Special Registration Issues

Special issues with races that may get fully booked. Register early.

RACENAME – Registration status for 2017 (and status for previous years)
Vasaloppet – Open&full 20.3.16
(Open&full 16.3.14, open&full 17.3.13, full 15.3.12, 30.5.11 and 24.8.10)

Marcialonga – Open&full 28.6.2016
(Open&full 1.7.2014. Open&full 5.6.2013, 15.10.12, full 18.5.11 and 7.9.10)

Birkebeinerrennet – Opened 13.4.16
(open 23.4.14 & never sold out, open 18.4.13, full 19.4.13, opens for foreigners early: 21.9.12. General opening & full 25.10.12, full 1.11.11 and 5.11.10)

US Birkie – Opened 2.5.2016 & full 3.11.2016.
(Opens 2.06.14 & Full 23.10.14. opened 3.6.13, full 10.10.13, Full 15.10.12, full 21.11.11 and 18.12.10)

Jizerska – Opened 6.6.2016. 20% available on 12.1.2017.
(Opens 1.5.14. Full ?. Full 8.11.13, opened 1.7.12. Full 19.12.12, full 1.12.11 and 22.12.10)

Tartu Skimarathon – Opened 1.3.2016
(full 7.1.11)

(All date formats are dd.mm.yy and indicates main race if multiple races in one event)

For Marcialonga: Book very early (before March 15th?) and get your startnumber via your hotel in the valley. Italians have their own early booking periode. Scandinavians can also get startnumbers in travelpackages from their major travel firms.

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Vasaloppet 2020 skiers report

Une Vasa envers et contre tout !

 

Cet hiver 2020 fut très rude pour les collectionneurs de tampons Worldloppet.

Transjurassienne, Sapporo, Tartu, Finlandia, König Ludwig Lauf, annulées faute de neige, Engadin, Birkebeiner, Fossavatn annulées pour cause de coronavirus…

Heureusement il y eut les courses américaines et quelques européennes sauvées par la chance (Jizerska 50), le calendrier (Demino ou Bieg Piastow), l’altitude (Dolomitenlauf) ou la neige artificielle (Marcialonga).

 

Ou, ou … avec une énergie incroyable … et la volonté de maintenir coûte que coûte une épreuve qui est le symbole de tout un pays : la Vasaloppet.

Courant février, les rumeurs les plus inquiétantes couraient sur l’organisation de toute la semaine « Vasa ».

« Alors l’ami Boris, tu risques fort de rester à la maison, ce premier dimanche de mars :  …pas de neige entre Sälen et Mora, beaucoup d’eau, des lacs… la Vasa sera probablement annulée… »

 

Pourtant sur le site de la course, la confiance semblait de mise :

« Nous ferons tout ce qui est possible pour maintenir toutes les courses de la Vasa (…) ».

 

Et « ils » ont tout fait !

Un enneigement artificiel (de la neige à canon mais aussi de la vraie neige stockée dès les premières chutes de l’hiver) sur 90 km, 6 à 8 mètres de large et 40 cm d’épaisseur. Plus l’immense aire de départ à Berga.

Calculez le volume de neige que cela représente, le nombre de camions, tracteurs et autres remorques qu’il fallut déplacer sur cette piste.

« Tout le monde s’y est mis : les bénévoles de tous les villages traversés, les entreprises de travaux publics, les agriculteurs, les familles … »

(Cf photos 1 to 4)

C’est qu’au-delà des moyens financiers que cela nécessite (mais la Vasa est une grande dame riche : pas trop d’inquiétude de ce côté-là) il faut du potentiel humain. Heureusement que la Vasa est une institution en Suède et qu’il était impensable de revivre l’édition 1990.

 

Rappelons que la semaine Vasa c’est … 11 épreuves réparties sur 10 jours… et réunissant au total près de 60 000 concurrents. Et plus de 7 millions d’€uros de droits d’inscription…

Seule concession faite : le départ de la Vasa 30 et de la course des femmes (la Tjej) se faisait du point de ravitaillement d’Oxberg et celui de la Vasa 45 d’Evertsberg (et non, comme d’habitude, du stade de départ situé en dessous de Oxberg).

 

Le prodige eut lieu.

Arrivé sur place le lundi soir de l’Öppet Spar, j’ai découvert à Mora une piste fantastique.

