Outdoors adventure: Children and adults enjoy Barnelopet

HANCOCK — In order to run an event like the 12th annual Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club/ Sons of Norway Barnelopet Ski Race, which took place Sunday, event coordinator Wayne Stordahl had to start gathering volunteers in October in order to come up with the 24 necessary to put the event on. A race for young and older cross country skiers alike, Barnelopet gathers racers on the Maasto Hiito ski trail system for a day of fun for children aged 3-17 and their parents and grandparents alike.

Included in the races are a varied group of distances from 1- to 6-kilometer.

“This event (has) four stages to it for the various age groups,” said Stordahl. “It’s intended to give the kids an opportunity to cross country ski, which they probably haven’t done before, and to enjoy the outdoors in the winter time.

“(It’s something that) a lot of kids don’t get to do. We think it’s worthwhile. We’re including the parents now to ski with their kids, and everybody has a good time.”

The event was started for the youth of the area to enjoy the outdoors and learn new skills in a family-fun way.

“At this time in the year, all the events are centered around the students at the high schools and (colleges), so this gives the younger kids an opportunity to get involved in some sport activity that they wouldn’t otherwise get involved in,” said Stordahl.

Of course, it does not hurt to help advertise the trail system at the same time.

“(We also get) to show off our trail system,” said Stordahl. “One of the better-kept secrets in the Copper Country is the Maasto Hiito ski trail system. We’ve got 26 kilometers of trails that we groom and track throughout the winter.”

Barnelopet has a lot of community support behind it.

“The event is sponsored in part by the Keweenaw Nordic Ski Club, the Sons of Norway, Ulseth Lounge, (and) the city of Hancock,” Stordahl said. “The expenses of the event are covered by the Portage Health Foundation. The city provides the grooming and the ski club and the Sons of Norway provides the manpower to do it.  

“I hope they learn how to be good sportsmen on the trail and enjoy themselves. A fun time is what we’re looking for.”

The Ski Tigers, a local club that brings together the youth of the area, enjoyed a day on the trails with their families.

“Both of my kids are in Ski Tigers,” said participant Charlie Klein. “(This is) my son’s second year and my daughter’s first year. It’s a community-wide event (and) it’s good to get the kids outdoors and have them participate in friendly competition. (They like) being outside in the snow and being out with all of the other kids skiing.”

Illya Velat finished the 6K race in first place with a time of 30:47. Coming in second was Robin Kisiel with a time of 33:13. Henry Lounibas came in 17 seconds later in third place with a time of 33:30.

“I’m part of the Ski Tigers,” said Velat, “an organization where young kids and older people alike can join up. You just ski around and have fun. I like hanging out. You meet lots of new people, make lots of new friends. I like skiing with my friends and having fun.”

“I’ve learned that not everything is (a) competition. Lots of things are (about) just having fun. It’s not always serious and you can have fun when you want to.”

Brenden Jukuri finished first in the 4K race with a time of 28:08. Daniel Lounibos was one second behind with a finish of 28:09 and Terrence Nolan came in third place with a finish of 30:57.

Jasper Ausema won the 2K with a first place time of 16:13. Kaija Goulette came in second place with a time of 16:23. AnnaMae Nolan finished third with a time of 17:35.

Ayden Hodges came in first in the 1K race with a time of 18:17. Madelyn Green brought in second with 18:22 and Mayah Green came in third with a time of 23:50.

More importantly for everyone involved, fun was had by the entire group.