Fabulous Trails and Finnish Charm at Lappe Nordic NorAm

Nationals at Lappe with Ingrid and Logan last year
Nationals at Lappe last March

I’m back from a weekend of racing the Haywood NorAm event in Thunder Bay.  Races were held at the amazing Lappe Nordic ski club, which also hosted the Canadian Cross Country Ski Championships last March.  There is a lot to love about this ski center . . .  incredible trails, superb organization, saunas in the change room, and delicious food including Finnish pancakes!

NorAm races typically draw a very competitive field, and the results of these races will help decide Canada’s teams for the  World Junior/u23 championships in Rasnov, Romania. Athletes got ready for a skate sprint, individual start classic, and skiathlon.

Dressed for the cold with Alex and Kyla! (Alex Slobodian Photo)
Skiers or bank robbers? (Alex Slobodian photo)

Thunder Bay tends to be cold in January, and this year was no exception. For the health of the athletes, races can’t run if it’s colder than -20 deg C.  With a careful eye on weather forecasts, organizers changed race days and start times to maximize the probability of racing.

Races were held in conjunction with an Ontario Cup event (also three races), which added to the challenge. Ontario Cup athletes were lucky and raced their events Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Unfortunately Sunday’s cold forced the cancellation of the skiathlon for NorAm athletes, no doubt crushing the hopes of skiers who viewed this distance race as their chance to make the championship team.

Ready and waiting to race
Ready and waiting to race the skiathlon

Personally it was a good event, and I finished 12th in the sprint and in the classic 10k race. I managed to get into the skate sprint semi-finals as a “lucky loser” based on the time in my quarterfinal.  I felt stronger in each heat (the distance racer in me!) and was excited started the “Grunt” climb in the B final, but got caught up with another skier, fell down, and lost the group.

Start of 10k classic (Doug Ranahan photo).
Start of 10k classic (Doug Ranahan photo)

My XC Ottawa teammates had good races, and local clubs Nakkertok, Skinouk, and Chelsea Nordic had some stellar performances.

Although I was disappointed not to race the skiathlon, it created opportunities that led to a great day. While waiting around to race, the women’s field had some spirited discussions about keeping women in skiing, noting the lack of women participating at this event.

In contrast, a similar caliber event in the US (like the races we attended in Craftsbury or Middlebury) have fields of almost 200 women, including many collegiate racers of varying abilities (possibly some clue to the US Women’s team growing success on the world cup circuit?).  The women’s field at Lappe was mostly Training Center athletes and a few clubs (only 35 Junior women and 23 Senior women were registered to compete in the skiathlon, with fewer entered in the other events).

Great discussions (Alex Slobodian Photo)
Where are all the women? Great discussions (Alex Slobodian Photo)

After the cancellation we got out for a ski – it was fun to be on the race course in non-racing mode – you see a lot more! These trails are perfectly groomed, have great flow, and have entertaining names that make you smile as you ski past (e.g., Toilet bowl, Humpty Dumpty, Leena’s Leap, and the long climb at the end of most courses is called “the Grunt”).

Here are a few pictures from the day. It’s always so beautiful when it’s cold . . .

A fun ski on 5k classic course
A fun ski on 5k classic course


At the base of Pilons (it's steep!)
At the base of Pilons (it’s steeper than it looks!)

You can read more about Sheila’s racing here.


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