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After 30 years, Peggy Mason still returns for Atmore Series

Peggy Atmore Mason and five of her children will be at Spirit Mountain this weekend on skis. They'll help celebrate the 30th Atmore Memorial Mid-American Series, recognized annually as the premier slalom event in the Midwest. It was started in 19...

Peggy Atmore Mason and five of her children will be at Spirit Mountain this weekend on skis.

They'll help celebrate the 30th Atmore Memorial Mid-American Series, recognized annually as the premier slalom event in the Midwest.

It was started in 1979 by the Duluth-Superior Alpine Club to honor the memory of Mason's husband, William Atmore, a Duluth surgeon, and their son, Mark, who died in the 1970s.

"If you were part of our family, you were a skier. That's what is so wonderful about skiing, it's a good family sport,'' Mason, who is remarried, said this week.

On Wednesday, she left her winter home in Lakewood, Fla., where the high temperature Sunday is forecast to be 70, about 71 degrees warmer than Duluth's predicted high. She's been at most of the Atmore Memorial races the past three decades, including last year, and will help hand out race awards Sunday along with her children -- Mary and Tom of St. Paul, Bill of Minneapolis, Michael of New York and Kathleen of Washington, D.C.

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Some of Mason's 15 grandchildren also will be on hand.

"Our family was involved in racing, coaching, volunteering and ski patrol at Spirit Mountain for years, and at one time we were named the Ski Family of the Year in the Central Ski Association,'' said Michael Atmore, an editor at Conde Nast Publications.

The late William Atmore grew up in Duluth, attended Duluth Cathedral High School and the University of Minnesota medical school, and was one of the founders of the Duluth-Superior Alpine Club. He died in 1975 of a heart attack at age 52.

Mark Atmore was a 1967 Cathedral graduate and earned the school's first Alpine skiing varsity letter. He later coached at the school and became a Minneapolis lawyer. He died in a 1978 car accident on an icy London Road at age 29.

The late Don Salo, president of the Duluth-Superior Alpine Club in 1979, came up with the idea of the Atmore Memorial races. The event, sanctioned by the International Ski Federation (FIS), annually has a maximum men's field of 140 and about 100 women entrants.

"The race is almost without a peer in the Midwest,'' says chief of race Tom Wood of Duluth, a United Airlines pilot. "We have such a good organizing committee and at least 100 volunteers, who provide things you don't get at a lot of other races."

Wood has been involved with the event for a decade and his wife, Lynn, designs the race's commemorative T-shirts.

Scott Neustel of Duluth has been part of the Atmore Memorial from the first year -- originally as a participant, and since then as a coach, volunteer and now, as a parent of a competitor.

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"This race attracts the up-and-coming racers, those looking to launch their careers,'' said Neustel, owner of Ski Hut. "We've had some big names come through here on their way to a higher level, like Kristina Koznick.''

Koznick, 32, who grew up in Eagan, Minn., and skied at Buck Hill in Burnsville, Minn., went on to be a World Cup champion and compete in three Winter Olympics. She competed in 2006 in Turin, Italy, despite torn knee ligaments.

Koznick has entered this weekend to lead the women's field.

Among the men's entrants are former winner Michael Tichy of Vancouver, British Columbia, who won an FIS race last weekend at Indianhead Mountain, Mich.; former Sierra Nevada College skier Martin Stocker of Austria; and U.S. junior slalom champion Michael Ankeny, a Blake High School junior and defending Minnesota prep champion.

Wood's daughter, Elke, a Duluth Marshall sophomore, and Neustel's son, David, a Duluth East junior, are also competing.

The event begins today with the first men's run at 10:30 a.m. and the first women's run at 1:10 p.m., and continues through Sunday.

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