Quinn and I have spent the past 2 days perched on folding chairs in a giant striped vinyl tent near Lake and Hennepin in uptown Minneapolis, talking to hundreds of enthusiastic skiers about Bearskin and the Central Gunflint Ski Trail system. The event was the City of Lakes Loppet, which Bearskin helps to sponsor. Members of our family have regularly participated in this event since its inception in 2003, both as racers and as volunteers, but spending a few days behind our sponsor table at the vendor village left us even more impressed with the Loppet, its participants and its many, many dedicated volunteers.
Unlike many ski races, the City of Lakes Loppet offers something fun for virtually everyone: Skijoring, where skiers are towed by dogs – in this case, not just the classic pulling dogs, but every imaginable crazy family pooch. Ski races for little kids on Barbie-pink plastic skis. Ski races for middle schoolers with mouths full of braces and cracking voices. Ski races for the finest elite skiers and ski races for everyone else. Classic races, sprint races, and freestyle races. And the Luminary Loppet, a night-time ski around Lake of the Isles, all lit up with hundreds of candles encased in ice (which happen to be designed and made by some regular Bearskin guests.)
For two days thousands of skiers of every age, size, shape, nationality and skill level wandered in and out of the main tent. It was exciting to see this many people participating in skiing in such an all-encompassing variety of ways.
Quinn and I had fun talking to so many people about Bearskin. We’ve been told that various members of the Tuttle family often had booths at shows in the past, but that Bearskin hasn’t done this type of thing in a number of years. For us, being in this vender village was a simple first experiment—most of the exhibitors at City of Lakes Loppet have very low-key displays because, after all, how extravagant can you get with an exhibit in a semi-heated, 30 degree, dripping vinyl tent set up in a parking lot? We brought maps, pictures, brochures and a ski trail video made by topnotch filmmakers Quinn, Andy and Kyle (creatively filmed when they weren’t cleaning toilets, taking out garbage and answering phones.) The response was very rewarding for us: “Bearskin—we LOVE that place!” or “Bearskin, ohhhh, we’ve always wanted to go there” or “Wow, look at all these ski trails—this looks great!”
Quinn paid close attention to who won elite races (and is highly motivated to train for racing again, if only he didn’t work bazillion hours at Bearskin), and it was obviously a high honor to do well in those races. But overall the City of Lakes Loppet seems to be more about joyous participation than about who beat whom. We were really glad that Bearskin could be a part of sponsoring such a well-done event that reaches this many skiers.