Diggins, Ketterson, and Loppet Foundation Promote Minneapolis World Cup, “We are here to do this with joy.”

Ben TheyerlMay 8, 2023
Jessie Diggins at Wirth Park following the cancellation of the 2020 Minneapolis World Cup. (Photo: Loppet Foundation/(c) 2020 F/Go Photography)

What are European World Cup skiers asking ahead of the circuit’s first-ever visit to Minneapolis next February?

According to Jessie Diggins, “They’re like, have you heard of the Mall of America?”

In a recent media event held at Theodore Wirth Park, Diggins—with fellow Minnesotan US Ski Team member Zak Ketterson—highlighted plans to make the first FIS World Cup held in the United States in 22 years an even bigger Twin Cities attraction than a mall with a whole theme park (soon to be two!) inside of it.

Alongside Loppet Foundation Executive Director Claire Wilson, Diggins highlighted the deep significance of the Minneapolis World Cup to her and the greater US ski community, and the tangible excitement among World Cup skiers to make the trek to North America next season.

“No one racing on the World Cup right now has ever competed in the United States. None of us. It will have been 22 years.” said Diggins. That includes the Afton, Minnesota native, who has long advocated for bringing a World Cup to Minneapolis, including the successful bid in March 2020 that ultimately was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’ve always wanted to bring it back here to the community that raised me and gave me all these opportunities. I feel like I owe everything in my ski career to Minnesota—the welcoming, inclusive environment around cross-country skiing has always made me feel happy,” said Diggins.

Plenty of members of the ski community, and the Minnesota media, were present in the Loppet Adventure Sunday, but so too were the Olympic medals, Crystal Globes, and the World Championship medal that Diggins had won in the decade since she swept Junior Nationals at Wirth Park in 2011. Sure, Diggins is bringing it all back home. But for her and for US skiing, that’s a home that has been profoundly transformed by her accomplishments, and the ethos she has expressed on her way to those accomplishments.

“We are going to put on a very elite event without elitism,” said Claire Wilson. “We are here to do this with joy, and I can think of no other elite athlete that models that joy better than Jessie Diggins.”

Wilson detailed the material plans in place to bring that spirit to the event, scheduled 2024’s President’s Day weekend, February 17th-19th. Key to the Loppet Foundation is a presenting partnership with the Share Winter Foundation that will make the event free for all to attend. The partnership will also see a free-to-ski event at Wirth the day after the World Cup races.

Wilson also announced that the Loppet is committing resources to make the World Cup event “carbon neutral or carbon negative” towards “being an example” of the climate advocacy that many in the cross-country ski community, including Diggins, are doing to promote a sustainable future for the sport.

US Ski Team Member and Minneapolis native Zak Ketterson, who also participated in the event last Sunday, has seen first-hand the transformation of Wirth Park, and US skiing, to the point where bringing a World Cup is now a viable reality. “When I was racing in high school races here, the World Cup couldn’t have been further from my mind,” Ketterson commented to FasterSkier. “If you would’ve told me back then I’d be a World Cup skier with the opportunity to race in my home town, I would not have believed you.”

Diggins also reached back in her own memories of the World Cup to explain why the prospect of racing in the United States was an important milestone, saying “I remember sitting in the basement with my dad watching VHS tapes of races that had finished two years before when I was a kid. Now, kids will be able to literally reach out and touch the athletes here at home.”

The timing of the event next President’s Day weekend is meant to capture the idea of the World Cup as both a celebration of the growth of the US cross-country skiing community, and an opportunity to expand it. “In contrast to [2020] when this was a sprint race on a Tuesday,” said Wilson, “we’ll have a full weekend of racing this time around, one week prior to the Birkie. We’re hoping tens of thousands of people are going to come and make this an entire celebration of the sport of skiing in the United States.”

Zak Ketterson counts himself among the community that will head to the Twin Cities to celebrate. “I am honestly really excited about this World Cup being a built-in trip home,” he said. “It’ll be a unique experience getting to sleep in my own bed and race a World Cup the next day. I’m definitely going to have these races in the back of my mind all summer and fall.”

Diggins also spoke to the “celebration” aspect being at the heart of the athlete experience going into the World Cup next year, saying, “It would be fun to win this World Cup…I’m certainly going to try…but what I’m most looking forward to is getting to celebrate bringing the World Cup here and what it will take: so many volunteers, so many people working over the course of six years to make this happen. I know that is going to be the best feeling.”

Some of the details of what Diggins, and the World Cup field, will be racing in Minneapolis remain to be sorted out. The discipline and distances will be finalized at FIS’ Congress later this month. What other events will color the racing are also still up in the air, though Wilson has said that this World Cup event will likely be pared down and more focused on the actual racing than 2020’s full festival plans. And behind the scenes, the long process of finding the volunteer force to work the event is just in the beginning stages.

The Loppet though, is finding confidence in what was previously a source of sorrow: the cancellation of their first World Cup bid in 2020. As Diggins eloquently put it, “They’ve already hosted a World Cup, it’s just that this will be the first one with athletes racing at it.”

Minnesotan natives Zak Ketterson and Jessie Diggins alongside Scott Patterson and Rosie Brennan after winning the 4 x 5 k Mixed Relay in Falun last year. (Photo: NordicFocus)

Ben Theyerl

Ben Theyerl was born into a family now three-generations into nordic ski racing in the US. He grew up skiing for Chippewa Valley Nordic in his native Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before spending four years racing for Colby College in Maine. He currently mixes writing and skiing while based out of Crested Butte, CO, where he coaches the best group of high schoolers one could hope to find.

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