Riding through time with Norte

My family’s early years with toddlers and young children had a predictable rhythm — often involving an excursion timed to the season.

For example, on Christmas Eve, we walked or skied in the woods late at night. We’d set out orange slices, popcorn, and cranberries near pine or spruce tucked in the woods for the animals. Then, when the snow melted, we took puddle walks on the campus of Northwestern Michigan College to let the kids splash and play until they were muddy and soaked.

In spring, we picked strawberries, ate until we were full, and made jam that never lasted long enough. In the summer, we spent afternoons jumping waves and eating popsicles. Then, finally, we gathered all three children and the dog out for the fall for an annual picture in front of sunflowers. Their daily growth, now apparent when marked by the towering stalks. These seasonal markers contributed to the rhythm and joy of our home.

However, one seasonal marker held our attention and excitement more than most. And that’s the Iceman Cometh Challenge, which happens every second Saturday of November and is quickly approaching.

Austin, now almost 18, and Avery, nearly 16, first rode in the Sno-Cone race in 2009. Packed with other riders at the starting line, I can still see Austin’s wide-eyed look before the crowd yelled, go, go, go! He looked at us for reassurance; we proceeded to smile and cheer for him to use his pedal power. Then, when it was Avery’s turn to go, her little legs kicked into gear with a determination and ferocity we didn’t know she had. I ran behind her on the course, cheered her on, and felt my heart swell with pride and excitement. We had similar excitement when our youngest, Ella, hit the racecourse in the years to follow.

How can people so little be so assertive, courageous, and strong?

The collective energy at the Sno-Cone race rivals the cheers for the professional riders. It is empowering to witness bravery in the face of a new experience and inspiring to see sheer determination from children. And the encouragement and genuine joy rippling through a crowd of parents, siblings, grandparents, and strangers are palpable. These moments are powerful, memorable, and kept us returning.

With growth, time, and practice, Sno-Cone racers become Slush Cup racers and, eventually, full-on Iceman racers. Our family has every race plate and medal from these years, marking time progression like the photos in front of sunflowers.

Iceman is the largest mountain bike race in North America. With 5,000 riders annually, this event is a highlight for many in the Norte circle. So if you have a young rider itching to roll for the first time, there’s still time to register for both the Sno-Cone and Slush Cup. And we will be there to help.

Norte and Liderato, our Youth Leadership Council (many themselves experienced Sno–Cone riders from years ago), are going all in this year with our support. You might see us helping set up for the race or chatting with racers at the Grand Traverse Resort the day before the race. Then, on race day, we will be assisting and cheering on the Sno-Cone racers and cleaning up the next day.

It’s going to be a happy, healthy, strong weekend to remember. Join us at Iceman!

Thank you!

Let’s ride,

Jill Sill
Norte Interim Executive Director

P.S. As I looked through photos of our Iceman experiences, fond memories came rushing back. I wonder if some of you might share some of your memories with us. Do you have an early photo of one of your children in their first Sno-Cone, Slush Cup, or maybe their first epic run from Kalkaska? Please share it with us on social media leading up to the big race on November 6. The whole Norte team would love to go back in time with you.


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