BEMIDJI, Minn. -- When Roger Jarvi took up cross-country skiing some 45 years ago, he used to churn out nearly 500 miles on skis every winter. He was motivated by a Kodak-sponsored incentive program that rewarded skiers if they put on at least 750 kilometers in a season.
“I had just graduated from college, and all my buddies had left,” Jarvi said. “So I needed something to do in the winter. I’m not a big ice fisherman or anything like that, but I wanted to find something to do outdoors.”
At age 69, the retired social worker has scaled back on his ski mileage. But he still hits the trails as often as he can.
“Like today, I went out and I did probably three miles,” he said Monday night.
His favorite spots?
“Where there’s not a lot of hills,” Jarvi said with a chuckle. “Because it hurts when I fall, and it takes me longer to get up. So I’ve been going (on the trails) behind the high school.”
Jarvi will be among the participants Saturday at Bemidji’s oldest ski event, the 40th Annual Snowjourn at Buena Vista Ski Area north of Bemidji. He’ll be the only one who has taken part in all 40 events.
“He doesn’t ski as frequently as he did in his younger years,” said Bruce Slinkman, who has been the Snowjourn race director since the early 1990s. “But he’s dedicated to ski our event.”
At the 20th Snowjourn, Jarvi and Lloyd Johnson were honored as the only two skiers who had participated in all 20 events. Since then, the Johnson-Jarvi Award is presented every year to individuals who have demonstrated a long-term commitment and support of cross country skiing in the Bemidji area. Johnson died in 2008.
Snowjourn features a 12-kilometer classical and skate race and a variable distance tour of up to 12 kilometers. The many cut-across points on the west-side trails create tour distances of 5 kilometers, 7 kilometers or 12 kilometers.
“What’s unique about Snowjourn is that it’s a community thing, it’s not a race,” said Jarvi. “You go out there, enjoy the day and enjoy the company. It’s always been a social time, and it’s always nice to see those same people out there year after year. I don’t go out there and do the whole race. I go out there and do as much as I feel comfortable doing, and then I come back.”
The event was initially sponsored by the Bemidji State University Outdoor Program Center. The Minnesota Finlandia organization took it over in the early 1990s. Since 2001, Buena Vista's Logging Heritage Museum has been the sponsor.
Race registration opens at 9 a.m. on Saturday, in the Hall of Fame building. The race and tour will begin at 10 a.m., followed by food and the awards ceremony in the Hall of Fame building.
The 12-kilometer race and tour costs are $25 per individual or $70 for a family of three or more. High school and middle school ski team members race cost is $15.
Race officials are monitoring the forecast for Saturday. Sub-zero temperatures are expected, and the event could be postponed until Jan. 25. A decision will be made later in the week.