Some of the region's top youth cross country skiers will be gathering in the Detroit Lakes area Jan. 11-13, at Rainbow Resort in Waubun.
The United States Ski and Snowboard Association will be holding its U.S. Junior Olympic Qualifying West Itasca Opener event on the diverse and challenging cross-country ski trails at Rainbow Resort.
It's a rare occurrence the Junior Olympic Qualifier is held in Minnesota, with only the Duluth area hosting an event before and this year's races being the first to be held in Northwest Minnesota.
Each of 10 geographical regions send teams of athletes and about a dozen coaches to compete, with each region holding qualifying races to select athletes for their team.
The Midwest Regional -- which is being held at Rainbow Resort -- includes the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. There are four regionals held throughout the winter, including Rainbow Resort, Trollhaugen Ski Area in Dresser, Wis., Mt. Itasca in Coleraine and Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis.
Approximately 300-500 skiers will converge on each site to qualify for the Junior Olympics, which are held in Anchorage, Alaska, March 10-15.
The Junior Olympic Qualifier is for 10-19 year old skiers, both male and female.
There also will be a Citizen race and a high school division for grades seven through 12.
With Rainbow Resort never handling such an event, which will attract up to 300-500 competitors -- plus spectators and coaches -- the undertaking is quite the challenge, said owner Doug Schumann.
"The most challenging aspect will be the technical doings, because running the races uses a lot of newer technology," Schumann said. "But there has been a lot of work put in on trail preparations."
The early snow was a tremendous help for the Schumanns -- including Doug's wife Linda.
There was new grooming equipment purchased before the snow flew for the 23 kilometers of ski trails Rainbow Resort boasts of.
The attraction for the organizers of the U.S. Olympic qualifiers to Rainbow Resort was the versatile trails, which have been established for eight years now.
"We have 20K of trails for both classic and skate, with a good variety of terrain, including one-third of very hilly, challenging trails; one third of rolling hills and one-third of flat terrain," Doug Schumann said. "We also have 3K of trails which are new, which are six-seven feet wide to provide that 'being in the woods' atmosphere."
Of course, snow is an important aspect of holding such a large event and so far, the snowfall has been more than adequate.
"The early snow was a Godsend," Doug said. "We have 15 to 17 inches of snow, but we always need more."
One challenge Schumann has is the snow is dry, so it's harder to handle.
"They want a firm surface for their races, so getting two to three more inches before (the event) would be nice," Doug added.
The Junior Olympic Qualifier at Rainbow Resort will have a touch of celebrity status doing the announcing, as well.
Dick Beardsley -- two-time champion and course record holder (1981 and 1982) of the Grandma's Marathon and runner-up in the famed "Duel in the Sun" Boston Marathon in 1982 -- and Chad Giese -- MSHSL State Champion and six-time Mora Vasaloppet champion -- will pair up to do the announcing.
It is by far the biggest event Rainbow Resort has hosted and there are some "butterflies" heading into the qualifier.
"I'm very excited and the main thing is to have the course and trails in the condition they are expecting it to be in," Doug said.
There will also be concessions provided by Rainbow Resort, Linda Schumann said.
"I think, too, there is an attraction here because it's out in the wild and not in a densely populated area like in the Cities," Linda included.
Preparation for the event started in the fall, after co-owner and Chief of Competition for the Junior Olympic Qualifier Amy Xu earned Rainbow Resort the rights to host the event.
The Schumanns had to widen the starting and finish areas and widen the 1.5K sprint course.
With the potential of 500-900 attending, other necessities such as parking and toiletries had to be dealt with.
Friday, Jan. 10, will be training day for the competitors, with the Classic 1.5/5K races held Saturday, starting at 9:30 a.m. and running through 3:15 p.m.
Sunday will be the freestyle 5 and 10K races starting at 9:30 a.m., with the award ceremony being held at 2 p.m.