CALUMET, Mich. (WJMN) – The 42nd annual UP Health System Great Bear Chase Ski Marathon is set to begin on Saturday, March 12 in Calumet. Nearly 800 skiers are expected to take part in the race that takes place on Calumet’s Swedetown Trails.

The event will begin at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday with a 50-kilometer skiathlon. In the skiathlon, participants ski the first half in classic diagonal style and the second half with the skating freestyle. The event will feature six other races throughout the day of 5, 10, and 25 kilometers.

Many skiers travel in from around the midwest, but event organizers say some travel from as far as Florida and California.

“About 80 percent of our participants come from outside of our immediate area, which means more than 600 skiers and their families are renting hotel rooms, eating at restaurants, and supporting our local economy,” said Race Director Angela Luskin. “Cross country skiing is a silent sport but has a large impact for local businesses not only on Bear Chase weekend but throughout the winter. Many of our racers return every year because they love the event and they love the Keweenaw.”

The race originated in 1981, founded by Rick Oikarinen and Bob Gregg as a late-winter cross-country ski that would showcase Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, and the plethora of snow it gets.

“We know how much snow we get up here, and we know how truly unique it is compared to places that
are only three or four hours away,” said Oikarinen, who served as race director from 1982 until 2005.
“Plus, we knew there was an opportunity to help our trails grow and maintain their pristine condition.”

Since its inception, event organizers say the race has acted as a major fundraiser for the Swedetown Trails Club. The club uses the money to maintain the Swedetown Trails, known as some of the finest in the Midwest.

You can follow the Great Bear Chase on Facebook. Registration for the event is open until 11:59 p.m. on March 10.