Proud Minnesota moment: First US-hosted World Cup ski race in 23 years begins in Minneapolis

Above the Loppet Cup course at Theodore Wirth Regional Park, cheers and cowbells filled the crowded hills as the FIS Cross-Country World Cup began in Minneapolis on Saturday.

Some spectators were too young to remember the last time a World Cup race was held in the United States 23 years ago.

“Just stoked, super stoked to get to experience a world-class ski event for my first time,” reacted Anja Maijala, a skier and Minnesota native. “After the last cancellation with COVID, yeah, we were ready.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in the park prouder than the Minnesotans in the long-awaited moment, as the city skyline peeked through the newly snow-covered trees. The lack of snow and freezing temperatures this winter put a lot of extra work on staff at The Loppet Foundation in preparation for the event.

“There’s just such great volunteers,” Maijala said. “Here in Minneapolis, I knew they’d for sure be able to pull it off still.”

Maijala was among the many glistening, glittered faces sprinkled through the sea of caps, sunglasses and red, white and blue flags. The sparkly cheeks were inspired by Afton native Jessie Diggins, who was a clear favorite among the spectators who erupted as she shredded past them.

“I mean, who isn’t, right?” exclaimed spectator Mandy Queitzsch. “But we love all of the skiers. They’re all amazing athletes.”

Six of the athletes representing the U.S. also represent Minnesota as the world cheers them on from right at home.

Loppet Cup Races and events continue through Monday.