It’s one of my favorite weekends in Minneapolis. Lakes become luminary-lined parks, roads become trails, and skis are everywhere. It’s the City of Lakes Loppet.
The 2013 Loppet was my first taste of winter culture in Minneapolis. The company I worked for was a sponsor and I had the opportunity to get involved. It didn’t take long before I was hooked. I attended the 2014 and 2015 events, then registered for my first ski race in 2016: the classic tour. This year meant another race and a full three days of Loppet enjoyment.
Let’s talk about what the Loppet is. The word “loppet” isn’t tied to a specific event, rather a type of event, just like a marathon refers to all 26.2-mile races instead of just the Boston Marathon. The City of Lakes Loppet has skiing at its heart, also hosting speed skating, skijoring, dogsledding, kubb, fat biking, and beer drinking. One of the most popular events during Loppet weekend is the Luminary Loppet. It’s 10,000 people walking, skiing, or snowshoeing a 5k course on Lake of the Isles lined with candles in ice lanterns (luminaries). Add hot chocolate stops and a beer sponsor to the mix, and we’re in business. This year was the first year the Loppet was part of The Great Northern, a 10-day celebration of winter that also ties in the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship, St. Paul Winter Carnival, and various food and art events around the cities.
The past six years of the Loppet have illustrated the affects of climate change in Minnesota. Historically, the second week of February is the snowiest week of the year, and has the deepest snowpack. This year, however, only a trace of snow was on the ground during race day and the entire event was forced to be entirely at a park with snow machines. The same would have been true last year, were it not for a 10″ snowfall three days before the event. At least three of the past six years forced major event changes. It shouldn’t be this hard to host a ski event in Minnesota in the middle of winter, but thanks to climate change, here we are.
When friends from out of state ask me about Minneapolis, the City of Lakes Loppet is something I always mention. It’s quintessential Minnesota–a bunch of people in the North with funny accents having fun in the cold and snow and bonding because of it. It’s an event I look forward to every year and can’t wait to see how the 2018 iteration comes to life.