MANCELONA — The White Pine Stampede is getting back to its roots.
The 50K race is returning for the 38th annual cross country ski race for the first time in five years — to go with the 20K and the 10K — when the race is held on Saturday, Feb. 1.
"The history of the race started as a 50-kilometer race. That's what the dreamer of this race wanted," said race director Jack McKaig. "It's been that way, then because of some real estate problems we had we just ran out of property. We had to cut it back."
The 50K is back because Shanty Creek acquired some additional acreage and the owner of The Chief Golf Course was willing to let race organizers use the other space that was needed. McKaig said the idea to bring back the 50K was set in motion at the end of last year's event.
"As it was concluding, Bill Fleet, the trail manager, and myself kind of looked at each other. He knows I've been nagging him about having a 50 for a long time," said McKaig. "The race is so much fun and we found out there might be some more real estate opening up. I said, 'we need to expand this to a 50,' and he said, 'yeah.' Now that the Chief Golf Course has generously said go ahead and use what you want, plus Shanty Creek buying 100-plus acres, we were able to extend it. So it's real exciting."
The renewal of the 50K race isn't the only new thing happening at this year's White Pine Stampede. The finish line for the 20K also has been moved from Schuss Mountain to the Summit at Shanty Creek, where the race will end roughly 150 feet from the 50K finish. The 10K is finishing at Schuss Village.
"It just makes it nice. It makes it a lot easier for spectators and it makes it a lot easier for the media," said McKaig.
All races begin at Mancelona High School.
The influx of snowy weather should make the race go off without a hitch, but McKaig isn't ready to declare the conditions perfect just yet. Two years ago the race was canceled and a few years previous to that the event was shortened.
"I could do without 39 degrees and rain today, but generally speaking let's say we're not at the panic point," said McKaig. "This time of year everybody gets a little tense. We're not talking about this being wonderful, but we're not panicking like we were two years ago. I'll feel better when the race is here."
The entry fee is $75 prior to Jan. 31, and $80 on race day for the 50K and 20K races. The 10K race costs $40. Five dollars from each skier's registration is donated to the Children's Hospital of Michigan Ophthalmology Department. More than $97,000 has been generated by the race so far.