The snow is coming and temperatures are dropping. Winter is certainly on the way after a rather mild fall. That means it’s time to dust off the skis, dig out the snowshoes and locate those ski goggles.
As winter arrives in earnest, preparations are well underway for the Wyoming Winter Senior Games coming to Laramie on Feb. 16-18. Laramie hosted the Senior Winter Games, also known as the Winter Senior Olympics, for the first time in 2020. The Games were canceled in 2021 because of Covid-19, but are back for 2022 with registration opening Friday.
In addition to the volunteer planning committee formed by Laramie residents, community members have stepped up to become sport commissioners for all of the various sports and venues. Personnel with the city of Laramie Parks and Recreation Department also are assisting, especially with registration and many behind-the-scenes tasks.
While there are nearly three months before the festivities begin, now is the time for competitors to check out the list of sports and make training plans. There’s something for everyone with 11 sports and a total of 23 events in addition to a swim meet with 22 events.
All competitors must be at least 50 years old as of Dec. 31, 2022. There are 10 age brackets at five-year increments up to age 95 and older. Medals are awarded to the first three finishers in each event for each age bracket. All participants compete in the age bracket based on their age on Dec. 31, 2022, even if they have not reached that age at the time of the winter competition. Age for the doubles pickleball competition is determined by the age of the youngest partner.
Entry, regardless of the number of events, is $55. That also includes a Wednesday welcome social at the Hilton Garden Inn and a celebration banquet on Thursday evening at the Alice Hardie Stevens Center.
The Recreation Center hosts indoor events, including a swim meet, pickleball tournament and power walk. Sports held at the Ice and Events Center include speed skating and the hockey shoot. There’s even a non-competitive curling clinic for those who always wanted to try the sport but never had an opportunity.
Downhill ski races take place on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons that week at the Snowy Range Ski and Recreation Area with slalom and giant slalom events. Discounted lift tickets can be bought at the ski area, while those age 70 and over ski free, as is always the case at the ski area.
Members and staff with the Medicine Bow Nordic Association assist with all Nordic classic and freestyle ski races with the 2.5 km, 5 km and 10 km distances. The events are based out of the Tie City Trailhead at the Happy Jack Recreation Area. That also is the location for the biathlon, held Feb. 18.
That unique event, which involves freestyle cross-country skiing and shooting, is being headed by Rebecca Walsh, owner of Laramie Basecamp. Laser rifles are provided by the Casper Mountain Biathlon Club. The range opens an hour before the race so competitors can get familiarized and test out the guns.
For the biathlon, each participant skis a loop on Phil’s Pholly and then stops at the shooting range. They take five shots at laser targets while lying in the prone position. For every shot missed, the racer skis a lap around the Roundabout Trail. Next skiers take a second lap around Phil’s Pholly and return to the shooting range for another round of five shots, also in the prone position. Once again, any shots missed require a lap on the Roundabout Loop.
Actual ski distance depends on shooting accuracy. Of note in the 2020 event, which varied widely, is that some competitors made all their shots and avoided any penalty loops. Others missed all 10 shots and nearly got dizzy going in circles on the penalty loop.
Two other events at the Happy Jack Recreation Area, both on Friday and based out of the Happy Jack Trailhead, are the fat bike and snowshoe events. The fat bike race, hosted by Dewey Gallegos of the Laramie Pedal House, offers both 5Kand a 10K distances running concurrently.
Those on snowshoes have four events: the 2.2K course, 400-meter sprint, 100-meter sprint and the hill climb. A 15-minute break separates each race so competitors can take the snowshoe challenge and go for the gold in all four events.
For a full list of events and registration information, visit the Wyoming Senior Olympics website, wyseniorolympics.com.