This Sunday will mark the 22nd running of the North End Classic-a ski race that takes place on some of the most beautiful trails in the area. Starting on the Birkie Trail at the west end of the Powerline near North End Trailhead, the course winds its way over the North End Ski Trails and back to the North End Cabin for the finish.
Whenever folks want to really experience the beauty of the Northwoods, the North End is a great place to start. The North End Ski Trails are part of a relatively complex network of over 50K of regularly groomed trails that include the American Birkebeiner skate and classic trails, CAMBA mountain bike trails, and North End snowshoe trails. In addition, most of the North End trails connect to or intersect the Birkie trails, which provide a link to the Birkie Start Trailhead.
“The North End Classic was created, in part, to offer a pre-Kortelopet experience when the Korte started and finished at Telemark and used the looped course,” explains race director Ron Bergin, “It has become a stand-alone event and now uses predominantly the North End Ski Trail system and a 12.5K course of one or two laps.”
Along with the 12.5K and 25K events, the kids Cookie Classic is back this year! This is either a .5K, 1K, or 2K kids event with a cookie award at the finish.
While you’re bound to see some of the same faces at the North End Classic as at the Birkie in a couple of weeks, this Sunday’s race just has a different feel. “The race has a fun, small town vibe that racers enjoy,” Bergin says, “We’ve been at it a long time and feel we put on a quality event. We typically have adequate snow to prepare a good course and the course itself is fast and fun and approachable by a wide level of abilities.”
One of those familiar faces is Scott Smith, a local PISA certified ski instructor who has been xc skiing since about 1980 and has been racing at the North End for about 10 years. He says the North End Classic is one of his favorite courses (along with the Great Bear Chase in Calumet, MI).
“Don’t get me wrong, I love the Birkie, but it’s a superhighway. While skiing on the North End trails, you feel like you’re in a forest…which you are. The hills are gentler and …there are many sections conducive to double poling which is fun. Now that I’m older (79) I don’t feel like I have to kill myself, especially at the beginning of the race. I can push myself at a comfortable pace and enjoy the experience more. It’s [also] wonderful to finish on a nice downhill so you can look strong even when you’re exhausted!”
Smith not only sings the race’s praises, he has some nice things to say about the race director as well, “Ron Bergin is a great race director and has done so much for the skiing community in the area.” Smith and his wife Paulette also are members of the North End Ski Club, the group responsible for the development of the North End Trailhead and warming cabin, ski and snowshoe trails, trail grooming and special events and programs. The event this weekend will have the help of about 50 volunteers. “We have had great support from the community helping us put on the event,” says Bergin.
One new development for the 2022 race is the purchase of the Webscorer platform which will allow the club to do all of its own chip timing instead of hiring out a timing service. But other than that, things are getting back to normal for the event as COVID precautions have become a part of the norm. Mass starts are planned as well as the kids race and the after-party at River’s Eatery, and there will be aid stations with water and energy drink, although participants are encouraged to carry their supplies. Masking and social distancing are also preferred, and the North End Cabin will be restricted to race staff and volunteers.
There is still time to join the fun; however, registration is online only and closes at 8pm Saturday evening. If you want to watch instead, there are plenty of spots to see racers including a couple of crossings on Timber Trail Rd. and, of course, at the North End Trailhead.
New Moon is proud to be a sponsor of the North End Classic. We hope to see you at the start!
Thank you to Once In A Blue Moon Studio-Kelly Randolph Photography for the photos from the 2020 and 2021 North End Classics.