A record number of cross country skiers took part in the Troll Loppet on Sunday.
An estimated 175 people came out for the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club’s Troll Loppet event — up from last year’s 149 skiers. Participants came from not just Castlegar, but from Rossland, Nelson, Cranbrook and elsewhere. It was a tight squeeze for all of them to make it down the start of the trail, but a bit of a staggered start saw everyone on their way.
Wishing the skiers the best of luck at the start line was Conrad Brattebo — the last-living charter member of the Sons of Norway — dressed in his viking costume. Before the race began, Brattebo explained to participants that the Worldloppet started in Norway in 1932. The Sons of Norway in Castlegar have been organizing a loppet since 1961.
“Beginning of December, we had the first one in ’61 and it was all started by the Sons of Norway,” Brattebo told the News.
Skiers participating in the 10-km, 16-km, 20-km, 30-km and 40-km events on Sunday started just outside the Viking Center, while younger skiers and their parents participated in a two-km race around Mud Lake.
Vince Fayant, president of the Castlegar Nordic Ski Club, explained that the club is focused on getting youth out to try cross country skiing.
“Our emphasis right now is on the youth, of course. As many young kids as we can. Even if they don’t come back next year, and they get the gist of cross country skiing, they always come back. Even if they’re in their twenties,” he said.
Fayant also explained how the brick-built Viking Centre has contributed to the growth of the loppet event.
“We had a wood structure here before. We had nothing here before that. People just came here and congregated, but there would be maybe 30 people, at the max, doing the loppet. But once we built the cabin then we had a center spot, where people can meet and greet, and it was easy to get volunteers,” he said. “Every year it gets bigger and bigger.”