Loppet Festival sponsors winter activities in Twin Cities

Kasey Desmond, Staff Writer

Several thousand Minnesotans participated in last weekend’s Twin Cities’ Loppet Festival–a record for the event in its thirteenth year. Over the course of three days, the urban cross country ski festival hosted dozens of winter competitions and celebrations across Minneapolis.

Historically located on the interconnected Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles, the majority of the festival was moved to solid ground–specifically Theodore Wirth Park–due to unforeseen warm weather and lack of snow which made the ice too weak to hold the ski races.

On Friday evening, skiers raced in sprints. All competitions were separated into three age categories: Juniors (for skiers born after 1994), Open (for skiers of any age), and Masters (open to athletes aged 40 and up).

All the “classic style” races were held on Saturday. In addition to these three races, a variety of less conventional races took place on Saturday. Penn Cycle bicycle store sponsored the Penn Ice-Cycle snow biking race. In Pearson’s Crew Ski Loppet, teams of six raced on one pair of 25 foot long skis for a grand prize of a giant Salted Nut Roll. A Skijoring race was sponsored by Chuck and Don’s pet store.

Saturday also hosted the kids’ ski races. The Junior Loppet is a fairly challenging course open to all skiers under 19 years old. The Minne-Loppet is a fun, short race, at the end of which each child receives a medal, hot cocoa and a cookie. Children as young as eight years old participated.

Teams of up to four competed in a snow sculpture carving competition on Saturday afternoon. They carved sculptures out of blocks of snow eight feet high. The winner won a cash prize of $500.

On Sunday, the “skate” races took place. Competitors also raced in snowshoeing and dog sledding. The Loppet Festival is the one weekend each year when dog sledding is allowed in Minneapolis parks.

The Luminary Loppet, still took place on Lake of the Isles, where the ice was solid enough to hold the event on Saturday night. During this portion of the Loppet Festival, Lake of the Isles was illuminated with candles and bonfires. The lake is open for participants to walk around and enjoy complimentary hot chocolate. from the tent on the shore with drinks and local music.

Next year’s Loppet Festival will take place the first weekend in February. This event is a great way to get outside in the winter and show your pride for Minnesota culture.