Cf photo Mora

mora

Et pour avoir couru la Vasa 45 (… seulement 43 km cette année) je confirme : une piste comme je n’en ai jamais connu, en 32 ans de Vasaloppet ! Une belle neige, certes un peu glacée, mais pas un caillou, pas une herbe, de bonnes prises de bâtons, des traces bien profondes.

L’idéal. Du reste les amis qui ont couru l’Öppet Spar du dimanche ou du lundi en ont profité pour exploser tous leurs chronos.

Pour ma part, avec 2h23 pour relier Evertsberg à Mora, je me suis pris pour un champion ! Fartage en tube violet … sans doute bien inutile tant la glisse était bonne.

Cf photo vasa45

vasa45_

Heureusement les nuits restaient fraiches (jusqu’à -10 °) et le temps ensoleillé : il suffisait de repasser un petit coup de dameuse pour retrouver au matin des traces impeccables. Et c’est ainsi que la Vasa30, puis la course des femmes, puis les deux Öppet, et la Vasa 45, la course des enfants, le relais, les deux Vasa de nuit (Nattvasan 90 et Nattvasan 45) enfin la Blabär se sont déroulées dans les meilleures conditions qui soient.

Bravo et merci les gars !

 

Le relais ?

Le relais (la staffet comme ils disent en Suède), cela vaut le coup d’en dire un mot : c’est le parcours de la Vasaloppet, entre Sälen et Mora, à faire entre copains, à 5.

Les relais sont intelligemment conçus (Sälen-Mangsbodarna ; Mangsbodarna -Evertsberg ; Evertsberg-Oxberg ; Oxberg-Höckberg ; Höckberg-Mora) afin que l’équipe puisse inclure des skieurs de différents niveaux, les parcours s’échelonnant ainsi de 9 à 24 km.

Une organisation parfaite.

Tant au point de relais : des grands panneaux lumineux annoncent avec 5 minutes d’avance l’arrivée de son coéquipier, ce qui évite les bousculades (on n’entre sur le point de relais qu’à ce moment) et les attentes trop longues.

Cf photo staffet 1

vasa staffet (1)_

Que dans le transport en bus (fortement conseillé) : pour chaque relayeur, un bus le dépose à son point de départ, prend son sac vestiaire et le récupère à son point d’arrivée (où l’attend son sac vestiaire).

Mais je ne saurai mieux définir le bonheur de cette Vasa en relais que l’ami Patrick Jamroz qui participait cette année à notre relais. Ecoutons-le : « Le ski de fond est une pratique individuelle mais avoir pu participer à ce relais, à la VASA, avec des copains meilleurs skieurs que moi m’a donné l’occasion de me dépasser pour l’équipe. Cela a été pour moi une expérience et un moment intense dans l’effort et l’émotion. Par ma prestation, j’avais à cœur de remercier Gérard de m’avoir fait confiance pour être l’un des relayeurs de la « 5ème compagnie ».

 

Cf photo staffet 2 et 3

Et la neige est venue !

Toute la semaine les prévisions météorologiques pour le dimanche à venir ont varié. Parfois de la pluie, plus rarement de la neige. Soit le matin, soit toute la journée… Jamais de soleil !

Il fallut attendre le samedi soir pour savoir quoi farter. Enfin pour celles et ceux (dont je suis) qui ne s’engagent pas sur les 90 km de la Vasa sans fart, confiant seulement en ses capacités de poussée simultanée. Parce que, pour toute plate qu’elle soit, la Vasaloppet c’est tout de même 1280 m de dénivelé positif !

Et nous avons farté … en poussettes. Pour neige fraiche (…mais hélas chaude).

Car il a neigé dès le milieu de la nuit. Une neige à -2°. Pas le pire, mais presque.

Des paysages redevenus magnifiques, des arbres aux branches blanchies, des près enneigés : on se serait cru en hiver !

Mais une neige intense sur le stade de départ (heureusement sans le vent à 30 km/h qui était, parfois, annoncé). Pas très froid. Tout juste humide.

Peut-être un peu moins de monde au départ (faute d’entrainement ?) mais toujours la même bousculade à la première côte.

Cf photo vasa 1

vasa 1_

Sur les 3 premiers kilomètres, pour LA côte, le fart semble tenir, les traces sont un peu hachées (comme toujours) mais rien de bien inquiétant.

