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Vasa Newsletter #8

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VASA Ski Club

Vasa Newsletter #8

February 23, 2014


One definition of courage is to challenge yourself and step outside your comfort zone. Over 860 skiers and fat bikers did just that and braved sub-zero temperatures to participate in one or more of the VASA Festival of Races. We talked with Ed Endres and Pat Hall who are two of the five men that have completed all 36 VASA races and they both felt that the snow conditions, volunteers and race organization were as good as they have ever been.
The VASA awards party was held on Feb. 8th at the Grand Traverse Resort and attended by an  energized group of  approximately 350 people. We recognized all of our podium finishers in each race age group. Our individual male and female race champions were as follows:

50km Freestyle  Eli Brown  Williamsburg    Erica Ohearn    TC
50km  Classic   Rob Fox    Negaunee        Jennifer Brown  TC
27km Freestyle  Steve Kuhl Marquette       Laura Webb      TC
27km Classic    Jim Harrington Petoskey    Ellen Wiitala   Marquette
12km Freestyle  Nathan Tefelsky TC         Sara Nestor     TC
12km Classic    Charley Needham   TC       Dolores Treese  Muskegon
6km Classic     Ian Durand  Interlochen    Sarah Goble     Petoskey
6km Freestyle   Ian Durand  Interlochen    Erin Lipp       TC
Fat Bike Race   Jordan Wakely  Grayling   Danielle Musto Grand Rapids
Ski Fatalon     David Maclean  Ludington   Beth Collins    TC

We especially salute many of our endurance athletes who competed in more than one event on the weekend. Many of the Michigan Cup skiers raced freestyle on Saturday and classic races on Sunday. They were led by ageless Milan Baic who took third in the 50k FS on Saturday then won the 16k classic on Sunday. A number of skiers raced in a 27k race on Saturday morning then honored George Lombard and George Kuhn by participating in the Human Inspiration Tour that afternoon. In our newest multiple race event, the Ski Fatalon,  we had ten people who did a 27k ski race on Saturday morning then competed in a 24km Fat Bike race in the afternoon.

In summary, I would really like to thank all of the skiers, bikers and volunteers for enduring tough conditions to make the 2014 North American VASA a great success.
Best wishes,
Pete LaPlaca
President, Board of Directors


The night before the VASA Festival of Races started, our co-founder, Ted Okerstrom passed away at the Pavilions in Traverse City. He was a true visionary and was always looking for ways to improve the quality of life in our area. Along with Vojin Baic, he started a cross country ski race from Traverse City to Ranch Rudolph which has evolved into the current pristine VASA trail network and the oldest continuous running cross country ski race in Michigan. Until his late 80's, Ted was the course marshall at the Land's End road crossing in his signature raccoon coat while he cheered on many of his friends.

Mr. Okerstrom had a boundless enthusiasm for all things “Traverse City” and took advantage of many opportunities for community service over the years. He was a true “trail blazer” and believed whether on foot, skis or wheels, a great trail system would be a tremendous asset to a community. He was actively involved in the development of both the VASA and TART trails from their beginning.

A celebration of Ted's remarkable life will be held this coming summer. Details will be announced at a later date. His enthusiasm and energy will be missed!


Many of you asked about the video that we were streaming during the VASA awards party at the Grand Traverse Resort. This year, we contracted with Meredith Video Productions from Traverse City to “shoot” both video and stills of all Saturday ski events. The resulting DVD runs almost an hour and includes each wave start as well as an incredible array of overhead shots taken from the Timber Ridge tower, helmet cam clips donated by Doug Cornell and interviews with a variety of skiers and race veterans. The finish line footage includes a world-class array of finish line beardcicles.
The video has been dedicated to the memory of Ted Okerstrom and is now available for sale. Just send  a check for $20 to the NAV, 868 Webster Street, Traverse City, MI. 49686. The cost includes shipping and handling.


One of our mainstays is that we are never satisfied with the status quo. We have already begun an intensive review process where we analyze every aspect of our organizational efforts and events so that we can make improvements for the following year. A valuable part of that process is our skier survey. We already have over 200 responses from fellow skiers. If you have not replied to the survey, please use this link: and share your thoughts with us on your 2014 VASA experience.


The “shooters” from Meredith Video Productions also took several thousand incredible still shots of skiers in action. They will be available for your viewing pleasure on the VASA  Face book page which can be located from the home page of our website: The cameramen did an incredible job under very trying conditions and included George Meredith, Peter Forton and Robert Kline.


The North American VASA as well as a number of mountain bike, running and snowshoe events are conducted on the VASA Pathway during the year. The Pathway is a dedicated non-motorized trail located in the Pere Marquette State Forest. It is a local treasure of Northern Michigan beauty with TART Trails acting as the steward of our network of trails. TART is currently working with the Michigan DNR to conduct and economic impact study of the VASA trail and all of the events that are conducted on it. The goal of the study is to better understand the economic impact the Pathway has in our region so that community leaders, state officials and elected representatives can make good decisions about our trails as well as those around the state. Please take a few minutes to complete the following online survey as part of this important study. Please complete this survey at your leisure:

2014 VASA 50-50 RAFFLE

Our thanks to all who purchased 50-50 raffle tickets this year. Proceeds will be used to offset the sizable expenses we incurred doing trail development and investment in grooming equipment for Riley's Loop. Our cash award winner was Chris Cracchiolo from Warren, MI.  In addition, 24 others won some neat swag prizes that were donated by Cross Country Ski HQ, Mclain Cycle and Fitness and Einstein Cycles. Our thanks to all of you who purchased tickets as well as the sponsors who provided the swag prizes.

Timber Ridge's Annual Suds & Snow

On March 8th our gracious hosts, Timber Ridge Resort, will be staging their 8th annual Suds & Snow event which is Traverse City's original Michigan Micro-brew fest. To add to the originality of the event, they will be hosting a Fat Tire Bike race referred to as Fat Camp. This should be great for racers, and spectators to cheer, imbibe and enjoy one of the most beautiful venues in Michigan. It is a wonderful platform for racing and spending a weekend in the pristine Pere Marquette forest.

There will be live music, plus WKLT will be live on location belting out the tunes. Food from local restaurants will be available. Other activities include snowshoeing, cross country skiing, hiking, the WKLT Prize wheel, the first Suds & Snow Olympics and a wacky wear contest. So get your team of six (6) and sign up when you arrive. For your safety, free shuttles will be provided by Celtic Tours of Traverse City,

Featured breweries for this event are Bells, Shorts, Right Brain, Arcadia Ales, Brewery Ferment, North Peak, Jolly Pumpkin, Northern Naturals, Terra Firma, Cheybogan Brewery and more. Visit the website at for more information and to purchase tickets.

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