HOUGHTON - The United States Ski and Snowboard Association's SuperTour is making a stop this weekend at Michigan Tech's Nordic Training Center, bringing hundreds of skiers of all ages and ability levels to the trails.
Michigan Tech has a history of hosting high-level Nordic skiing. The Tech Trails hosted the U.S. National Championships in Jan. 2008 and the national junior championships in March 2006.
The SuperTour is a level below the national championships and part of a nationwide series of elite races spanning November to April and taking place in nine states.
Michigan Tech’s Jill Smith, first photo, and Jesse Smith, second photo, race in the classic discipline during last year’s NCAA?Central Regional Championships at the Tech Trails. Competitive Nordic skiing returns to Houghton this weekend for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association’s SuperTour, which begins today and runs through Sunday. (DMG photos by David Archambeau)
The course is certified by the International Ski Federation, both for its balanced and challenging layout, and for top-rate facilities.
"A lot of the specifications have to do with the layout of the trail and the amount of climbing, the amount of flat and having it all come together well," Tech Nordic ski coach and chair of the organizing committee Joe Haggenmiller said.
Tech is taking over management of this SuperTour stop after it was given up by organizers in Cable, Wis.
The event begins today with a sprint prologue event before action heats up Saturday morning. Women take to the trails at 10 a.m. for a 5-kilometer race against the clock in the classic style. After a junior boys' race, the top-ranking men will go 10 kilometers over the classic tracks at noon.
But one thing that makes the SuperTour unique is that the racing doesn't end there. There are open classic races (10k for men, 5k for women) that will include senior, masters and citizen skiers that don't have a USSA license.
"The event can be embraced by the community, certainly in many ways," Haggenmiller said.
Saturday will conclude with races for boys, girls and adaptive skiers before a 7 p.m. awards ceremony in the SDC Gym.
Sunday, the focus shifts to freestyle (or skate-style) racing, starting with the elite men's 15-k freestyle race, which starts at 9:30 a.m. The elite women's race is 10k and begins at 11:15. All freestyle events will have a mass start, so the first to cross the finish line will be the winner.
With the event taking place on their home turf, Tech's Nordic skiers will be participating, as well as those from several other schools in the region.
"The level of college skiing in the United States is pretty darn high, so a lot of those skiers are going to be popping into that elite level," Haggenmiller said.
The races will also draw junior skiers from throughout the region, as it is a qualifier for the USSA's Junior Olympics meet in March.
It's part of a huge weekend for Nordic skiing in the U.P., as the Noquemanon Ski Marathon takes place in Marquette County. The SuperTour races can appeal to a different crowd, since they're a shorter distance.
"There's a few gluttons for punishment that look like they're going to try and do the Noquemanon and come up here and race on Sunday," Haggenmiller said.
The hundreds of skiers coming to the Copper Country have much to look forward to, not least of which are excellent conditions.
"I think things are looking ideal. The weather is forecast for temperatures in the high 20s, which are ideal conditions to be racing in." Haggenmiiler said.
For a complete schedule of SuperTour events, visit the website at supertour.mtu.edu.