Got a hankering to get into a cross-country ski event, but don't want to have to compete against some of the best in the sport by entering the big race? Here's your chance to compete at your level, as the annual North American VASA Festival of cross-country ski races on Feb. 8 has added a 12K event open to skiers of all abilities in which finish times will mean far less than who is on the trail.
The new event is called the Human Inspiration 12K Tour, a non-competitive ski run to honor George Lombard and George Kuhn, two men who have been at the heart of the region’s Nordic ski community for decades. Lombard, 83, and Kuhn, 81, regularly ski the VASA trail system, located just north of Traverse City. Lombard will lead the tour – one wave of the VASA’s 12K event -- and skiers of all ages and abilities are invited to join him.
The special 12K tour is an extension of a similar non-race event held for the first time during last year’s VASA in honor of Traverse City surgeon Dr. John Bruder.
Bruder is an avid skier who regularly participated in the VASA’s 27K and 50K races. Diagnosed with advanced lung cancer in 2010, Bruder could no longer compete. But he began skiing again with the aid of portable oxygen tanks, hoping to be part of the 2013 races – his 28th VASA race.
Inspired by his example, friends organized a special “Ski With John” wave of the VASA’s 12K race last year and invited other friends and strangers to ski with him. Bruder asked VASA organizers to continue the special 12K tour to recognize all skiers who continue to ski despite health setbacks.
This year’s tour honors two men who have been instrumental in the growth of the VASA races and trail system.
Lombard, a retired veterinarian, is the chief architect who designed and help build the VASA ski trail system. Though he lost a leg as a teenager in a farm accident, Lombard became a U.S. Paralympian in cross country skiing using a full leg prosthesis and has completed 21 VASA races.
Kuhn has been VASA Race Director for 10 years and has completed 30 races, several with a pacemaker and artificial hip.
VASA President Pete LaPlaca said the easy pace of the 12K tour should be perfect for beginners who would like their first VASA experience. There will be plenty of veteran skiers on the tour to provide help and support. “The tone will be light and fun,” LaPlaca said.
Mike Haley a friend of Lombard and Kuhn, said both men as well as race organizers would be very pleased if the event “inspires others to get out and experience skiing in an organized ski event.”
The Human Inspiration 12K Tour is scheduled for 1 pm Saturday, Feb. 8, as part of the 38th annual North American VASA Festival of Races held at Timber Ridge Resort (timberridgeresort.net).
Registration for the special 12K tour is $35. Skiers registered for other VASA races may participate at no extra charge. Advance registrations are available at www.Vasa.org. Registration on race day is available from 7 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Timber Ridge main lodge.
Information on the 38th North American VASA Festival of Races is available at www.vasa.org.