Spokane Nordic’s annual 20/30/50 kilometer loppet on Sunday March 6, 2016. A what you might ask? A loppet is a ski event with a distance over 15 kilometers with an emphasis on participation and fun. For some it’s intense competition, for most it’s a relaxing way to spend a day outside with friends. It is NOT Scandinavian for “should have taken a snowmobile,” although there are people who think skiing long distance is crazy.

The Spokane Nordic Challenge Loppet must not be too extreme because the event brings out over 100 skiers. “It’s cool to ski the 20K if you take it easy and go with friends,” says 11-year-old Maggie McLaughlin, who adds that it’s good to bring a parent to hold treats but that she might go with just friends this year. In a past year, Lou Slak skied to celebrate turning 70, finishing in front of many. Others prefer to volunteer or cheer if they happen to ski by loppet-goers since all trails remain open.

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Way too much fun!

“We’ve skied a long way since this event began,” says John Hatcher, event founder. He means more than kilometers skied. This is a celebration of hard work and advocacy to build and now maintain the cross-country ski trails at Mt. Spokane. The Mt. Spokane Cross-country Ski Park grew from a few trails packed by pulling a steel drum and bed springs behind a snow machine to the now more than 60 kilometers manicured by a state of the art grooming machine.

Racing Team Coach Jud Ford reminisced, “Remember when we made an icy, bumpy 15K loop and the Challenge was just whether skiers could do one loop or two or three? John was the only volunteer so you would make a donation, write your name and starting time, check in when you finished, then grab a granola bar.” Over time, the event has graduated to a well-groomed and marked course with timing and aid stations, and trail expansion allows participants to ski really big loops without repeating terrain.

Loppet refreshments. Very important!

Loppet refreshments. Very important!

Here are a few tips in case you think you want to take on the Spokane Nordic Challenge Loppet this year and celebrate how far the event has come.

  1. Set a goal. Sign up at org for distance longer than you have ever skied or one you want to improve your time for.
  2. Wax your skis. Well waxed skis will make the distance easier. Do it yourself or have your favorite store do them up.
  3. Many volunteers are needed for aid stations, registration, signs, parking, etc. Have fun, meet new people, and see first-hand whether you want to ski it next year.

So make it a plan to participate. Whether you ski, volunteer or become a sponsor, I will see you on the trails and at the party! // (Lisa Sunderman)