The finish line for the City of Lakes Loppet Nordic ski races will move this winter to the heart of Uptown, a shift of only a few hundred yards but a significant change in atmosphere for racers and spectators alike.

The final stretch for the race, on Feb. 4-5, will leave the traditional off-road path and jump onto Lake Street near Lake Calhoun, then turn right onto Hennepin Avenue for a finale.

The change "increases the celebratory mood of the event, for both spectators and participants," said Ingrid Remak, outreach coordinator for the weekend, whose signature events are Sunday's 25-kilometer Hoigaard's Classic and the 33-kilometer Freestyle Loppet.

In a reversal of wintertime norm, Remak said that race organizers "will put snow on the streets" for the skiers.

The course's finish line has changed several times since the race began in 2003. Since 2006, the finish has been along a residential boulevard known as "The Mall" and tucked behind the Walker Library, a smaller area offering limited access for spectators. The races, which draw skiers from novice to Olympian, will still begin at Theodore Wirth Park.

The finish-line shift has organizers planning for at least 10,000 participants in all races (which would be a record for this event) and 40,000 to 50,000 spectators.

For more information, visit www.cityoflakesloppet.com.

PAUL WALSH