HOUGHTON, Mich. (WJMN) – For the sixth time in program history, Michigan Tech will play host to the U.S. Cross Country Ski Championships.
“We are very excited to bring a national championship event to Michigan Tech,” said Tom Monohan Smith, the Nordic Ski Head Coach at Michigan Tech. “It’s a big deal for our community every time we get to host, especially U.S. National Championships. We last hosted in 2020 and we were actually supposed to host in 2021 but due to Covid-19, that year was actually canceled. It’s a really, really special thing for us to be able to bring the best athletes from across the entire country to Michigan and to the Upper Peninsula here to show what amazing skiing we really have here.”
The event spans a week and consists of three different national championship race days and concludes with a SuperTour race day. The event will showcase the world-class Tech Trail race venue and courses which are one of a kind in the U.P.
“It’s actually recreational forest and Nordic ski trails,” said Smith. “In the wintertime, it features 35 kilometers of ski trails. They are held to the highest international standard for being able to have competitive courses. “It allows us to have races with mass starts with 200 athletes going off at once. You have to meet certain requirements of course widths and climb lengths and things like that to be able to have a venue that can host a championship-level event like this as well.”
500 of the best Nordic skiing athletes from across the country including collegiate, junior, and senior racers are expected to compete.
“It’s a really great opportunity for us to bring the very best athletes from age 15 all the way up to Olympic-caliber athletes that raced in Beijing last year onto our campus to be able to see what we have,” said Smith. “It’s great awareness for our program and we have a ton of perspective student-athletes that are here racing in the championships. So, they really get to see what we have to offer from the athletic side of things during the events, and certainly, that’s the main initiative for us when hosting the championships is to be able to bring those perspective student-athletes to Michigan Tech and have them see the student-athlete experience that they can have here.”
The event will be a qualifier for several other championships, including the U.S. Ski & Snowboard College Cup, which the MTU Women’s Nordic Ski Team won as the top collegiate team at the National Championship in 2020.
“It’s a qualifier for the World Ski Championships, the World Junior U23 Ski Championships which we’ve had student-athletes compete in the past as well,” said Smith. “For the World Cup and then also U.S. Ski & Snowboard, which is the national governing body of our sport in the U.S. They do a specific award at the Championships for the top college program, so it’s a fun opportunity for us to be able to see how we stack up against our collegiate competitors in a competition that’s actually separate from NCAA.”
Along with exposure, the national championships also have a huge economic impact on the area as well.
“We’ve got 500 participants that come to the events and that also draws probably another 500 parents that come to watch their athlete compete in the event,” said Smith. “It’s a big deal because we sell out of all the hotels locally, all the restaurants are packed and I think that it’s really awesome for our community to really bolster good economic growth.”
The 2023 U.S. Cross Country Ski Championship will begin on January 2nd and run through January 7th.
For more information on the event, including how to sign up to be a volunteer visit: USNationals.mtu.edu.