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Q&A: Stifel Loppet Cup @ Wirth


I thought Cross Country Skiing was an Olympic event.  This isn’t an Olympic year, so what is going on at Wirth?

The Winter Olympics are held every 4 years.  World Championships for XC Skiing are every 2 years, but the WORLD CUP runs every single year!  There are 30-40 World Cup races per season between Nov-March, and this year Theodore Wirth will host 2 World Cups, the only two World Cup races in the US.  The last time the US hosted a World Cup for XC Skiing was in 2000!  At the Olympics in 2026, skiers will race a 10K freestyle – the same event that will be held at Wirth on Feb 18th!


I thought XC skiing was like running.  The skiers I saw were moving more side to side.  Why?

There are two different styles of XC skiing.  CLASSIC technique is when the skiers’ skis are parallel to each other and skiers kick and glide on a track in the snow.  SKATE technique is when skiers use the edges of their skis to propel themselves forward – like an ice skater with really long blades and ski poles.  The two races at Wirth are FREESTYLE races, which means skiers can choose either technique but because the SKATE technique is so much faster, that’s what you will see all the racers using.


February can be pretty cold.  Can I go inside and warm up if I get cold?

Unfortunately, no.  The Trailhead will be reserved for athletes and race officials.  Dress warmly (boots! hat! mittens!) and bring a thermos of hot cocoa so you can stay warm and enjoy the day outside!  There will be Port-o-pots available for spectators.


Are you allowed to cheer at a XC Ski Race?

Yes!  Many people bring flags to wave and cowbells to ring at the race and there is LOTS of supportive cheering.  Although you can cheer with whatever positive encouragement you like, a traditional XC ski cheer in Scandinavian countries is “Heia! Heia!” (pronounced HI-ya).  You’re sure to hear that on the course!  One exception:  spectators are asked to be quiet at the start of the sprint races so all the athletes can hear the starting signal.


Can I ask the athletes to pose for Selfies?

Yes! But don’t be offended if they don’t stop.  Although the athletes are actually racing for a relatively short amount of time, they are very focused on warm up and race prep until their full racing day is complete.  Asking for a selfie during sprint day, for example, is like asking a baseball player for a selfie in between innings.  Better to wait until the event is concluded.  Even when they are done racing, athletes may be anxious to change into dry clothes and eat, as many will be racing again the next day.


How close can I get to the racers?

There will be fences around the course indicating where spectators can stand.  It’s important to respect these barriers because the racers require a lot of room.  Even a tiny tap on the tip of a ski can cause an athlete to fall.  Spectators are allowed to move around the course during the race, just not on the ski track.


Do the athletes get cold racing in such thin suits?

Athletes usually warm up for racing in several layers but they race in a thin Lycra suit.  For many athletes, overheating is often a bigger fear than getting too cold.  Because they are working so hard during the race, the athletes get hot even though their suits aren’t insulated.  As soon as they finish racing, the athletes bundle into warm jackets and snow pants.


If I’m inspired by what I see at Wirth, how can I give XC skiing a try?

Come try skiing at the Loppet Cup Playday on Monday February 19 from 10am-2pm at Theodore Wirth Park! You can rent equipment and try the same World Cup course the athletes raced on. The Loppet Foundation also offers lessons, clinics and programs in cross country skiing all winter long for people of all ages and ability levels!


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Special thanks to Bjørn Dæhlie for supporting Loppet Cup volunteers!