It was likely one of the closest finishes in the history of the Reino Keski-Salmi Loppet.
John Connor and Thomas Hardy were toque and toque crossing the finish line after their 34-kilometre ski, with Connor edging ever-so-slightly in front.
With participation key, this year’s 30th annual loppet, held Saturday at the Larch Hills ski area, was a great success, with 449 participants, 200 of them children.
Along with skiers, the Heart and Stroke Foundation was a winner, as the loppet raised $10,433 to create a 30-year total of $385,000 in support of heart health.
Skiers came from B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington and from as far away as England and Australia.
At this multi-generational event, there was a remarkable 77-year span between the youngest skier, at three, and the oldest, at 80.
Local ski ambassador Gullan Hansen was recognized for her remarkable endurance in completing 30 consecutive years of Reino Keski-Salmi loppets.
Hansen described her 30th loppet to the Observer as: “Fabulous as always, fantastic conditions…, we are so lucky on Larch Hills.”
Asked if the race is much different now than 30 years ago, she laughs.
“Yes, I’m older, I’m 30 years older. I’m slowing down, that’s normal by my age.”
She says in the early years, the point was to do it, never mind how long it took. Now, she says, people don’t do the loppet if they can’t finish in a certain time.
“In the beginning it was go out and do the distance.”
Hansen’s aim is to be the oldest person in the loppet.
“I’ll take it one year at a time.”
The loppet was supported by more than 250 volunteers and 30 local sponsors.
Larch Hills skiers who placed in the top three were:
• Overall Women in the 34-km race – 1st Abbigail May, 1:59:43; Overall Male – 1st John Connor, 2nd Thomas Hardy with 1:43:43.
• Four and under, 1-km, Girls: 4 and under – 1st Kiera Cadden, 2nd Reese Major, 3rd Katy Calkins; Boys – 1st Ian Orchard, 2nd Kynan Dicker, 3rd Kai Hansen.
• Five to seven, 2-km, Girls: 1st Brynne Smith, 2nd Madeline Wilkie, 3rd Samantha Peterson; Boys – 2nd Jonathan Breugem, 3rd Ian VanBergeyk.
• Eight to 10, 5-km, Girls: 1st Julianne Moore, 2nd Sophia van Varseveld, 3rd Clair VanBergeyk; Boys – 1st Trond May.
• 11 to 13, 5-km, Boys: 1st Konrad van Varseveld, 2nd Stephen Moore.
• 14 to 17, 17-km, Boys: 1st Seth van Varseveld, 2nd Alexander Corbett.
• 18 to 29, 34-km, Women – 3rd Erica Hartling.
• 30 to 39, 34-km, Men – 2nd Steve Beals.
• 40 to 49, 34-km, Women – 1st Abbigail May, 3rd Sheila Corbett; Men – 1st Brian May.
• 60 to 69, 34-km, Women – 1st Afke Zonderland; Men – 2nd Gary Hartling.
• 70 to 79, 17-km, Women – 3rd Gullan Hansen; Men – 3rd Blaine Carson.
Full race results can be found at zone4.ca.