The Leadville Loppet: 12 Years of Expanding the Belt
By: Brennan Ruegg, Leadville Today Contributor
Grab the wax, and your skinny skis for Leadville’s annual cross-country ski race, returning to the Mineral Belt Trail (MBT) for its 12th year on February 22. The Leadville Loppet shows off the bounty of Lake County’s recreational scene and raises money for improvement of the MBT.
This Nordic tradition calls out to local residents and skiers from afar to celebrate what Lake County offers in the way of winter jollification. The competition features 10k, 22k, and 44k courses for serious racers, and a straight up fun 5k for children and families. This year the Leadville Loppet expects to welcome 150 entrants or more.
The event is what Nordic skier and MBT Committee member Malin Bengtsson calls “the premier fundraiser for the trail,” and with the success of past years, not only helps the trail, but has become “an asset to the entire community.” With plans to expand the trail by adding two more loops deeper into the historic mining district, this year’s Loppet could be the last one on an 11-mile-long Mineral Belt!Loppet: A Swedish word meaning “bloody long ski race.” Join the fun Feb. 22.
The existence of a recreational trail offers innumerable benefits to the public, especially when it stays open all year long and changes with the seasons. These trails showcase the values of the community as well the scenery. It’s something to be proud of, an invitation to visitors, and a darn fun way to spend any day–for free!
But the trail doesn’t stay alive on nothing; it takes the support of the people and businesses of Lake County, and events like the Leadville Loppet.
Beginning and ending at CMC’s Timberline Trail system, skiers of all ages and skill level hook up with the MBT, encircling the city of Leadville, up and down Iron Hill, past Evan’s Gulch, and through ruins of historic mines.
Families will want to participate in the 5k spectacle which begins at 10:15 a.m. Come dressed in costume! There will be contests with prizes awarded to the best dressed and the fastest adult pulling a child. Break time a third of the way into the course with chocolate truffles and limbo. After the race, famous hot blueberry soup for everyone.
All this is made possible by people like Vicki Koch of High Mountain Pies, who has sponsored the event and organized volunteers for several years, people from Melanzana, The Grill, City on a Hill Coffee Shop, and most importantly, skiers!
Racers must register for the 10k, 22k, and 44k on Saturday, Feb. 21 from 4 to 8 in the KW room of CMC’s Climax Leadership Building. Registration costs $25, $40, and $50 respectively, with all profits going to the MBT Committee. 5k’ers may register the morning of, with a suggested donation of $10. Entry forms are also available at Melanzana, Leadville Outdoors, and High Mountain Pies. For more information and online registration, visit the official website at https://leadvilleloppet.wordpress.com
Help the Mineral Belt Trail expand! Simply using the trail is supporting it, but events like the Leadville Loppet keep the trail groomed and growing.
Brennan Ruegg is from Akron, Ohio. In his first Colorado winter, he’s returned to skiing and writing, and has met new faces and opportunities he could never have expected.
Panthers Nordic Team Shows Strong in Summit
The Lake County High School and Middle School Nordic ski teams headed to the Frisco Adventure Center for a skate race on February 7. The course had skiers climb up along side the tubing hill before descending in a series of twists and turns and short climbs back to the base. The high school racer skied two laps, while the middle school skied one.
Reilly Stack, who is from Salida but was racing his first race for the Panthers, led the middle school boys with a strong 28th place finish. Matt Koch and Sam Frykhoom skied much of the race together, and the finished 36th and 38th respectively. Conner Lenhard was 41st and Julian Cannell finished his first race of the season in 42nd out of 51 racers. The team placed 4th out of 7 teams overall.
Hannah Holm continued her stellar season with a 24th place finish, while her sister Abby was just two places behind in 26th. Neva Sunday had an excellent first skate race ever to place 35th. As a team, the Panthers were 5th out of 9 teams.
“It was a beautiful Colorado day,” noted middle school Coach Jeff Spencer. “The team was strong, despite the challenging course.”
The high school boys were led by Taylor Stack, who notched his first, top-ten finish by placing 9th. Ethan Greiner also had his best skate race of the season and placed 16th. Brandon Hanson was in contention to qualify for state before a fall on the second lap knocked him off course and forced him to take his skis off to get back on the trail. He still ended up 62nd. Zayden Tufte and Zach Coffin skied within sight of one another for the whole race and ended up 66th and 67th overall. The boys’ team was 6th out of 13 teams.
Caroline Benney led the Panthers with her first top 30 finish by placing 29th. Jayde Daigle was close behind in 33rd. Molly Lenhard, still recovering from illness from a week before, skied a strong skate race to place 47th, missing her goal of qualifying for the state meet by a few places. Emma Collins passed 17 girls after a fall in the start to end up 70th. Courtney Crenshaw rounded out the team with a 76th place finish. The girls were 9th as a team.
“Strong skiing by many of our team,” remarked head coach Karl Remsen. “It was good to be on this course since it will be the same course for the state championships. I think we learned a few things that we can use at that meet.”
A number of the Panthers will be headed to the state meet in two weeks back in Summit, while the rest of the skiers will be gearing up for the local Leadville Loppet.