TRAVERSE CITY -- With the annual Vasa Festival of Races just two days away, things are looking good for first-year race director Lisa Taylor.

"We're on the right track," Taylor said.

Weekend temperatures look promising. The trail is in good shape thanks to some fresh snow and registration has already surpassed last year's field for the cross country ski event.

"We're very optimistic that like other cardiovascular events across the country, we are going to see increased numbers," Taylor said.

Online registration will stay open through today. A year ago, it closed with 427 racers. As of Tuesday afternoon, Taylor said 530 people have already signed up.

"We've got a lot of different states," Taylor said. "A lot of people are interested because this is in the American Ski Marathon Series. People signing up for ski races look for that."

Those coming in from out of town will have plenty to do this weekend when they get to northern Michigan.

"I was looking at the events and there are probably six or seven events marketing to their section of the population," Taylor said. "This is THE weekend to be in Traverse City."

The 34th Vasa is certainly among the big events.

Saturday's races begin at 8:30 a.m. with the 27K Classic. Races run throughout the morning with the awards ceremony at the Hagerty Center at 5:30 p.m.

On Sunday, races will continue with the Gran Travers 6K and 16K and a non-competitive Valentines Tour.

This year, Grand Champion awards will be given for the best combined time in Saturday's 50K Freestyle and Sunday's 16K Classic, as well as a Reserve Grand Champ for the best combined time in Saturday's 27K Freestyle and Sunday's 16K Classic.

Another change this year is the addition of disposable time chips.

"That will be really nice for skiers to not have to worry about unlacing chips or anything," Taylor said.

While the 50K Freestyle will still be run, the 50K Classic has been eliminated this year.

"We're kind of waiting to see what happens with that," Taylor said. "We're in a gathering feedback year. When you put on a race, you have to be willing to change. We want to fine tune it to find a race that works for everybody."

The 50K freestylers will make two laps on the 27K course, creating a hard packed and fast course.

While this year's event will have a few modifications, don't expect anything too different from previous races.

"It will be very similar to last year," Taylor said. "We want to get better each year by fine-tuning what works."

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