Loppet organizers adjusting to lack of snow

The cross-country ski festival will go on, but some events will change

[UPDATE: City of Lakes Loppet organizers said Tuesday continuing warm temperatures have scuttled plans to hold any events other than the Luminary Loppet on the lakes.

All events will be held entirely within Theodore Wirth Park, with the exception of the Luminary Loppet and the Southwest Journal Snow Sculpture Contest. The snow sculpture contest is the only event now planned at the original location of the Loppet Village, at the Lake Calhoun Executive Center.

Snow conditions are so poor on Lake of the Isles that the Luminary Loppet will be a walking-only event. The event was sold out, but Loppet organizers now plan to release more tickets.]

Snow or no snow, the show must go on.

That’s the message from City of Lakes Loppet organizers, who on Monday acknowledged a lack of snow means some events won’t run as planned. The cross-country ski festival runs Friday through Sunday, but forecast highs above freezing through Thursday mean an already meager snow base will continue to evaporate.

John Munger, executive director of the Loppet Foundation, said many festival events, including the Penn Ice-Cycle Loppet bike race and Captain Ken’s Kubb Tournament, would be unaffected by the warm weather. But the Loppet’s trademark events  — point-to-point ski races that run from Theodore Wirth Park to Uptown — will have to change.

“There is not enough (snow) to even attempt to do anything between Wirth and the lakes, no,” Munger said. “That option is gone. We’re focusing on the lakes and primarily on Calhoun and Isles.”

Unless conditions improve, thousands may end up walking around Lake of the Isles during the sold-out Luminary Loppet instead of skiing. The illuminated nighttime ski is the festival’s single most popular event.

Participants in the major ski races — the Hoigaard’s Classic and the Loppet Skate marathons — may end up skiing a few laps on the artificial snow loop at Theodore Wirth and then take a bus to finish the race with a few more laps on Lake Calhoun and possibly Lake of the Isles. Other ski races may take place entirely on the lakes, Munger said.

On Monday, Loppet organizers were plowing snow on Lake Calhoun in an attempt to create a ski-able track. Snow machines were operating last week and over the weekend to create a base of artificial snow for the Loppet Village, located near the Lake Calhoun Executive Center on the lake’s north shore.

A critical lack of snow has forced similar adjustments for three out of the previous 12 City of Lakes Loppet festivals. The last time was 2012, but it also happened in 2005 and during the inaugural 2003 festival.

“We’re kind of going back to our roots,” Munger joked.

While the Loppet Foundation’s origins are tied up with the mid-winter festival, it now runs year-round events that encourage outdoor activities and recreation. And that means playing with whatever hand Mother Nature deals you, Munger said.

“The weather is what it is, and that’s kind of what the foundation is about,” he said. “It’s about getting out and being active no matter what the weather gives you.

“I think we’re going to accomplish that this weekend.”