For the second time in four years, unseasonably warm weather is forcing a last-minute change of venues and routes for this weekend's City of Lakes Loppet, the signature outdoors winter event in Minneapolis.
Event organizers announced Tuesday that they're shifting most events to the loop at Wirth Park with snow-making equipment, just as they did in 2012. The notable exception is that the popular luminary lopped, a candlelit ski and snowshoe recreational event, will stay at Lake of the Isles, where it will be a walking-only event.
The change from skis to foot traffic means that the luminary event will be able to accommodate more than the 7,000-person cutoff it had already reached. "You can only have so many people with six-foot-long skis and poles," said John Munger, executive director of The Loppet Foundation.
The foundation directed participants in its events, as varied as cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, skijoring, dogsledding, snow biking and "lawn" games to its website for updated information about times and places of events.
"We're trying to make the best of things," Munger said. "We're trying to dust off the things we did in 2012."
The loppet's signature ski races will be run on multiple circuits of Wirth's hilly competitive ski course rather than the traditional courses that stretch from that park to Lake Calhoun.
"We tried our best [Monday], We had pickup trucks with plows," Munger said of a loppet call Monday for shovelers to volunteer to help prepare the course. But with four inches of water atop the ice, "we went out and had a beer instead."
Although the change leaves just three days for organizers to adjust, the 13th annual event's history provides a rationale for waiting as long as possible for snow. In its first year, only 30 people had registered six days before the race due to lack of snow, but that zoomed to 800 racers after snow arrived later that week.