HOUGHTON - Avid Nordic skiers have many choices for ski trails in Houghton County, and in the upcoming Keweenaw Nordic Ski Festival, they have many choices for ski races as well.
Race director Dean Woodbeck said conditions are prime for a weekend of great skiing opportunities.
"They're tremendous. I was out (Wednesday) and these temperatures right around 20 are perfect, and of course, we've got plenty of base," he said.
The strides begin Jan. 16 at the Michigan Tech trails with races for all ages. The festivities start with morning races for juniors, with a J3 event for 12- and -13 year olds (3.5 kilometers) at 9:30 a.m., then a Junior Olympic Qualifier (5/10 kilometers) at 10 a.m.
Then, the full length of the Tech trails will be ready for the Copper Loppet. The 13-kilometer race starts at noon, with the 26-kilometer skiers going out five minutes later.
The 13-kilometer loop includes the Nara and Lower sections of the trail network, with the longer-distance racers doing the path twice.
Man's best friend can even take part in the festivities as part of the Talvitohinat skijoring race.
Skijoring combines skiing and dog-sled racing. Chris Schmidt had done much of the organizing for previous Talvitohinats after taking over from the Keweenaw Land Trust. He said it's a good thing for the event to join forces with the Nordic Ski Festival to increase exposure for skijoring throughout the area.
"I think it's a great thing for the area. We've got so many great trail systems around, and over the last few years a lot of races have disappeared from the calendar," he said.
Schmidt and his golden retriever have been skijoring for five years.
"It's just great being out there with the dog. Getting pulled, it takes a little bit of the load off of me, and it's something fun to do with her," he said.
After the racing, there will be a pasta feed at the Nara Chalet from 3-5 p.m.
Sunday, the scene shifts to Chassell, where there will be another pair of races for youth at the Chassell Classic Trail, followed by the five- and 10-kilometer Copper Island Classic.
Particularly daring racers can participate in the Paradise Pursuit, which combines times for the 13-kilometer Copper Loppet and the 10-kilometer Copper Island Classic for overall bragging rights.
The event benefits the Michigan Tech ski team and the local members Copper Country Ski Tigers saving up for a trip to the nationals, which take place in Maine in March. The Nordic Ski Festival will be the last of three Great Lakes Division qualifying weekends for the Junior Olympic nationals.
For more information or to register, visit the event Web site at www.keweenawtrails.com/KeweenawNordic.
Brandon Veale can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.