Sleeping Giant Loppet Organizers Look Ahead to 2022

Story by Sarah Kerton, Photos by Marty Mascarin

For the first time in its history, the Sleeping Giant Loppet has been cancelled. This local winter tradition would have been in its 44th year, had COVID-19 not stepped in to change its fate. Loppet coordinator Peter Gallagher says that in the past 43 years it has never been cancelled, though it has been delayed due to snow conditions.

This past fall, organizers were considering a variety of options for possible ways to run the Loppet in the face of COVID-19 without allowing people to congregate. “I believe strongly in the public health guidelines, and the Loppet has 900 participants gathered shoulder to shoulder at the start line,” Gallagher says. “The decision to cancel it was made easy by the fact that Ontario Parks regulations currently prohibit events of any size in provincial parks.” Because the event is usually held on the spectacular ski trails at Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, those regulations mean it can’t happen this year.

Park superintendent Christian Carl was just as disappointed as the organizers and also looks forward to the event’s return. In the meantime, some of the park ski trails are being groomed and maintained for the enjoyment of both classic and skate skiers throughout the winter. Planning is also underway for next year’s loppet, with March 5, 2022 as the chosen date.

“I sure am hopeful,” Gallagher says. “On the tailgate of my truck I have an advertisement for the Loppet—I haven’t changed the dates yet, but I think we’re all very very hopeful that we’ll all have the vaccine and be able to hold the event again. Missing the Loppet for one year in comparison to all the other hurt [that] people have dealt with is not that big a deal.”

Organizers are encouraging people to get out and try the variety of ski trails around Thunder Bay. The ski community has been very happy that, despite the ongoing pandemic, the trails are still being groomed and kept open. Gallagher says that there are a lot of new skiers out this year, despite there being limited services, such as ski rentals, available. Volunteers are working hard at the ski centres to educate people on new protocols and to discourage them from congregating in parking lots and near the chalets. Gallagher says he’ll be spending the next year “thinking about something special to do when we make the comeback.” 

For more information on the Loppet’s history and pictures, check out their website at: