Nearly 100 skiers lined up at the start of the Sophie Manarin Nickel Loppet, gliding into action at the sound of the bell.
Some were racing for personal bests along the Laurentian Ski Trails, and others were simply out to enjoy the scenery. Racers participating in the annual event had the choice of skiing seven, 14 or 30 kilometers around Laurentian.
While the event has been going on for 30 years, the last 12 years have held a little more significance. After Sophie Manarin, a talented cross-country skier, died in 2001 after being hit by a transport truck while riding her bike on the road, the club dedicated the event to her.
“When she passed away, friends of Sophie raised some funds and we created park of a trail named after her,” said Perry Sakki, president of the Laurentian Nordic Ski Club. Before they began racing, skiers lifted a pole to remember Manarin.
Not only was Sakki happy to honour her, he said it's nice to see so many people out on the trails.
“(The loppet) is a celebration for skiers,” he said.
When athletes hit the snow Feb. 17, one of the biggest challenges they faced was the frigid temperatures.
“The challenge we have today is the weather,” Sakki said. Skiers didn't seem to mind as they geared up in the chalet prior to the competition.
Kerry Abols was participating in the 30 kilometer event.
“I love to be outside,” he said. “To slide on the snow is great.”
Abols first competed in the race 22 years ago, and makes an effort to be at the event every year.
“I train and exercise because I enjoying skiing, but I used this event as motivation to feed that,” he said. He said he enjoys preparing for the challenge of competition.
While loppets are recreational races by nature, a competitive element has been added through the Sudbury Fitness Challenge.
Neil Phipps has been organizing the annual challenge, which has athletes compete in a variety of physically demanding activities. Points are accumulated at the loppet, as well as summer events like Sudbury Rocks, as well as a swimming race, mountain bike race, paddling event and the Beaton Classic.
Phipps said at the end of the season, points are counted, and winners are crowned in a variety of age categories. Growing up a runner, Phipps said the cross-sport concept of the Fitness Challenge introduced him to some of his now-favourite activities.
“It's what introduced me to competitive skiing and competitive cycling,” he said as he prepared to hit the snow at the loppet.
For more information on the Laurentian Nordic Ski Club, visit laurentiannordic.com.