Steamboat Springs The newly-formed Nordic Challenge race series just barely missed reaching a milestone during its second event.
"We haven't been actively promoting the series, but it's already exceeding the expectations we had for it," Dan Smilkstein said. Smilkstein is the president of the Nordic Council, which oversees the races.
None of the organizers could have anticipated the 99 racers, which showed up for the last event of the series at Steamboat Lake on Saturday. Most of the racers were Routt County locals, but Smilkstein said the new series is already drawing athletes from places like Wyoming, Glenwood Springs and the Front Range.
"It's just a lot of fun," local racer Walter Magill said. Last Saturday's event was his third cross country race.
"I think it's popular because there are a lot of variables. They have divisions for youths and adults, as well as cross county and snowshoe races," Magill said. "It's also nice that the races take place at a variety of different locations."
Magill said the series gives racers a chance to experience the many different Nordic opportunities available in the valley. Magill said the exposure has inspired him to revisit the courses with other friends and family.
Smilkstein is hoping for continued success at the next event, which will take place Feb. 9 at Howelsen Hill.
That event will feature its normal cross country races, but will be combined with the city's snowshoe race.
Athletes who want to compete in the series' snowshoe or duathlon event should take part in the city's race that week.
The Nordic Challenge normally includes five different races including an event for athletes under the age of 12, a race for those at the recreational level and a 10-kilometer competitive division. Each of those races offers a number of age classes as well as divisions for racers who prefer the classic and freestyle methods of cross country racing.
But the Nordic Challenge goes beyond just cross country skiing by offering a 5-kilometer snowshoe race and a dualathlon event (athletes can compete in both the cross country and snowshoe races and have their times combined in the duathlon.)
"The response to this series has been overwhelming. Now we just want to keep building on it," Smilkstein said.
Other events this winter will include an event at Lake Catamount Feb. 22 and another race at Vista Verde March 1.