skiers at starting line

At the finish line!

Banner photo: Dan Ventrudo, via The Chronicle-Journal.

Sleeping Giant Provincial Park hosted a hugely successful cross-country ski festival on Saturday, March 3, 2018.

The 41st annual Sleeping Giant Loppet attracted close to 800 skiers. They were supported by 200 volunteers, and another 100 friends and family cheering them on.

At least one skier thought it was warm enough to wear shorts! Photo: Frank Commisso

Thirty centimetres of new snow fell the previous weekend, which made for fantastic trail conditions throughout the park. The temperature started at -12 C, and reached a high of -3 C. The weather conditions couldn’t have been better!

The festival consists of six different events of various lengths and difficulties.  The 8 km mini-Loppet saw 279 skiers enjoying a non-competitive day of skiing. The 8 km route is 4 km out and back, featuring a checkpoint at the halfway point.

family of four skiers
The Loppet is for the whole family. Photo: Lynne Peters

The distance is popular with families with parents, grandparents, and kids all skiing together. The checkpoint becomes a picnic location as skiers enjoy the refreshments and snacks provided by volunteers.

No rush here! Skiers enjoy food and drink at the 8 km halfway checkpoint. Photo: John Sims

The 20 km event had the largest group with 328 skiers enjoying the route that circles Marie Louise Lake. Fergus Foster of Murillo, Ontario and Sadie White of Thunder Bay, a member of the National Team Development Centre – Thunder Bay, were the first male and female skiers for this event.

These two skiers won’t get lost in a snowbank! Photo: Frank Commisso

The 35 km distance is a non-competitive event that utilizes the beautiful trails around Pickerel Lake and along the Burma Trail. Forty-six skiers enjoyed the satisfaction of completing this challenging distance.

A group of Year 1 Lakehead University Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism students enjoy their first Loppet experience
A group of Year 1 Lakehead University Outdoor Recreation Parks and Tourism students enjoy their first Loppet experience. Photo: John Sims

Skiing approximately 50 km has been the ultimate challenge since the event began in 1978 as the Thunder Bay Ski Tour. The festival was also know as the Sibley Ski Tour for many years with the name being changed after the park became known as Sleeping Giant.


There are two distinct techniques in cross-country skiing. The traditional diagonal stride method is known as classic technique, and the skate method is known as free technique for competition purposes.

Brad Folino of presenting sponsor Halfway Motors Nissan with Caitlin Gregg (left) of Minneapolis and Alannah Maclean of Thunder Bay. Photo: John Sims

The skiathlon event is relatively new, and sees skiers use each of the two techniques for half of the course. The champions in each of the events with their times are as follows:

Michael Somppi (left) of Thunder Bay and Brian Gregg of Minneapolis, 1st and 2nd place finishers in the men’s 50 km Free Technique event. Photo: John Sims

50 km – Free Technique:

Female: Caitlin Gregg, Minneapolis, 2:22:28

Male: Michael Somppi, Thunder Bay, 2:11:29

50 km – Classic Technique:

Female: Mia Serratore, Thunder Bay, 3:09:25

Male: Tamer Mische-Richter, Bloomington, MN, 2:40:30

50 Km – Skiathlon

Female: Becky Puiras, Thunder Bay, 2:58:29

Male: Sam Anderson, Andover, MN, 2:40:08

A number of skier groups participated in the new Four Event Challenge. This is a fun team event that requires a member of each four-person team to ski one of the 8 km, 20 km, 35 km, or 50 km distances.

elite skiers
Elite racers in the 50km Free Technique event round the first corner. Photo: Lynn Strey

The fastest combined time is the winner. There are five categories with the winning teams as follows:

Family – 8:12:40

Emmi Puiras, Maaritta Puiras, Susanna Puiras, Becky Puiras

Family 3+1 – 8:36:41

Hazel Moffat, Eugene Vandal, Brok Latimer, Guy Latimer

Female – 8:50:50

Charlotte Sarrazin, Mackenzie Thompson, Susan Fabius, Rena Viehbeck

Male – 6:10:07

Liam Kyle, Edgar Sarrazin, Niklas Harkonen, Michael Somppi

Mixed – 7:45:11

Mikkai Jones, Ruth Zavitz, Peter Lovis, Rosemarie North

Age group awards in five categories were also presented at the awards social. The high school with the greatest total of kilometres skied was Superior CVI, and Chris Hegg of Grand Marais, MN became the first member of the Woody 50 Club.  Chris has been skiing the 50 km distance on the same pair of wooden skis since the 1980s. Guy Latimer and Ron Lappage continued their record of consistency, being the only two people to have skied in the event every year since 1978.

All of the results are available on the loppet website here.

Thank you volunteers!

Members of the Canadian Ski Patrol – Superior Zone provide first responder services. Photo: Lois Nuttall

The loppet enjoys a dedicated group of volunteers who return each year to ensure that the participants have an enjoyable and safe day of skiing.

Whether it’s serving skiers at the checkpoints, transporting and setting up equipment, providing timing and finish line assistance, or simply ensuring that everyone gets a parking spot, the volunteers are very much appreciated by the skiers.

Longtime checkpoint volunteer, Robert Workman, serves up cookies and warm gatorade to a young skier. Photo: John Sims

A group of volunteer photographers document the fun and action with hundreds of photos posted on the website. For the true flavor of the event be sure to visit the photo gallery.

mother and child skiing
Sprint to the finish. Photo: Lois Nuttall

The loppet’s traditional date is the first Saturday in March, so mark your 2019 calendar for March 2, 2019! Be sure to join the fun at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park.