By Trevor Finchamp
As is true with many grassroots events, the origins of The Spokane Loppet are a little fuzzy. The spirit of the event, however, hasn’t wavered since John Hatcher first grabbed his stopwatch and set up a chair in the Mount Spokane State Park Nordic Ski Area in the late ‘90s. After one of his favorite local long-distance Nordic ski races shut down, Hatcher was compelled to bring something similar to Mount Spokane.
The trails on Spokane’s most prominent peak already played host to several competitive events for advanced skiers, but Hatcher saw the need for a more inviting competition where skiers of all skill levels were encouraged to challenge themselves, rather than compete against each other. In its early days, the event had no official start time, self-serve aid stations, and the course markers were painted in the snow. The idea caught on fast, however, and Hatcher, along with a small group of volunteers, managed the event by themselves for years.
The race has grown over the past two decades, adding additional routes, participants and distances (20k, 30k, or 50k), but it never strayed far from Hatcher’s original vision. Today’s Loppet still challenges skiers to push themselves, whether they’re trying to come in first place or just finish before the sun goes down.
Nate Lundgren, a 2023 participant, truly embodies the spirit of the event. After participating in his fifth consecutive Loppet, Lundgren said, “My favorite part is coming in last in the 50k as the only classic skier and the only one wearing loose-fitting clothing. Having the Loppet looming at the end of ski season motivates me to get up the mountain as often as I can.” Last year’s 50k winner, Jordan Peters, was a first-time participant in 2023. Despite winning the whole thing in his first year, he still sees the potential to improve. “I’m going to sign up every year to challenge myself. I love distance racing, and there’s no better place to do it.”
Cover photo courtesy of Spokane Nordic Ski Association