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Thunder Bay Canada Cup-Doin'it and Doin'it and Doin'it Right!
By:  Karl Saidla   (2004/01/25)


The recent Canada Cup at Lappe Nordic in Thunder Bay, to which XC Ottawa travelled, was a great example of what I call "doin'it right". I am not talking about how people raced, but how the event was delivered.

People might wonder why we would want to travel all the way to Thunder Bay for a Canada Cup. In this article I will try to make it very clear. To put it simply, the folks in Thunder Bay know how to put on a first class show. I'm talking Grade A, #1. Sure, the plane ticket wasn't cheap, but it was worth every dime.

On Thursday night we had the pleasure of training at Kamview Nordic Ski Centre, itself a host to various races every winter, including the well-known Kamview Classic, and, from time to time, the Thunder Bay City Championships. It was a cold (read bone-chilling) evening, but the tracks were in immaculate condition, surely a result of the hard work and grooming know-how of Peter Crooks. We skied their beautiful lit-loop of about 5kms, and then decided that there was enough natural light to take on the Lookout loop as well, giving a spectacular view of Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. It was at least as beautiful at night as it was during the day. Thanks to the condition of the tracks, little thought was required to negotiate some of the high-speed descents to get back to the lodge. Just point the skis down instead of up, and let the tracks take you.

The next day we were off to famous Lappe Nordic to pre-ski the race course. Grooming so good it was almost ridiculous, attributable no doubt to Reijo Puiras and his crew. I was thinking to myself that if I skied too often in Thunder Bay I would start to have difficulty negotiating even normal ski trails. Normal ski trails, after all, sometimes have imperfections and occupy something slightly removed from the "best line". We topped off a beautiful ski with a sauna and a shower (Reijo-I swear it was a short one!).

Race day morning brought with it a scene everyone involved in Canadian cross-country ski racing should see: Lappe functioning at full throttle, all the while maintaining apparently effortless control over the proceedings, kind of like a Finnish rally car driver. Everybody seemed to know their jobs. The timers were timing, the parking attendants were parking, the Finnish people were speaking Finnish, the pancake ladies were making pancakes ( succulent, golden-brown brown pancakes, begging for the strawberry sauce waiting nearby), and Pauli, well, Pauli was waxing and drinking a can of coke.

As you might expect, the races went off smooth as could be. The atmosphere was something Canadian ski racing could learn from. There were spectators, there was knowlegable announcing. There was some great music. (At least, from my point of view. They played the Macarena, the Chemical Brothers, ABBA, AC/DC, and almost every other band or song that matters). Of course, everyone was happy, even the people who didn't race like they hoped. That is no small accomplishment.

So hats off to the whole x-c ski community in Thunder Bay, for "doin'it and doin'it, and doin'it right!

For results and pictures, please go to: www.lappenordic.ca.

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