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Noquemanon Ski Marathon shifts to fully virtual format

This pair of skiers approach the finish line during the 22nd annual Noquemanon Ski Mara-thon on Jan. 25, 2020. Matt Zak of Eveleth, Minn., left, is followed by Jack Jones of Stevens Point, Wis., in the 50-kilometer freestyle race. (Journal file photo by Ryan Spitza)

MARQUETTE — Due to both the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of snow until the past few days, the Noquemanon Ski Marathon has shifted to a fully virtual format this year.

Originally, racing was to take place this past weekend, Friday through Sunday, with a limited course and smaller group sizes to work with pandemic requirements put forth by the state.

As it was, most racers were also being allowed to ski a route between Jan. 15-30 and upload times to its website, www.noquemanon.com.

An extension on a limit of group sizes meant that the Noque’s reduction of 30 racers per wave wouldn’t be enough, according to a note on the event’s website home page.

“We limited our course and extended the duration of the event to limit group sizes, we removed spectators, removed touch points and we eliminated inside gatherings,” its home-page statement reads in part.

“… (I)t is not possible to meet the current Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) maximum allowable outside gathering restrictions that were reinforced (last) week.

“We also have had some challenging weather with low snow volume and higher temperatures resulting in a trail we do not feel can be maintained over the course of three days of racing.

“While it seems that may be a little snow on the way, there is not enough certainty that enough new snow will accumulate in enough time for appropriate course preparation for racing in waves over the time frame we have planned for.”

The group also said it wanted safety to be of utmost importance in this unique year.

“As the race committee made preparations for the 2021 marathon, we paid a great deal of attention to the safety of our volunteers, the safety of our racers, our front-line workers and the safety of our course options,” that part of the statement reads. “It was important to the race committee that should any of these things come in to question we would err on the side of caution to ensure the Noquemanon Ski Marathon’s legacy was one of healthy enjoyment of a sport and trail system we love.”

Finally, the group believes the all-virtual option will be the best now.

“We will continue on with our virtual event and would love to see you here to participate in this option,” the statement reads. “It is likely we can offer more trail, a better course, and a better experience in this format for this year’s Noque and see this as a very safe and positive option for the full- and half-marathon skiers.”

Only the full 42-kilometer and half 22K races are being offered this year, with the Junior Noque, 12K, 5K and 10K snowshoe, adaptive skiing and skijoring races canceled for this year.

Information on entering the event and posting times are available at the Noquemanon website.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.

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