the events with their times are the following:

Michael Somppi (left) of Thunder Bay and Brian Gregg of Minneapolis, first and second place in the men’s 50 km freestyle event. Photo: John Sims

50 km – Free Technique:

Woman: Caitlin Gregg, Minneapolis, 2:22:28

Male: Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, 2:11:29

50 km – Classic Technique:

Woman: Mia Serratore, Thunder Bay, 3:09:25

Male: Tamer Mische-Richter, Bloomington, MN, 2:40:30

50 km – Skiathlon

Female: Becky Puiras, Thunder Bay, 2:58:29

Male: Sam Anderson, Andover, MN, 2:40:08

Several groups of skiers participated in the new Four Event Challenge. This is a fun team event that requires one member of each four-person team to ski one of the 8km, 20km, 35km or 50km distances.

elite skiersThe elite runners of the 50 km freestyle test round the first bend. Photo: Lynn Strey

The fastest combined time is the winner. There are five categories with the winning teams as follows:

Family – 8:12:40

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Emmi Puiras, Maaritta Puiras, Susanna Puiras, Becky Puiras

Family 3+1 – 8:36:41

Hazel Moffat, Eugene Vandal, Brok Latimer, Guy Latimer

Woman – 8:50:50

Charlotte Sarrazin, Mackenzie Thompson, Susan Fabius, Rena Viehbeck

Male – 6:10:07

Liam Kyle, Edgar Sarrazin, Niklas Harkonen, Michael Somppi

Mixed – 7:45:11

Micah Jones, Ruth Zavitz, Peter Lovis, Rosemarie North

At the social awards ceremony, age group awards were also presented in five categories. The high school with the most skied miles was Superior CVI, and Chris Hegg of Grand Marais, Minnesota, became the first member of the Woody 50 Club. Chris has skied the 50km distance on the same pair of wooden skis since the 1980s. Guy Latimer and Ron Lappage continued their record of consistency, being the only two people to ski the event. every year since 1978.

All results are available on the Loppet website here.

Thank you volunteers!

Members of the Canadian Ski Patrol – Upper Zone provide first response services. Photo: Lois Nuttall

The loppet has a dedicated group of volunteers who return each year to ensure participants have an enjoyable and safe day of skiing.

Whether helping skiers at checkpoints, transporting and preparing equipment, providing timing and finish line assistance, or simply ensuring everyone has a place to park, volunteers are greatly appreciated by skiers.

Longtime checkpoint volunteer Robert Workman serves cookies and hot Gatorade to a young skier. Photo: John Sims

A group of volunteer photographers document the fun and action with hundreds of photos posted on the website. To get the true flavor of the event, be sure to visit the photo gallery.

mother and son skiingRun to the finish line. Photo: Lois Nuttall

The traditional doll date is the first Saturday in March, so mark your 2019 calendar for March 2, 2019! Be sure to join in the fun at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.