Today marks the second day of high school races on the Nordic ski trails at the Happy Jack Recreation Area.
The event kicked off Friday, but the number of racers will increase today with the addition of a junior high school race taking place after the high school event.
According to information provided by the Medicine Bow Nordic Association that grooms the ski trails under a permit with the U.S. Forest Service, parking will be very limited at the Tie City Trailhead today before and during the races. Parking will be limited to buses and race officials.
Recreational skiers and spectators are asked to park at the Summit Rest Area where a shuttle bus will transport people to Tie City.
Today’s events include a 5km classic course for varsity and junior varsity racers beginning at 9 a.m. At noon, the junior high racers take to the track with a 3.5 km classic course.
In addition to the Laramie team, the high school category will include six teams from across the state. Approximately 170-200 competitors are expected.
It’s not known how many junior high teams will attend but the size of the Laramie team makes up for it. Now in its fifth year, the team has 93 skiers in grades 6, 7 and 8.
The University of Wyoming collegiate team takes to the Happy Jack trails next weekend when they host the Cowboy Chase. UW Nordic Team co-head coach Christi Boggs said they expect five collegiate teams with up to 30 college racers for the Cowboy Chase.
On Feb. 18, skiers will compete in a 5 km classic race beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The event includes categories for collegiate men and women as well as a citizen’s class and a children’s race.
The long event, called the Laramie Loppet, is Feb. 19.
Loppet is a Norwegian term for a large, long distance cross-country skiing event or any long endurance race which occurs across varied terrain. The Laramie Loppet will feature a half marathon distance — that’s 13.1 miles or 21 kilometers. It is a “freestyle” event, meaning that skiers can either skate or do classic technique. Classic tracks will be set along the entire course, which is a 10.5 km course with skiers completing two laps.
“We’re really hoping to get lots of different people in the Loppet this year,” Boggs said. “Our real hope is to get some Laramie skiers who either haven’t tried the long distance race before or maybe haven’t even raced at all previously but are up for the challenge.”
In 2016, for the first year of the event, more than 100 skiers participated. The overall winner in 2016 was UW ski team member Will Timmons with a time of 56:56:5. While there were both collegiate and elite skiers competing, the race in 2016 also attracted a number of skiers in the novice division.
One of those was Laramie’s Bern Haggerty who also plans to compete again this year.
“I was almost the last finisher last year, but I’m glad I raced,” Haggerty said. “The timing of the Loppet makes it the perfect workout. I enjoy running events but those races aren’t common in Wyoming in the winter. It is nice to race locally in February without having to travel to another state.”
Haggerty said he skied the race in 2016 using the classic technique, which is slower than skating. He used heavier backcountry skis and, due to snow conditions and the length of the race, Haggerty said he had to stop and re-wax three times but really enjoyed the workout.
Boggs said every racer gets a gift and all finishers receive a commemorative mug.
“We’re really hoping for large numbers of citizen racers of all abilities,” Boggs said. “It’s a great time to try a half marathon in a fun and supportive environment.”
The starting line for all races is at the campground loop and “lower meadow” near the Tie City trailhead. Spectators and volunteers should be prepared to ski or hike a short ways to get to the action. It is recommended that dogs be left at home due to all the activity; such conditions can be quite stressful to pets.
Recreational skiers should be aware of the race course, which will be well marked, and yield to racers. The ski trails farther out from the Tie City trailhead will have less activity. During the races, the trails can also be accessed from the Happy Jack and Summit trailheads.
Find the MBNA race schedule at www.medicinebownordic.org for more information on the Cowboy Classic or the Laramie Loppet.
Amber Travsky earned master’s degrees in wildlife biology and exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She runs her own environmental consulting company, as well as a martial arts school. She authored “Mountain Biking Wyoming” and “Mountain Biking Jackson Hole,” both published by Falcon Books. She is the tour director and founder of the Tour de Wyoming bicycle tour, which crosses the state every July.