By: Cynthia Engel
The 2023 Tour de Meissner offered up an exceptional ski day for all skier ambitions. A classic-only ski tour that took place January 22, 2023 at Meissner Nordic Community Ski Area outside of Bend, Oregon, the Tour de Meissner delivered on everything that distinguishes an event from being good to being the one you mark on your calendar to make happen every year. Yes. A classic tour.
The Tour de Meissner came back to life in January 2020 after about a decade hiatus to remind regional Nordies, new and veteran, how great classic skiing can be and has been. That year, 93 of us slid up to the start line, eager to spend the day kicking and gliding through 33 kms of Meissner Nordic’s 47 impeccable kms of rolling terrain – ideal for the recreational classic skier.
Fast forward 3 years and the 2023 edition of the Tour de Meissner has evolved to become a highlight on the annual calendar. 163 people shimmied up to the start line this year to test their kick on either the 17 km or 30 km course designed by race veteran, coach and event director, Ben Husaby. Asked what he believes is the difference between a good event and great event, Ben reflected on it being about the people and the place:
“I’ve been Nordic skiing around the world for nearly 50 years and there’s something really unique about Meissner. Meissner is a happy place to ski for every type of skier. I wanted this Tour to showcase this special place while also creating something for everyone regardless of skills or fitness levels”.
Perhaps what makes an event great is an energized director who recognizes the importance of a sense of place and a sense of community.
The 5* temps, dozens of intrepid volunteers, blue skies, cotton ball clouds and cold, dry snow set the stage. The prevailing emotion among the skiers as they waited in the Meissner Lodge around the glowing wood stove for their waves to start was a mix of joy, curiosity, and camaraderie. People say Nordic skiers are strangely happier than most. The skiers at the TdM start line would affirm that perception.
As the start waves rolled out to the tunes of a lone bagpiper, the skiers were greeted with perfectly set, solid tracks; those tracks you could trust to hold in you no matter what your speed threshold. The terrain was rolling, and the snow was fast and cold. The perfect combination to make you feel like a rock star skier. Hero snow. Hero tracks. Hero terrain. Hero ambiance.
The course, easy to navigate and well-marked, led the skiers on a tour through the twists and turns of trails like Wild Strawberry and Ponderosa where, yes, the towering Ponderosas probably cheered skiers on as they slipped amidst their majestic trunks. Skiers then descended into the open basin of Wednesdays trail, made that crazy hairpin turn at the bottom of the long hill and began the steady climb out. The kind of grade that allows you to settle into a metronomic kick and glide cadence that reminds you why classic skiing is so dang rewarding.
Those mighty 30 km’ers headed out to catch a quick view of the edge of the world (or at least a view of the Central Oregon High Desert) before turning around and attacking the “never-ender”, then chasing and cheering each other around another series of twists, turns and climbs before everyone finally found themselves at the finish line.
Upon finishing, the emotions went from joy, curiosity and camaraderie to relief, exuberance and satiety as skiers were greeted with seemingly bottomless cups of hot chili, Crux and Worthy beer, hot chocolate (with marshmallows!) and baked goods, served up by Common Ground – a non-profit community of people striving to create a sense of belonging in the outdoors.
The sun was up for real at this point and the 5* became 25* but felt like 60* as skiers basked in the sun, swapped stories, and anxiously checked those 7 numbers on their little red ticket hoping for the moment their combination was announced by vivacious Tour director, Ben Husaby, as he handed out a stellar haul of locally sourced raffle prizes worth the wait.
What makes a classic tour great? Each tour is probably distinguishable for its own reasons. The Tour de Meissner was exceptional because it was a tour designed around a special place to celebrate the people who make it special.
The Tour de Meissner is a free event hosted by community-based 501c3 non-profit Meissner Nordic and takes place the third week of January.