Langlauf laced with tradition

Cross-country event attracts top-flight skiers

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photoThe Spokane area's biggest cross-country skiing event of the season, a race or a tour depending on how it is skied, is set for Sunday at Mount Spokane State Park.

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SPOKANE — The region's biggest cross-country skiing event of the season — a race or a tour, depending on how you want to ski it — is set for Sunday at Mount Spokane State Park.

Speed is not a prerequisite. Some skiers at the back of the field typically usher or tote kids along the tracks, possibly with Grandma in the group, if she's not powering ahead to win a ribbon in the 65-year-old age group.

The race also celebrates a "Woollies Division" for skiers donned in nonsynthetic clothing, and a "Woodies Award" for the top male and female finishers on wood skis.

But Langlauf also has a tradition of attracting sleek top-flight skiers to lead the field from the mass start.

Several future Olympians have learned how to climb to the top spot on the podium at Langlauf. Among them is Sadie Bjornsen, the Methow Valley native who won a spot on the USA Nordic Team bound for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. Bjornsen was the Langlauf women's division champ in 2003 at the age of 13.

Torin Koos of Leavenworth, the 1998 Langlauf champ, was on the U.S. Olympic Cross-Country Ski Team in 2006.

Koos and former Seattle resident Justin Wadsworth, Langlauf champ in 1987, were on the U.S. team for the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.

Parking at Mount Spokane is limited at the Selkirk Lodge on Langlauf race day as hundreds of skiers and their families arrive well before the 11 a.m. start to figure out the right wax for the race course, which is always groomed to the highest standard.

The 36th annual Langlauf 10-kilometer race continues to be a classic-style race, no skating allowed, with plaques, medals and ribbons for the winners.

Everyone else in the field of 200-300 skiers is eligible for the big post-race drawing for prizes.

A total of more than $6,000 in prizes has been donated by sponsors, from coffee to Nordic skiing gear and ski vacation getaways at Sun Mountain Lodge in the Methow Valley and the Issak Walton Inn oinMontana.