CALUMET – The 32nd annual Portage Health Great Bear Chase is Saturday, March 10, 2012 at Swedetown Trails in Calumet. Organizers have made a number of improvements this year, including the addition of two new races, an improved course with no road crossings or snowmobile section, and a brand new stadium area for the start and finish line. The event now features five races: 50 km Freestyle, 50 km Classic, 26 km Freestyle, 26 km Classic and 14 km Freestyle.
While the excitement is up because of the new attractions, the Great Bear Chase will have something many other races in the region are missing: Snow. The Keweenaw has received more than 160 inches of snow so far this year, and it’s continuing to fall, making for some of the best conditions in the Midwest.
Online registration is open until midnight on March 8 atbearchase.org. Last minute registration will be available at the Calumet High School gym on Friday, March 9 from 4 to 9 p.m. Hundreds of skiers from all over the Midwest have already registered. Of those registered, only about 20 percent of them are from the Copper Country; meaning large groups from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and southern Michigan make the trip to Calumet.
All three distances will feature fierce competition, with awards in several age categories.
The 50 km Freestyle is probably the most competitive race at the Great Bear Chase. Many master skiers use this as their last hurrah for the race season. Race start time is 9:20 a.m.
Classic skiers want — and deserve — their own 50 km race, and the Great Bear Chase delivers. First on the course at 8:30 a.m. — a full 30 minutes prior to the freestylers — 50 km Classic skiers will enjoy fresh tracks as they make the first passes of the Great Bear Chase course.
The 26 km Freestyle provides an excellent end-of-season goal for serious racers and mainstream recreational skiers alike. Race start time is 9:30 a.m.
The 26 km Classic race appeals to those who want the traditional experience of a half marathon, as well as those who like to “tour” for a morning rather than race in packs. The 26 km Classic race kicks off at 9 a.m.
Skiers have asked for a shorter Great Bear Chase and we’re delivering in 2012 with a 14 km course. This is a great race for novice skiers that want to give racing a try. This skate or striding course begins at 9:45 a.m.
Racers will enjoy pasties, bakery, refreshments, music and massages before and during the awards ceremony. Medals are awarded to the top three finishers in each age category in each race. Locally handcrafted awards will be presented to the overall fastest man and woman in each race. The Portage Health Great Bear Chase also provides several great spectator areas to cheer on racers.
New this year, the Great Bear Chase weekend will also feature 10k and 25k snow bike races, put on by the Red Jacket Cycling Team on Sunday. Ski on Saturday, bike on Sunday! Find our more information about these races by visiting, bearchase.org/snowbike.htm.
For more information, or to register for any of the events, visit bearchase.org