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Bear Chase to Finish in Downtown Calumet

Fri, Dec  22, 2006 - By Dave Mayo-Kiely

Fifth Street in Calumet, MI is filled with the cars of Christmas shoppers today, but on Sunday March 11, it will be filled with more than 500 skiers as they complete the 27th Annual River Valley State Bank Great Bear Chase.  For the first time ever, the races will finish on Fifth Street in Historic Downtown Calumet.

The plan to move the finish to downtown Calumet has been incubating in the mind of Rick Oikarinen for many years, “It’s a great way for the community to get a better view of the finishing skiers.”  When Tom Tikkanen of Main Street Calumet joined the Bear Chase Planning Committee last year the idea found a natural partner.  “Main Street Calumet is always looking for ways to highlight our historic downtown, the local businesses are very excited to have the racers finishing on the snow covered bricks of Fifth Street.”  Tikkanen said. 

The Copper Island Ski Club and the Race Planning Committee discussed the change at length in numerous meetings over the past two years.  Once organizers were satisfied that the change could be made while maintaining the high standards Bear Chase racers have come to expect they embraced the idea of a downtown finish.  Oikarinen added, “We will have lots of clean snow to cover Fifth Street and the two additional road crossings.  Racers don’t need to worry about that.”

The positive impacts of moving the finish are many.  In addition to Fifth Street being much more festive than the former finish area, racers will be only 150 feet away from the Keweenaw Heritage Center, which will serve as the staging area for post race refreshments before the awards ceremony itself at the Calumet Middle School.  After refueling, racers can then return to Fifth Street to cheer on their fellow racers. 

The view up Fifth Street in April

There will be more than just skiers out on the 11th though.  According to Tikkanen, “Businesses will be open along Fifth Street and are looking forward to having the racers and other spectators stop in.”  The new finish line will be another way for them to embrace the skiers, “The local community has always been very proud of the Bear Chase and this is just another way to make a great ski race even better.”, he added.

The biggest plus to the new finish is the sheer uniqueness of skiing down Historic Fifth Street.  Many recent projects have begun to restore the street to its early 20th century grandeur.  As skiers approach the finish they will ski by several of Calumet’s historic churches before heading down the street’s snow covered bricks.  Along the finishing stretch the cheering of spectators will echo off the historic buildings carved from locally mined Jacobsvile Sandstone to create a finish experience that will prove to be second to none.

For more River Valley State Bank Great Bear Chase information visit

Getting ready for the downtown finish circa 1913