CALUMET TOWNSHIP - For the 32nd year, on March 10, hundreds of racers will crowd the Swedetown Ski Trails for the Great Bear Chase cross country ski races.
Race Director Angela Luskin, community health coordinator with race organizer Portage Health, said some changes have been made for the race.
"We do have some improvements this year," she said.
Two races have been added to the event, Luskin said. A 50-kilometer classic race, which requires the stride method of skiing, and a 14k freestyle, which allows racers to use either the stride or skating method of skiing, are new. The course for the 14k freestyle races is wide enough to accommodate both styles of skiing.
The three other races for the Great Bear Chase are the 26k and 50k freestyle, and the 26k classic.
Luskin said registration is required to take part in the races.
"We take registration to March 9 at 9 p.m.," she said.
To register before March 9, Luskin said racers can go online to bearchase.org, or print out the form from the site and mail it in.
Registration will take place at the Calumet High School gymnasium from 4 to 9 p.m. for late registrants, Luskin said. Number bibs can be picked up there, also.
There is a change in the race course this year to accommodate a new stadium area for spectators off of Spruce Street where racers will start and finish, Luskin said.
"It will be very visible," she said.
The course this year won't cross snowmobile trails or roads, either, Luskin said.
Races will be broken down in age divisions, Luskin said. There will be overall male and female racers for each race. There will be first-, second- and third-place finishers for up to 14 years old, and 15 years old and up.
The chalet at the trails will be open for the races, Luskin said, but there will be more activities after the event.
"After the racers and volunteers are done, they go to the Calumet High School gymnasium and feast on pasties, fruit, bakery and refreshments," she said.
After all racers are in the gym, there will be an awards ceremony, and Luskin said the awards, which are locally made, are provided by Copper Land in Lake Linden.
Luskin said of the approximately 400 racers taking part in the event, 80 percent are from out of the area, including downstate Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois.
"The Bear Chase is typically known as one of the last races before (racers) put their skis away (for the season)," she said.
From 5 to 9:30 p.m. on March 9, Luskin said there will be a CLK Rotary-sponsored pasta dinner at the Irish Times Restaurant and Pub on Hecla Street in Laurium. The cost is $8 at the door.
Luskin said the number of participants for the great Bear Chase is expected to be greater this year than in years past.
"We have what most people don't have, and that is snow," she said.