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The World Cup of Cross Country Skiing is coming to Minneapolis. So… what the heck is it?

The 2020 Coop FIS Cross Country Ski World Cup Sprint Finals will be coming to Minnesota on March 17th, capping off the Fastenal Parallel 45 Winter Festival that runs March 14 -17. The whole festival is sure to be a good time with food and drink, live music, gear expos, and citizen races for athletes of all ages and abilities. As a sponsor of the event, Bearskin Lodge will be there and we hope you will be too.  

What is the World Cup?  Here’s a video introduction to the experience.

The World Cup race is more than just a thrilling conclusion to a fun-filled few days—it’s a historic event. This race marks the first time in almost two decades that the world’s best cross-country skiers have competed on American snow. To appreciate how great it is that we get to witness a World Cup event in our state, let’s take a look at the history of the competition.

The FIS is Formed

The organization that governs the Cross Country Ski World Cup is the FIS, which stands for Fédération Internationale de Ski. The FIS has been around since 1910 when delegates from 10 countries met in Norway to form what was originally called the International Skiing Commission. The organization now has a membership of 132 national ski associations and is the international governing body of most ski sports, including the more obscure ones like grass skiing.

The Cross Country Ski World Cup was held unofficially a few times starting in 1973, but it wasn’t until 1982 that the FIS hosted an official World Cup competition. The Cross Country Ski World Cup is now held each winter and consists of a series of races across 21 venues around the world.

Bill Koch Dominates in 1982

Many of you are probably enthusiastic skate skiers, or at the very least familiar with the sight of skaters gliding along beside those using the classic technique. When American Bill Koch skate skied his way to third place in the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships in 1982 (part of the World Cup series of races), it was revolutionary. Skate skiing had been taking hold in marathons and in ski orienteering throughout the 70s, but Koch brought it to international attention and unleashed years of controversy about whether skating should be allowed. Of course, we know that skate skiing is now an integral part of cross-country skiing competitions, including the World Cup.

Bill Koch went on to win the overall gold medal in 1982. Can you guess how many overall World Cup first place finishes the U.S. has won since then? Zero. That must mean we’re overdue!

The Sprint Cup

Since 1997, in addition to the overall World Cup winner, prizes have been awarded for the winners of the Sprint World Cup and the Distance World Cup. The trophy for the overall winner is a 9 kg Crystal Globe, and the Sprint and Distance winners get smaller Crystal Globes. While Americans haven’t picked up any overall first place finishes since 1982, American Kikkan Randall won the women’s Sprint World Cup three times between 2012 and 2014.

The race we’re hosting in Minneapolis is the finals of the Sprint World Cup. The women will race on a 1.4 km course and the men on a 1.7 km loop. The winners of the three-day North American Sprints Mini Tour (combining the results of two days of racing in Quebec City with our Minneapolis race) will be crowned here. Plus, since the race in Minneapolis is the final sprint race of the season, it’s here that the Crystal Globe will be presented to the Sprint World Cup champions.

The Americans who are currently ranked the highest in the Sprint Cup standings are Sophie Caldwell, Jessie Diggins, and Sadie Maubet Bjornsen. Come and cheer them and the rest of the elite skiers on!

Hometown Hero

The last time the U.S. hosted a Cross Country Ski World Cup Event, it was in Utah in 2001. It’s an honor that Minnesota was chosen to host a race after all this time, and we can thank Minnesotan Jessie Diggins for helping make it happen.

Jessie Diggins, who comes from Afton, MN, and teammate Kikkan Randall won the United States’ first ever cross-country skiing gold medal at the Winter Olympics in women’s team sprint at Pyeongchang in 2018. It was Diggins who first contacted the Loppet Foundation with the idea of hosting a World Cup race in Minneapolis, and she was instrumental in building support for the event.

“Hosting a round of the World Cup is our chance to show skiers from around the world how Minnesota embraces winter—through sport and through our hospitality,” said Diggins.

Visit Us at the Bearskin Mini-Lodge!

The World Cup race and Parallel 45 festival are almost here. Make sure you visit the Bearskin Mini-Lodge on the course!