Loppet is a Swedish word meaning “Bloody Long Race over 35 km.”
The Duck Mountain Loppet will be holding its 40th anniversary event on February 29.
A brief history in the evolution of the Duck Mountain Loppet, begins in 1979 with the first Duck Mountain cross county 30.
“In 1978, as the sport of cross-country skiing accelerated, the Saskatchewan Ski Association executive decided to introduce a citizens’ ski tour,” said a release from the Loppet organizers. “The event would be called the ‘Saskatchewan 50.’”
The Citizen’s Tour would be a huge provincial event that was not a race. The goal was mass participation. It would be challenging, yet safe. The first “Sask 50” was held at Duck Lake, where some 459 skiers took part.
“In 1979 the province’s big ski marathon, now known as the Saskatchewan 60, was flanked by three regional citizen’s tours: one featuring an improved course near Nipawin, another newly sponsored by the Weyburn Ski Club in Moose Mountain Provincial Park and the third initiated by the Kamsack Ski Club in Duck Mountain Provincial Park (DMPP),” the release continued. “It was at this time that Martin Cash, Gary Alzomal, Bruno Lemire and other ski club members interested in cross-country skiing, in conjunction with Al Fremont, Superintendent of DMPP and park staff organized and held the first Duck Mountain cross country 30, on April 1, 1979.”
As the name suggests, this was a 30-kilometre event. Registration took place in the Golf Course Club House. The trail was set in the south ditch of Hwy. No. 57 going westward to the west boundary of the park. From there it went south on the west boundary road to the south fireguard of the park. From here it followed the newly cut power line eastward, past the new downhill ski site, until it reached the Ski Hill Road. Then, it was back down the north ditch of the Ski Hill Road to the Ski Hill site.
There was one “so-called shelter” on this trail. Approximately, mid-way along the power line section of the trail, Peter Zipchian and Herman Penagapko, had hung up a small canvas tarp as a wind break, with two small square straw bales to sit on, and a crackling fire for warmth. Refreshments were minimal.
Thanks to the generosity of the Charles Achtymichuk family and others, the skiers were transported back to the Golf Course Club House, where they enjoyed “hot chili on a bun” and fixings.
In 1981, the DMPP opened what is now known as the Ski Hill trail. This was the first cross-country trail made in the park specifically for cross-country skiing. The 1981 Loppet was canceled due to water in the ditch of the highway on Loppet day.
“Finally in 1982, ‘we emerged from the ditches,’” the release continued. “The 30 kilometre route now went from the Golf Club House, south along the Ski Hill Trail, into the Regional Park trail system, up the T-bar and back north along the Ski Hill Trail to the finish line.”
Gradually over the years, through the combined efforts of the Kamsack Ski Club, DMPP and grants from CCS (Cross Country Saskatchewan), six shelters have been built and approximately 55 plus kilometres of trails, with varying lengths and degrees of difficulties, have been opened up.
The latest improvement has been new signs and maps, according to Bruno Lemire, a charter organizer of the Loppet.