Father Mouchet started the Territorial Experimental Ski Training program that helped grow the sport of cross-country skiing across the North. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet brings Old Crow community together

‘We get more and more folks coming out and the community gets a little bit more involved’

The community of Old Crow hosted the fifth annual Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet over the Easter weekend and the event continues to grow.

Olympian Knute Johnsgaard was back in Old Crow for the event and he said the loppet seems to get better every year.

“It was really amazing,” said Johnsgaard. “Every year it just gets better and better. We get more and more folks coming out and the community gets a little bit more involved.”

This year, Johnsgaard said around 50 participants took part in the racing and many more came out to enjoy the event.

“With a community of this size, it’s pretty significant. There were just as many people who weren’t racing there hanging out at the ski lodge and just taking in the fun atmosphere of the event. It was a really special commemorative event to honour Father [Jean-Marie] Mouchet.”

Father Mouchet holds a special place in the histories of both the ski community and Old Crow.

“Father Mouchet was a very important figure in my life when I started skiing,” said Johnsgaard. “I’m just so honoured to be able to come up here.”

Founder of the Territorial Experimental Ski Training program, Mouchet is a big part of the reason so many in the Yukon enjoy cross-country skiing today, Johnsgaard explained.

“It was really him who started skiing in Old Crow and the Yukon. This is where it all started and began,” said Johnsgaard. “For me, my skiing career really started with him on the shores of Teslin Lake at the TEST camp.”

The first loppet was held in 2014, the same winter Father Mouchet died at age 96.

“It’s super special to be able to hold this event in a community where this special figure means so much and everyone really appreciates it. It’s a really special event for me to come back to honour him,” said Johnsgaard.

Perhaps most exciting for the younger skiers was seeing Johnsgaard again — now an Olympic athlete.

“A lot of the kids seemed particularly enthusiastic this year. Maybe part of it was the excitement around the Olympics,” said Johnsgaard. “I’ve been coming up here for five years in a row now, so I really got to know them and they got to know me. It’s pretty exciting for me and for them to ski together again this year.”

In addition to the two-kilometre, four-kilometre and eight-kilometre races, this year’s event also included an Easter egg hunt courtesy of Wykes’ grocery store, custom glass medals from Lumel Studios and ski equipment from Icycle Sports.

“The whole ski chalet there is really well equipped with equipment,” said Johnsgaard. “We had equipment for everyone.”

Johnsgaard said the loppet is a special event to come back to each year.

“We went for a beautiful ski yesterday morning on a clear, crisp day on Crow Mountain right where we spread his ashes five years ago,” said Johnsgaard. “It’s a fly-in community so they don’t always have the privileges and the events that we take for granted in a city like Whitehorse. [The loppet] has definitely been a really huge part of this community and everyone does an amazing job of helping out.”

Contact John Hopkins-Hill at john.hopkinshill@yukon-news.com

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