David Smullin was determined to not let the COVID-19 pandemic derail the Tour of Meissner nordic ski race this winter.
The race was an annual tradition for many years in Central Oregon, but it disappeared from the calendar for several winters until last season, when David Smullin brought it back to Virginia Meissner Sno-park west of Bend.
Smullin, an avid nordic skier from Bend who coaches Redmond-area high school skiers, staged the race with more than 100 skiers last January. This winter, the Tour of Meissner is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, but is limited to 50 skiers with the start and finish at Swampy Lakes Sno-park.
“I’m giving out bibs the Friday before the race in my garage,” Smullin said. “We’re limited to 50 people because that’s the guidelines for right now. I have a wait list. It will be an individual start race, not a mass start. I figured we could have something with an individual start and meet all the requirements. Everybody is required to wear a mask until the start, and then put them on after they cross the finish line. That’s what we’ve been doing in the high school races.
“It’s pretty obvious that people want to do it. It’s just a good opportunity to get out and do something like that.”
But for those skiers who are not one of the 50 who have a spot in the 30-kilometer classic race, Smullin is inviting them to come ski the course after 9 a.m. on Saturday and time themselves.
They can email Smullin their time (firstname.lastname@example.org) and he will add it to the results.
He is encouraging those skiers to make a donation to the nonprofit Meissner Nordic, which pays to groom the trails.
Signs that mark the challenging course will remain up through Feb. 7 for the virtual Boulder Mountain Tour (bouldermountaintour.com). The Boulder Mountain Tour is an annual nordic ski race in Ketchum, Idaho, held every early February, that draws skiers from across the Northwest.
The race was canceled due to the pandemic this year, but organizers of the event are encouraging nordic skiers from all over the world to participate virtually on a course of their choosing from distances of 15K to 30K. The website offers several suggestions throughout the country, including the 30K course for the Tour of Meissner and a 16K course at the Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center.
“It’s a difficult course with a lot of climbing, and the Boulder Tour is the same course,” Smullin says of the 30K Tour of Meissner course. “If you ski the trails at Meissner, you can definitely ski it. It’s just 30K and it will take some people a few hours. But if you can ski all the normal trails at Meissner you’re definitely capable of doing it.”
Smullin said a big contingent of skiers from Bend make the trip to Ketchum each February to race the Boulder Mountain Tour. He even takes some some his high school skiers from Redmond to race there every year.
“Boulder is a big draw,” Smullin said. “It’s a big event for us. It gets (the high school skiers) to see what the bigger ski world is. Unfortunately we had a big crew who wanted to go. But we’re going to enter them all in the virtual one and ski it together with the team on Feb. 6.”
Smullin said he renewed the Tour of Meissner race last year because he wanted to compete in a long, classic race, and none were offered in Central Oregon. He does not plan to race this Saturday because of a recent knee replacement, but he will be busy timing and officiating.
“The other reason I wanted to put it on was because last year was so successful, more than we thought it would be,” Smullin said. “I didn’t want it to disappear again. Hopefully next year we’ll come back and use the same course, and actually have awards and everything.”