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Sleeping Giant Loppet 2017
By:  Karl Saidla   (2017/03/15)


Thunder Bay’s Sleeping Giant Loppet

The Sleeping Giant Loppet celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday March 4th. Formerly the Sibley Ski Tour, this colourful and popular event takes place in Sleeping Giant Provincial Park near Thunder Bay Ontario - home to legendary cross-country ski culture. Undoubtedly, the popularity of cross-country skiing in the area is linked to this activity being traditional for many of the Finnish immigrants who settled in the area in large numbers, often to work in the rugged forests surrounding spectacular Lake Superior.

If you make the trip you are strongly advised to take some of this culture in. We took saunas no less than 4 times in 5 days (three different locations), compared Finnish pancakes and strawberry sauce from both Hoito and Kangas restaurants (both scoring 9.6 out of 10 according to our system), skied at world famous Lappe Nordic Ski Centre and bought Finnish coffee bread at the revered Maltese grocery.

Megan and I try to get to at least one or two old fashioned ski races per year- featuring long distances, single loops, point to point courses, challenging terrain, hecklers,  and hopefully, honey-lemon drink or blueberry soup. This year we picked the Sleeping Giant Loppet, which neither of us had braved since before the beginning of the millennium. We were pleased to discover that not much had changed.

The atmosphere was friendly and the sun was warm as, along with about 750 others, we wound our way around the figure 8 loop featuring boreal forests, northern lakes, climbs that turned muscle into wood, and sugary, fast downhills serving as ski skill  credential verification.

Given all the very strong skiers from the area and beyond, the competition was fierce. Megan came 2nd overall in the women’s 50 km skate, not too far behind Gatineau Loppet 51k classic winter Jenn Jackson and not far ahead of former Canadian National Team member and Lappe member Brook Latimer. Karl found the early pace of the leaders simply too hot to handle (which, given the 1:59 winning time may fairly be considered punishing) and skied his second 50km race in as many weeks almost entirely on his own to finish 7th behind winner Evan Palmer-Charrette of the National Team Development Centre Thunder Bay.

In the evening, everyone was in a festive mood. Whether or not this is because the awards ceremony took place at the Sleeping Giant Brewery is difficult to confirm. We will say that WHEN you make the trip you should definitely sample the Northern Lager, Beaver Duck, and Mr. Canoehead Red Ale (though not necessarily all in one sitting).

A few pictures courtesy of the Sleeping Giant Loppet photographers:


Michael Somppi leads early on

Women’s winner Jenn Jackson

Megan McTavish expresses delight at the finish line in her custom bib

The author, trying in vain to limit his losses near checkpoint 4.

Support staff and fans: Eric Bailey, Felix Reginald Bailey, Leena Saidla


-To get a taste of the great scenery, check out this loppet video courtesy of Alan Auld of Imagine Films:


-Sleeping Giant Loppet website: http://www.sleepinggiantloppet.ca/index.html

-2018 race date for your calendar: Saturday March 3rd


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