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      Biggest Noque ever

      Marquette General Health System's 2013 Noquemanon Ski Marathon was the biggest marathon in its history. It attracted skiers and tourists from all over the United States, many of which come back each year. TV6's Dustin Bonk takes an in-depth look at the racers and volunteers of the ski marathon in part one of his series "Dustination: Noque."

      Fifteen-hundred-ninety-five (1,595) skiers competed in this year's ski marathon, the most in the marathon's 15 years and more than double that of the inaugural race, according to the Noquemanon Trail Network.

      More than three quarters of the skiers are from outside the U.P. John Wilkinson is a Northern Michigan University graduate who now lives in Aspen, Colorado. He says the Noque is worth the trip. He competed in the 50K Classic.

      "This is a unique trail system and this has got a reputation of being a very unique ski marathon," said Wilkinson.

      In Aspen, Wilkinson says he is used to seeing the X Games, but that they can't compare to an event like the Noque.

      "You got a million dollars worth of snowmaking to build up these jumps that takes these guys a minute and a half to get down, and meanwhile tomorrow during the race, it's going to take us four hours to go out for our little pleasure romp in the northern woods," Wilkinson said.

      For Wilkinson, it's also a family experience. By coming to Marquette, he's able to race with his daughter. Lindsey. who is a current NMU student. Many others echoed that it's family that makes the Noque so special.

      "It's not just the race. It's also with friends, family, and people that are important to me," said skier Bob DeVoe from Arden Hills, MN. He competed in the 24K Classic.

      Cindy Noble is one of more than 500 volunteers. She didn't compete, but she makes sure she brings her whole family along for the ride.

      "I think it's a good experience for them, my sons, to learn to volunteer and get out in the community and help a bit and bring events like this that are so great to our community," said Noble. She has been volunteering for the Noque for the last three years.

      The 2013 race was another huge success, but it wasn't easy. Snow was scarce leading into January for much of the U.S., so much so that the SISU Ski Fest in Ironwood and the Seeley Hills Classic in Wisconsin were canceled in January. Thanks to some last minute snow and some hard working volunteers, the Noque trails were good to go.

      "We've got great snow, consistent snow, that the other parts of the Midwest do not have, so I think we've got a niche in the fact that we've got the right weather," said Jon Mommaerts, Race Director.

      Even with fresh snowfall, the NTN had to truck in about 30 loads of snow to secure the finish line at the Superior Dome, something Mommaerts says is very important.

      "What people want is an experience. They want something unique. They want to feel that sense of accomplishment that you skied all the way from Ishpeming to Marquette," Mommaerts said.

      Well, whether you're looking for that experience or just a day with your daughter, the Noquemanon is likely to keep growing each year.

      "I want to get my wife and my son out here so we can see our whole family come out here for the Noque weekend," Wilkinson said.

      In part two of the "Dustination: Noque" series, Dustin Bonk takes a closer look on the wide reach of the Noque and its impact on local tourism.