HOUGHTON - The top high school Nordic skiers from around the state will compete in the Michigan State High School Nordic Ski Championships today and Saturday at the Michigan Tech Trails.
The Copper Country Ski Tigers - a team of 16 skiers from Houghton, Hancock, Calumet, Chassell and Hubbell - are looking to defend their 2011 title. The races begin today with a classic 1K sprint before competing in both classic and freestyle 5K pursuit events on Saturday.
According to Tigers coach Mike Young, the top local skiers to watch are girls Evelyn Delong, Isabel Sharp, Anna Meese and Sarah Lyle, while Hendrick Haataja, Dan Wood, Zeb Featherly, Grant Haataja and Issac Stone are the best of the boys.
Evelyn Delong of the Copper Country Ski Tigers takes a corner during a race at the 2009 Michigan State High School Nordic Ski Championships. The event returns to the Tech Trails for this year’s event, which takes place today and Saturday.
"This team is young and very enthusiastic with great future potential," Young said in a release. "Three team members have been named to Great Lakes District Junior National Team and will compete at Nationals in Utah in March."
And while it may seem like the snow has been lacking this winter - at least by Houghton standards - Michigan Tech Trails director Mike Abbott said the course is in excellent shape.
He expects the race to be one of the fastest of the season this weekend.
"The trails are in great shape, they are just really fast," Abbott said. "These kids all know how to wax their skis for the conditions. Skiing in the Keweenaw this year has been really terrific."
In fact, Abbott said he expects the Tigers might enjoy a home course advantage just because the local skiers have had more time to practice this year than the competition.
According to Abbott, teams from as far as Minnesota have trekked up to Houghton earlier in the season due to a lack of snow available to them.
"People have been coming up here because there is no snow anywhere else," Abbott said. "Our kids have been on snow since the week before Thanksgiving."
Along with hosting the Tech Trails hosting the racing, Abbott said he expects other outdoors activities will see a boost in attendance this weekend as well.
There are about 80 skiers participating, and including family, friends and coaches, they expect upwards of 200 people will be making the journey for the weekend. Mont Ripley, snowmobiling and bait shops could all see some tourism business.
"This is a good time a year, you have eight or nine teams, about 80 racers and about 200 people show up," Abbott said. "And they are all coming to town essentially for three days, all staying locally in hotels and eating in local restaurants. It is very good for Houghton."
The qualification rounds today start at 4 p.m. with finals heats going as late as 7 p.m. Saturday, the earliest race starts at 9 a.m. with the last kicking off at 3 p.m.