Every year the North American Vasa, a festival of cross country ski races, attracts hundreds of adult skiers. But the two-day event in Traverse City is also a chance for children ages 5–12 to participate in friendly Junior Vasa races with cheering crowds, medals, hot chocolate, cookies and apple sauce.

Junior Vasa races are back for the 13th year offering classic and freestyle skiing events of one to three loops on a special Jr. Vasa course. Races are not timed, but a large clock is running so skiers and parents can watch times. Competitors will be grouped by their ages. For the second time, the event will have a title sponsor, GoGoSqueeZ.

The races take place on a fun course lined with cheering crowds. Cowbells, a Nordic tradition, will be available for all to clang. All racers receive a custom Vasa medal at the finish line as well as hot chocolate, a Boomchuncka cookie from Cherry Republic and a GoGoSqueeZ snack pack.

“Junior Vasa skiers are the Vasa skiers of the future” says Dea Danly, Jr. Vasa race director. “Hopefully they will remember the fun they had and continue the sport for their entire lives. We are expecting a record number of skiers with the influx of Nordic Rocks skiers.”

The 44th annual North American Vasa takes place February 8–9 at Timber Ridge Resort. Junior Vasa races will be conducted on Saturday, February 8. Registration is $5 and can be done online at vasa.org or at Timber Ridge’s main lodge beginning at 10 a.m. Start times are noon for ages 5–7; 12:10 for ages 8–9 and 12:20 for ages 10–12.

The finish line will be an exciting place with the clamor of cowbells, cameras clicking and cheering from all spectators. Parents and children should arrive ready to ski and allow time to complete the registration and waiver forms and to attach race bibs. Moms and dads should make sure to bring their cowbells or other noisemakers as well as their cameras. Ski conditions are excellent at Timber Ridge.

The race is especially suited to kids in the Vasa Ski Club’s Nordic Rocks program in the elementary schools as well as kids in the We-Ski program, but all youths are welcome.