Nordic skiing events flourish in Traverse City, Mich.
Special youth & masters races at North American VASA, Feb. 10-12
The tranquil forests of Traverse City, Michigan, are ground zero this season for cross-country skiing events.
The 2012 North American VASA, to be held February 10-12, 2012, at the Timber Ridge Resort Southeast of Traverse City, will be celebrating its 36th anniversary as the oldest Nordic ski race in Michigan.
And the VASA is taking another step unto the national stage. A member of the prestigious American Cross-Country Ski Association national marathon series since 1981, the VASA has been chosen to host the 2012 AXCS Masters National Championships.
Race officials expect more than 1,000 skiers representing almost 20 states. With the addition of the Great Lakes Youth Ski Festival, the Vasa weekend will includes two full days of racing. Junior races at distances from 1K to 6K as well as the 12K, 27K and 50K freestyle and classic races will be held on Saturday and the Gran Travers events, including 1-6K junior races and 6K and 16K classic races are set for Sunday.
"The VASA board of directors have been anxiously awaiting this event and look forward to sharing the world-class Vasa Pathway trails and the cozy confines of the Timber Ridge Lodge & Resort," race director Lisa Taylor says.
Early ski season kickoff
The ski season started earlier than ever this year as local bike and ski retailer Brick Wheels hosted the second annual Fall Nordic Ski Festival on October 22-23, a mild weather weekend. VASA Board Member Eli Brown, creator and director of the event, molded an oval race course in the Brick Wheels parking area with Vasa Ski Club volunteers, who scavenged and hauled 50 truckloads of ice chips from area ice arenas throughout the day.
Almost 50 skiers from all over Michigan competed on the two-lap course with most finishing in two to three minutes. "This is the first cross-country ski race in the country, and it is an official Michigan Cup qualifying race," Brown explained.
The weekend activities included a Nordic movie night fund raiser, a ski swap, a raucous party and was capped off with a roller ski clinic on Sunday morning.
Great Lakes Youth Ski Festival
The Great Lakes Youth Ski Festival inaugural competition will provide a showcase for young cross-country skiers from around the Great Lakes region. Included in the roster of events over Vasa weekend, will be age-specific races and other fun ski-related activities.
The Vasa board envisions the youth festival becoming a feeder program for junior Nordic ski racing in the area. The goal of the GLYSF, presented by Farm Bureau Insurance, is to broaden the base of cross-country skiing in the region.
"The U.S. Ski Association has encouraged us to hold an event for our youngest skiers; pre-kindergarten through junior high," Brown said.
Healthy Heart Benefit Tour, Feb. 19
Capping off the week-long ski offerings will be the Healthy Heart Benefit Tour on February 19, also at Timber Ridge. This event, presented by Blue Care Network, will be an untimed 6-16K tour for cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The tour will benefit the Munson Women's Heart Health Fund.
Participants will have the option to have their "passport" checked at a variety of stops where they can have health screening tests conducted by medical personnel.
"This will be a stress-free opportunity for people to ski with their mates or friends, enjoy good music, healthy foods and learn a great deal about heart health," co-event director and ski advocate Nancy Briggs said.
Preparation for the North American VASA and National Masters championship have seen local ski supporters busy since early fall, with ongoing trail maintenance and upgrading happening in the Pere Marquette Forest and on the Vasa Pathway. Passing lanes were widened at a number of pinch points to improve skier safety and a wider start area has been developed. In addition, trail grooming equipment has been refurbished to assure consistent trail care throughout the ski season.
For more information, go to www.vasa.org.
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