Great Bear Chase draws near-record field of skiers

CALUMET – Guy Goode lives in Calumet and he’s been cross country skiing for years, but Saturday was his first time taking part in the Great Bear Chase race.

Goode, who is originally from Flint, said because he enjoys cross country so much, he left his hometown.

“That’s one of the reasons I came here,” he said.

Race Director Angela Luskin, community health coordinator with race sponsor Portage Health, said this was the 33rd year for the Great Bear Chase and there were 493 entrants, the second most to the 511 who took part in 2007.

Luskin said racers keep coming back to the GBC in large part because of the care put into the course at Swedetown Trails.

“We’ve done some major improvements,” she said.

Those improvements include a stadium area with the start and finish lines next to each other.

More and better marketing has been done, as well, to better inform participants and spectators about the race, Luskin said.

In addition, the race course is groomed very well and many racers have made favorable comments about it, Luskin said.

“Hats off to (the groomers),” she said.

There was 2 feet of base snow on the course, Luskin said.

“The snow helped this year,” she said.

Participants came long distances to take part in the race, Luskin said, including from Pueblo, Colo.; Iowa City, Iowa; Knoxville, Tenn., and even Germany. However, most of the participants came from Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Two of those people who came from Wisconsin were Zack Strom and Jenny Demeules, who ski for a club at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Not only was this Strom’s first race, he just started cross country skiing in January with the UW club. The members of the club heard about the GBC and decided to give it a try.

“It was a great opportunity,” he said.

Strom, who raced in the 14k Classic race, said he enjoyed the course, but he tried it out Thursday with less than satisfactory results.

“I fell down twice,” he said.

Demeules said she’s been skiing the past four years, but Saturday was her first time for the GBC and she enjoyed the experience.

“It’s probably one of my favorite courses,” she said.