This year, when participants gather for the largest cross country ski event in Northern Ontario, there will be a few new twists and turns, but not on the trails. Organisers of the annual Sibley Ski Tour are thrilled to announce its evolution into the Sleeping Giant Loppet.
“There are several reasons for the name change,” says Peter Gallagher, Event Coordinator who has been associated with the Sibley Ski Tour in a variety of capacities for thirty years. “We want to more accurately reflect the location of the competition within Sleeping Giant Provincial Park,” he says. The Park changed its name from “Sibley” in 1988. Organizers feel that the new name is more easily identifiable with the City of Thunder Bay, the iconic landmark gracing the harbour, and ties in with other marketing strategies for the community.
In an effort to appeal to ski marathon competitors, particularly those in the upper Midwest United States, the new name also includes the word “loppet.” Having nothing to do with rabbits, the Scandinavian word describes a mass-participation long distance cross country ski event and literally translated means “citizens’ race.” Organizers anticipate an increased profile within the competitive community by positioning the Sleeping Giant event as a Loppet.
But the new name is not the only change greeting the over 1000 participants expected to take part on March 7, 2009. Organizers have made some adjustments to race distances as well.
“We’ve added a 35km medium distance event,” says Gallagher. “We found there was a desire from many people to create a course and category longer and more challenging than the 20 km route, but not as demanding as the 50 km distance.” The new mid-distance event will have a separate start area at a location along the 50 km course known as Checkpoint 2 and will take participants along the Pickerel Lake and Burma Trails before returning to the Start/Finish area at Lake Marie Louise Campground.
Diagonal stride, or classic, skiers will also be thrilled to know that there will be a separate, earlier start in the 50 km category with results exclusive to their technique. Following the same course as the freestyle skiers, their finish times will be ranked separately and awards presented to the top three finishers, both male and female. “The two techniques are distinctly different,” says Gallagher. “It isn’t reasonable to compare and rank skiers who complete the course on classic skis with those who are skating.”
With an eye on the competitive Loppet circuit south of the border, organizers have added a further incentive to the 50 km Freestyle event. A substantial cash prize of $1000 for the first place finisher in both the male and female categories will be presented to the racer with the fastest time. Prizes will also be awarded to the second and third place skiers.
This year, the Sleeping Giant Loppet will also serve as a qualifying event for the Birkebeiner. The “Birkie,” as it is affectionately called, is the Boston Marathon of Loppets and attracts over 8000 skiers to Wisconsin. Participants are seeded according to their finishing time in qualifying events. The recognition of the Sleeping Giant Loppet as one of these events is an acknowledgement of the high standards local organizers place on timing, organization and race profile.
But even with the focus on increasing the competitive capacity of the event, organizers are quick to point out that keeping a fun, family atmosphere is important. The recreational 10 km event is ideal for young skiers and those who are new to the sport, while the 20 km distance offers a few more challenges. These routes still offer skiers spectacular views of Sleeping Giant Provincial Park and Lake Marie Louise. Participants can be part of the thrilling mass start, enjoy the benefits and snacks at checkpoints, and experience finishing along the same corridor and over the same finish line as the competitive distances. Food vendors and entertainment will also be added to the 2009 Loppet festivities.
With additions and changes building on 32 years of success, organizers are encouraging all ages and abilities of skiers to mark March 7, 2009 on their calendars, visit the website at www.sleepinggiantloppet.ca and plan to SKI THE GIANT!
For more information, contact:
Jean E. Pendziwol
Sponsorship and Communications
Sleeping Giant Loppet
Thunder Bay Nordic Trails
851 20th Side Road, Thunder Bay, P7J 1M6