The Good Spirit Cross Country Ski Club hosted its ninth annual Lamplighter Loppet on February 16.
It was an extremely successful event with over 70 participants, the most in its history, according to Darryl Stevenson, club president.
“There were many first time skiers, which included several first time night skiers.” reported Stevenson. “There was a good turnout from a newly formed Nordic ski club at Preeceville.”
Participants came from as far away as Morris, Man. (south of Winnipeg) and Edmonton. In addition to Preeceville, Saskatchewan skiers in attendance came from Canora, Regina, Langbank, Melfort, Humboldt, Kamsack, Norquay, Melfort and Yorkton.
A Loppet is not a race, but rather an event where participants are able to ski at their own pace and cover any distance they wish.
“For example, some youngsters may decide to only ski one kilometre or less in contrast to competitive skiers who may ski several loops of the trail and cover 10 to 20 km in the allotted time,” said Stevenson. “On average a majority of skiers made it to the warmup shelter on this night, which is an 8 km return distance.”
Skiers reported that the trails and the snow conditions were excellent.
“Several skiers commented that after previously skiing several other trails in province, ours were the best they had encountered this year,” said Stevenson. “The club's ski trails were groomed the previous day by Derek Sebastian, a club member, which allowed them to freeze overnight with the temperature around minus 30C. Skiers described the glide as incredible.”
Stevenson said to his knowledge, the Lamplighter Loppet is the only night time event of it’s kind in western Canada. Skiing began around 6:30 p.m. and participants were required to be back in the registration area by no later than 9:30 p.m.
“The names of skiers are entered on a card when registering,” explained Stevenson. “When returning to the registration desk, they must pick up their cards. Organizers then are able to tell if everyone has returned. There is also a backup process to ensure no one is left on the ski trails, by having two of the club's volunteers sweep the ski trails after the required finish time. It should be noted that there have not been any injury incidents at this event in it's nine-year history.”
After an extended stretch of extreme cold, temperatures moderated just in time for the Loppet.
“It was minus 14C during the ski event, which is perfect for skiing,” reported Stevenson. “Many participants expecting cooler weather found themselves overdressed and upon return to the Rec Hall discovered their clothes were wet from perspiration.”
Stevenson said he was pleased to see a wide range in ages among the skiers.
“The youngest participant was four months old and pulled by parents in a ski pod sled. There were several large families with young skiers this year. A larger group of teenagers took part as well. The oldest skiers were mid to late 60's in age,” estimated Stevenson.
After the skiers returned from the trail, the indoor activities got underway.
“The participants were divided into two teams and competed in several relay games,” he recalled. “One involved moving M&M’s by picking them up using straws and placing them at the other end of the table to match a colored drawing.
“Next was a balloon game where players were required to keep their balloons from hitting the floor without using their hands.
“Then we had a carpet relay to music where two players pulled a team member on a piece of carpet holding a balloon the length of the hall and the rider threw the balloon over a table. When the music stopped the team with the most balloons won.
“The final game had two players place a balloon between them and dance without dropping the balloon while not using their hands. The last couple to hold their balloon were the winners.
“These games were planned by Anne Stupak, Loppet founder and organizer, and designed for all ages and greatly enjoyed by all players. Following the games everyone received a door prize and Lamplighter T-shirts.”
Stevenson said in addition to the enjoyment of the skiing, the event allowed participants from many different clubs to socialise and meet avid skiers from other regions.
One of the highlights of the evening for many of those in attendance was meeting a participating couple presently living in Kamsack, but they spoke only Russian.
“The husband is working in the Norquay area on a temporary work visa and both are experienced skiers,” stated Stevenson. “Their accompanying friend and interpreter stated that the couple thoroughly enjoyed the event and the evening's festivities. In my view they were also the best dancers.”
Stevenson acknowledged the many volunteers who contributed their time and labour, as well as the Good Spirit Provincial Park for providing the hall and assistance in putting on the event.
“The Lamplighter Loppet continues to be a successful event for the Good Spirit Cross Country Ski Club and we are confident it will continue to grow in ski seasons to come,” he concluded.