CALUMET - This time last year, Portage Health Great Bear Chase organizers were talking trails, trails and more trails as they convinced their hundreds of skiers that the Swedetown Recreation Area trails were ready to go.
This year they need no convincing - the Copper Country is still covered with snow, and organizers are eager to host Saturday's Great Bear Chase at 9 a.m.
"The weather is cooperating, and snow conditions are excellent," Race Director Angela Luskin said. "We're in great shape for this year."
Michael H. Babcock/Daily Mining Gazette
In this 2009 Gazette file photo, participants race down Swedetown Hill in the Great Bear Chase, held annually in Calumet. This year’s race will take place at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The biggest step forward for the Calumet-based cross country ski race that includes a 26K race and a 51K race is in the registrations.
"The planning has been going excellent this year, we've really stepped up our marketing and I think it's paid off because we're at over 300 racers already," Luskin said. "That's well ahead of where we're usually at because we usually get an additional 100 at our last registration time."
That last registration time is tonight from 4 to 8 p.m. at Cross Country Sports in Calumet.
"That's when we take the last few racers, and we usually get about 100," Luskin said. "A lot of people wait to see what the snow conditions are going to be."
A 400-person race is above average for recent races, and climbing back up to historical highs for the 31-year-old race.
The racers will be busy with a slew of activities surrounding the race, including a spaghetti dinner tonight from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Irish Times, square dancing Saturday from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Calumet Theatre and a brunch ski Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Swedetown Trails.
"We want a lot of events going on to showcase our community and what we have to offer," Luskin said. "This event brings a lot of people to the area, and when there's more stuff going on, it gives them more to do while they're here."
With an estimated 400 people participating in Saturday's race, which begins at 9 a.m., it's a picturesque scene with hundreds of skiers taking off at once.
"If people want to come out and cheer on the racers, it's a great spectator event," Luskin said. "Just standing near the Swedetown Chalet allows you to see the racers quite a few times."
Luskin said it takes about 100 volunteers to make the race go, and they still need a few more to help at aid stations, act as bag attendants and with set-up/tear-down of the start/finish line.
"The community support is really great, we're happy with how much support we receive every year."
For more information, visit bearchase.org. To volunteer, call Luskin at 281-3484.