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40th Great Bear Chase to be held Saturday

Provided by Adam Johnson/brockit inc. One skier follows close on the heels of another during 2019’s Great Bear Chase. A record number of skiers are expected in this year’s race, which also featured several trail improvements to enhance competitiveness.

CALUMET TOWNSHIP — Saturday’s Great Bear Chase is expected to have the most skiers in its 40-year history.

About 900 racers are coming to this year’s event at the Swedetown Trails, which includes seven events. Most out-of-area skiers are coming from Wisconsin, along with Illinois and downstate Michigan.

“Especially for the Great Bear Chase, where 80% are from out of the area, it’s great to have them up here, and we’re really excited about this race coming up Saturday,” said Angela Luskin, race director and health and fitness manager at UP Health System – Portage.

The first race, the 50-km skiathlon – 25 km classic and 25 km freestyle – starts at 8:30 a.m. Separate classic and freestyle races are held for 10, 20 and 50 km, with the last wave of racers launching at 9:25 a.m.

After last year’s race, Swedetown renovated its trails to reduce bottlenecks. The end of Len’s Loop was widened where it meets the main trailhead. On Powderhouse, the most challenging trail, three uphills were widened to allow multiple skiers to ascend simultaneously.

On downhills, a side slope was corrected and a downhill hairpin turn was widened, also to allow multiple skiers.

“It lets the most competitive skiers ski the pace they want,” said Cynthia MacDonald, secretary of the Swedetown Trails Club, the non-profit club that maintains the recreation area for Calumet Township.

Hundreds of hours of volunteer work came from Swedetown members and other community groups, such as local Greek chapters.

Contracted trail work was funded from Swedetown’s general fund and a grant from the Keweenaw Community Foundation’s Keweenaw Cross Country Skiing Fund. That cost about $9,000, said Bruce MacDonald of the Swedetown Trails Club.

The Junior Bear Chase, hosted by the Copper Country Ski Tigers, will be held at 5:30 pm Friday. That offers shorter races for skiers ages 6 to 16. There will also be a C-L-K Rotary pasta feed from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Siskiwit Reception Hall.

In addition to the customary T-shirt, skiers this year also receive ski stickers and ski ties, Luskin said.

The 50k skiathlon is full, Luskin said. Skiers are still welcome to sign up for the others.

People must be pre-registered to compete. To register and to see a full schedule, go to greatbearchase.com.

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