Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

January 5, 2014

No worries for Vasa officials this year

TRAVERSE CITY — Barring a “calamity,” Vasa ski officials should enjoy a more stress free run-up to next month’s annual Festival of Races.

All thanks to Mother Nature.

More than 40 inches of snow has already fallen in the Grand Traverse area — compared to just 12.3 inches at this date a year ago.

“Obviously, we’re having a fantastic winter,” Vasa director Doug Dowdy said. “We couldn’t be anymore excited. It’s so beautiful on the trail right now. TART has done a great job of grooming it. Everyone is enjoying it.”

Everyone was enjoying it Saturday when temperatures soared into the 30s.

“I was at Timber Ridge for a meeting (early Saturday) and the parking lot was full,” Vasa board president Pete LaPlaca said. “Then, I went to the trailhead (off Bunker Hill) and that parking lot was full. The skiing is the best I’ve seen in years.

“Unless we have some incredible meltdown, some type of calamity, we should be golden for the Vasa races. With the base we have now, we should be skiing until April 1st.”

That’s welcome news since it took a late January snowfall last year to save the White Pine Stampede and Vasa.

The Vasa will be held Feb. 8-9. In addition to 6K, 12K, 27K and 50K ski races, a fat tire bike race will be included for the first time. LaPlaca said fat bike races are already part of two of the biggest cross country ski races in the Midwest — the Birkebeiner in Wisconsin and the Noquemanon in Marquette.

“Fat bikes are really growing in popularity,” LaPlaca said. “They’re selling like hotcakes. Einstein Cycles (in Traverse City) is the number two outlet for fat bikes in the country, from what I’ve been told.”

Allowing fat bikes on the Vasa Pathway, though, has brought about some consternation from skiers. Some are so upset, LaPlaca said, they have talked about boycotting the race this year.

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