Skiers hit the trails at annual Marsh Lake loppet

More 150 cross-country skiers took to the trails around the Marsh Lake Community Centre on Saturday to take part in the 24th annual Marsh Lake classic ski loppet. Although the afternoon's focus was on skiing, the whole event showcased the community pride of Marsh Lake.  

Skiers could race in 1-kilometre, 2.5-kilometre, 10- and 20-kilometre events. The children's race was officially cancelled due to cold temperatures, but many youngsters hit the trails under their parents' supervision, including siblings 3-year-old Thomas and 5-year-old Lindsey Stipdonk.

Lindsey said she has practiced skiing at school and she's happy to have completed her first race.

"There was a corner there that was pretty sharp, so I just made it through there. I almost fell down at the finish line, but I didn't, so that's good," she said.

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Thomas said he had fun in the race before heading inside for hot chocolate.

It was also the first time his dad Chris and mom Amy Stipdonk skied in a race.

"It was so well-organized. The track was in really good condition, the volunteers were quite helpful. It was a good beginner race," said Chris Stipdonk, who already has his eyes set on a race in Mount Lorne next weekend.

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Outside the Marsh Lake community centre, skiers were met by a large snow bear  - the loppet's mascot.

Paul Sparling says he has carved a bear from snow seven or eight times over the past number of years.

He called it "a labour of love."

"That one came together quickly," he said.

Sparling was dressed in a red plaid leisure suit . Participants were encouraged to dress in costumes in honour of race founder Paul Milner. Each year, a "Mr. Fun" award is handed out in his memory. Sparling has won the award in past years.

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Long-time volunteer Shirley Keobke was back at the loppet for the first time since moving from Marsh Lake to Whitehorse several years ago.

Keobke and her husband, Bucky, started volunteering at the second Marsh Lake loppet in 1996 and continued for 19 years.

She collected food vouchers by the canteen and got a lot of hugs in the process.

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"Marsh Lake is the place to be!" she exclaimed.

Keobke says the loppet brings everyone out.

She says it was awesome to be back.

"I love these people," Keobke said.

Jane Sponagle/CBC

Sonjaa Schmidt is part of the Yukon Ski Team's youth squad, which is getting ready to head to the Canada Winter Games later this month in Red Deer, Alta.

"I'm so grateful to have such a nice day on the trails," said Schmidt.

She says she accidentally skied the 20 kilometre trail, but said it was relaxing.