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Rainbow rendezvous xc ski races is set for Saturday, March 3. The 10th annual event is for skiers interested in making it a competition, as well as those who just want to get out and ski for fun. (From the left) Steven Gromattea, last year's male freestyle winner Wynn Roberts and Dylan Ramstad-Skoyles "rendezvoused" for the event.

Rainbow's racing rendezvous

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This winter's lack of snow has many winter enthusiasts jumping for joy, as a new layer of fresh fluffiness blankets the area.

Cross-country skiers are no different, and the "powder" came none too soon for Rainbow Resort's 10th annual Rainbow Rendezvous XC Ski Races, set for Saturday, March 3.

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"This is the 'citizen's race,'" said Amy Xu, race director and one of the owners of Rainbow Resort. "We do have some high caliber, pro racers coming too, but it's mostly for citizen skiers."

That means skiers with competitive bones but non-Olympic abilities will feel right at home during this race.

The resort, which is located southeast of Waubun, will start its day's events at 10 a.m.

There will be a 15K Freestyle and a 15K Classic race, as well as a 7.5K tour.

"The tour is for skiers that just want to jump in -- they don't need to get timed or awards," said Xu. "It's for people who just enjoy skiing and want to see what it's about."

Xu says there's a bit of a difference between the classic and freestyle races.

"Free style is usually like a skating motion on cross country ski, where classic you usually stay in a track and use stride and compete in those tracks," said Xu.

There will not only be door prizes, but also prizes for both males and females in 11 different categories.

Xu says whatever the style, she believes more and more people are picking up the sport in a non-competitive way.

"It's all about the healthy lifestyle, and skiing can be a lifelong sport," said Xu. "This is cardio driven -- running is difficult here in the winter, so I think a lot of cyclist and runners convert themselves into skiers.

And although it's been one of the driest winters on record, Xu says resorts in this area have been lucky to have enough for grooming.

"We're very fortunate to have the natural snow," said Xu. "There are probably only two or three places that can provide track under the natural snow -- Maplelag is one of them and then Itasca, Tamarac and Park Rapids -- we've been very lucky."

This year's Rendezvous will also feature a couple of speakers including one that will be talking about international race in connection with the USA Vasaloppet races around the world.

The other will be with Team Birkie, an upper Midwest racing team that nurtures Nordic racers.

"It was recently set up in the Twin Cities to help athletes, particularly those after college. They sponsor them to keep them racing with the hopes that they will eventually go to a higher level like the Olympics," Xu explained.

But for the "citizens" back in Becker County, good ski conditions and some hot chocolate are enough to make most happy.

Tickets to Rainbow Rendezvous XC Ski Races are $35, with high school or club team members getting a $5 discount.

Children just wanting to ski can purchase a $5 day pass.

"We'll also have snowshoeing and skating -- plus we've got a sledding hill for the kids," said Xu, adding that skiers can warm up with refreshments like soup and cookies that are included.

"We'll have a whole day of activities, so we just encourage everyone to come on out and enjoy the snow," said Xu.

For more information on the event, log on to www.rainbowresort.com.

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