Skiers prepare for warmer weather as Loppet Winter Festival kicks off

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In the hours before the Loppet Winter Festival kicked off, skiers were out on the courses.

“The trails are perfect right now,” said Eric Leugers, from Minneapolis. “I think most skiers are thrilled for the weekend.”

His brother is competing on Saturday, when the temperatures will be right around freezing. They spent Friday evening making last-minute adjustments.

“We’re just testing different kick waxes,” said Leugers. “Right now and tomorrow are both going to be right around freezing and are pretty tricky to match so you try a bunch of things and see what works best.”

For Randee Edmundson of Maplewood, the warmer temperatures mean trying out new equipment. She has competed in events since the Loppet Winter Festival began, using classic skis.

“I got some skin skis to try,” she said. “This is a new experience for me.”

She hopes they don’t slow her down too much during the marathon on Saturday. Edmundson looks forward to this weekend every year.

“This is just my backyard, this is where I grew up,” she said. “I am excited.”

While skiers prepared, event organizers tracked the weather.

“It's all good until it's not good,” said John Munger, the executive director.

He told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the conditions are ideal for Saturday.

“It’s great weather for skiing, it's great weather for the activities, for the Luminary Loppet and great weather for spectating,” said Munger.

But Sunday could create more difficulties.

“We have plenty of snow on the trails but a little worried about what the lakes are going to be like,” he said. “Bde Maka Ska, Lake of the Isles and Cedar Lake can have a little muckiness we're skiing through so we'll have to monitor that very closely.”

He said they test conditions overnight. Munger expects there could be some puddling on the lakes.

“It’s a bit of a challenge,” he said. “I don't think it'll prevent anybody from skiing but your feet might get a little wet.”

About 15,000 to 20,000 people are expected to attend the annual festival, which has more than a dozen skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking events.

There’s an added layer of excitement this year. The 2020 Co-op FIS Cross Country Ski World Cup Spring Finals are coming up on March 17.

“There’s kind of this glow in the air of, 'hey, Jessie Diggins is coming and the World Cup is coming and I can ski on the same course as these great athletes,'” said Munger. “To have that right here and be able to ski on those same trails is pretty amazing.”