It wasn’t even close to whiteout conditions. But conditions for the Cuyuna Lakes Whiteout mountain bike celebration should be just right.
Wednesday’s snowstorm dropped 7 to 9 inches of snow on the greater Brainerd lakes area. For many outdoor enthusiasts, that was probably a disappointment considering warm temps in coming days will put an end to their fun.
Not with Whiteout.
“It was exactly what we needed. We couldn’t have asked for better timing,” said Aaron Hautala of the Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.
“The amount of snow is perfect — 15 inches at Yawkey would have been a real challenge to groom.”
The celebration will revolve around the new winter mountain biking trails in the Sagamore Unit of the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area, not far from the world-class mountain biking trails that opened in the CCSRA last spring/summer. The Yawkey Unit, located in the heart of those trails, will be open Saturday only, featuring bobsled-like runs for daring mountain bikers.
Even before the storm, there was probably enough snow for Whiteout, Hautala said. But with mostly brown conditions in the area, the initial buzz surrounding this first Whiteout had gone the way of the snow.
Still, as of Wednesday afternoon, 21 racers had registered, and Hautala expected to be close to the event’s goal of 30 to 35 racers by the weekend.
“With the storm, we couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Hautala said. “Twenty-one racers is pretty dang good for a first event. And people don’t always register in advance, they just show up.
“It’s great snow. It’s got a wetness to it. Everything is covered,” he added of the grooming efforts. “And it ultimately looks like Whiteout will be the only winter bike event that we’ll have (in Minnesota). Every other event had marginal snow. We’re the latest one of the season. The biggest gift ever was getting dumped on. (But even without the snow) it would have worked just fine.”
The forecast is for highs in the low 30s on Friday and in the mid-20s on Saturday. So even after temps reached close to 40 Thursday, track conditions should be good for Whiteout.
“We’ll pack it down and let it set,” Hautala said of grooming Wednesday. “No one will be out riding (on the trails) until right before the thing opens. We’ll let it melt and freeze and put a single track on it before it opens.”
Whiteout will kick off with the Sagamore Friday Night Ride at 6 p.m. Also Friday, registration is scheduled from 4-9 p.m. and a pasta feed from 7:30-9 p.m., both at the Ironton American Legion. Proceeds from the pasta feed go to the trails.
Saturday will feature Yawkey runs from sunrise to sunset. Races at the Sagamore Unit start at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and culminate with the Cuyuna Lakes Fat Tire Drag Race Championship on Serpent Lake from 4:30-5:30 p.m. at Crosby Memorial Park. Fat-tire bikes are recommended for winter biking, but “regular” mountain bikes will do just fine, too, Hautala said.
The weekend also will include the Cuyuna Lakes Arctic Outdoor Market on Friday and Saturday, featuring goods made in — and unique to — Cuyuna lakes country, fat-tire bike demos and the Arctic Rush Kids Sledding Hill, both from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, and music by The Seth Doud Band from 2-5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve had emails from people who are coming in asking if we’re doing the event (because of the snowstorm),” Hautala said. “But this is what we wanted. They think that a lot of snow and biking don’t go together. But in this sense, they’re married. We’re positioning the whole event to show off the whole area.
“People from all over the state will be coming to this. When the winter trails were approved and then we said we’d do an event, the response was, ‘You should wait a year,’ from the public. But it’s all come together.”