With weather that calls for Michelin Man attire plunging Minnesota into the deep freeze, the Loppet Foundation has called off two ski races scheduled for the weekend.
The organization also cut short its Luminary Loppet, which had its final day Friday.
Temperatures forecast to sink well below zero accompanied by dangerously low windchills led organizers to modify the final weekend of the outdoor events at Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis, according to a statement from the foundation.
"With COVID-19 protocols in place preventing groups of people from huddling together near fires or inside the Trailhead and preventing us from distributing warm hot chocolate like in past years, we have come to the conclusion today that it would be unfair and dangerous for us to subject our participants, and our volunteers who spend hours outside to make the event happen, to such harsh conditions," the statement read.
There are no refunds, the foundation said, but those holding tickets for the Luminary Loppet for Saturday or Sunday were able use their tickets to walk or snowshoe through the candlelit luminaries on Friday night.
Racers signed up for the Skate/Classic Ski Loppet or Skate/Classic Ski Puoli Loppet were able to race the course Friday and self-report their times. Skiers also have the option to participate in a virtual event or transfer their registration to a new event being planned in conjunction with the Mayor's XC Ski Challenge on Feb. 21, the foundation said.
"This decision was excruciatingly difficult for our leadership team to make and one that we do not take lightly," the foundation said. "We hope that you will take advantage of this extra effort on our part to accommodate all of you."
The coldest air mass in two years promises to stay around through most of next week, the National Weather Service said. A windchill advisory goes into effect at 3 a.m. Saturday and lasts until noon Sunday. Windchills could reach 34 degrees below zero in the Twin Cities and across the northern two-thirds of Minnesota, the weather service said, and anybody spending time outside should bundle up.
"The dangerously cold windchills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes," the weather service warned.
After a high of 10 degrees Friday, the thermometer might not get above zero again until Tuesday. A reading of 14 below is forecast for Saturday night.
As bone-chilling as that is, it's hardly close to any records. The temperature has dropped that low at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport 137 other times since weather records have been kept, according to the Minnesota Climatology Office.
The state's lowest temperature ever recorded was 60 below on Feb. 2, 1996, in Tower, Minn.
While a prolonged cold snap may not be pleasant, the climatology office offered encouragement in a Facebook post: "We can do this, Minnesota."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768