Courtesy Lois Nuttall
The theme for this year’s 35th anniversary of the Sleeping Giant Loppet, March 3, is “a giant family and friends ski reunion.”
Sleeping Giant Loppet – called Sibley Ski Tour and Thunder Bay Ski Tour in earlier years – happens at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park as a mass participation cross-country ski festival. Many skiers come to see old friends and make it a social gathering, while others take part as recreational skiers who love the park’s wintertime beauty, according to coordinator Peter Gallagher. A third group consists of serious, competitive skiers.
The ski festival draws skiers as young as 4 and as old as 86. Events include the family-oriented 8K mini loppet and the 20K, 35K and 50K (free and classic technique) events. It’s organized by Thunder Bay Nordic Trails, a volunteer organization that maintains trails at Kamview Nordic Center and also Kakabeka Falls and Sleeping Giant Provincial parks.
A sprint event offering cash prizes takes place at Kamview Nordic Centre Thursday night before the Loppet. The Nordic Centre also offers free skiing on Friday before the Loppet and afterward on Sunday.
To add to the fun, participants are invited to wear ski apparel from 1978. Peter plans to don his red-and-black checkered wool lumberjack coat. Another retro element: Those who finish the 50K event on wooden skis will receive a gift certificate.
Two retired educators in Thunder Bay have participated in all 34 years of the loppet, though not always in the 50K event. Both aim to be on skis for the 35th year.
“As long as I’m healthy, I’m planning to take part. I enjoy it because it’s a relatively low-key competitive event,” says Ron Lappage of Thunder Bay.
One year, he skied despite having a cold. Another year, someone stepped on one of his poles, and he had to return to his car for a replacement.
“My goal is always to finish. I’m not a very fast skier. I just go at my own pace,” says the 66-year-old retired professor of kinesiology (physical education) at Lakehead University. He says he’s a recreational skier for whom the loppet is a test of endurance.
“We tend to try to encourage each other,” says Guy Latimer, referring to Ron. A retired high school biology teacher, Guy stays in shape by biking, hiking and skiing. In fact, for years his whole family skied in the loppet, picking up the fastest-family award. His daughter, Brook, has won the 50K race eight times.
Guy is 65, and, like Ron, recalls entering the event even one year when he was sick. He says the loppet is “absolutely a social event,” and notes that he’ll have four or five out-of-town guests stay at his home during the loppet.
The Sleeping Giant Loppet, March 3, at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park. 807-629-0649. www.sleepinggiantloppet.ca.