C’est par la suite que cela s’est gâté !

Il neige encore. Et toujours.

Et il n’y a que 2 traces après Smägan ! Et des embouteillages. En 32 ans de Vasaloppet, c’est la première fois que je vois cela. Les traces de gauche sont enfouies sous la neige et nul ne s’y risque. Car il y a encore des traces.

Cf photo vasa 3

vasa 3_

Mais cela ne va pas durer : dès Risberg (kilomètre 35) la neige est à zéro degré, elle fond sur la couche dure et glacée des traces anciennes et le fart ne retient plus. Inutile de corriger. C’est un champ de labour. Les appuis sont incertains et bien des skieurs chutent sans vraiment de raison : pour s’être retrouvé en porte à faux de façon imprévisible.

Cf photo Vasa 2

vasa 2_

Parfois une chenillette retrace et apporte… quelques centaines de mètres de bonheur, mais cela ne dure guère.

Heureux ceux qui savent la technique de la double poussée et peuvent la tenir des heures durant !

A m- course, la neige cesse. Mais jusqu’à Höckberg (km 70) toujours pas de traces fiables. Et une piste toujours réduite de moitié en largeur. Pour avoir vu, quelques jours plus tard à la télé, les premiers : ils skiaient tous en file indienne, sur une seule trace … Nul ne voulait ouvrir dans la poudreuse. Du reste le chrono final s’en ressent : plus de 4h25 pour le vainqueur Petter Eliassen.

Le parcours plus plat des 20 derniers kilomètres permit de retrouver des semblants de traces, certes hachurées, mais cependant existantes.

Cf photo Vasa 4

vasa 4_

Bref ce fut (comme l’année précédente) une édition difficile.

Mais une fois encore qui mit en valeur les capacités d’adaptation des organisateurs de cette course.

Les barrières horaires furent assouplies pour les derniers. Mais surtout, pour celles et ceux qui arrivaient à Höckberg la nuit tombante (et ils étaient sans doute plusieurs centaines) des bénévoles leur proposaient des frontales ! Récupérées une fois la ligne d’arrivée passée.

Cf photos nuit 1 et 2

Bravo les amis : on reviendra !!!

 

Quelques résultats :

 

Robert Palliser (can) a couru 3 vasas cette année ! L’Öppet du dimanche en 6h26 ; l’Öppet du lundi en 6h30 et la Vasa en 8h24.

Iwana et Joseph Kral (tch) ont également couru 3 fois : la Vasa 30 (3h07) ; l’Öppet du dimanche en 9h36 et l’Öppet du lundi en 9h22.

Sur l’Öppet du lundi, notons encore Daniel Clerc (fr) en 5h50 et Jean-Philippe Beaucher (fr), sa 27ème année de Vasa, en 10h14.

Sur la « vraie » Vasa :

Olivier Traullé (fr) en 6h17 ; Jean-Pierre Henriet (fr) en 7h13 ; Boris Petroff (fr) en 7h31 ; Sergueï Petrov en 9h27 ; Jay Wiener (usa) en 10h39 ; Annie Ponsonnet (fr) en 11h24.

 

Et pour le fun … il y avait cette année sur la Vasa un certain Michael Gorbatchev (en 8h38) et un plus rapide Medvedev (6h18) … Rien à voir avec les politiques russes du même nom.

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Worldloppet 2020 report (part 3/3)

By Marg Hayes & Bruce Wharrie,  Australian Worldloppet Masters, citizen skiers!

[See also part1, part2]

Switzerland’s Engadin:

Unfortunately during our week in Poland we learnt that our next Worldloppet event, Switzerland’s Engadin race was cancelled.  Not because of lack of snow like Germany, Estonia and Finland but because of the coronavirus outbreak just across the border in northern Italy where some towns had been quarantined. We began researching on the internet to work out what to do.  Jan, our Irish Worldloppet skiing friend was supposed to meet us in St Moritz for the Engadin she decided to cancel her trip as she was flying in and out of Milan and didn’t want to have to self-quarantine after returning to Ireland as others had to do.  We too had flights out of Milan to Oslo after the Engadin.  We debated whether to even go to Switzerland or whether to go straight to Norway, but yet again we had accommodation bookings that we wouldn’t get a refund on if we cancelled plus onward travel.  In the end we caught the overnight train from Prague to Switzerland as planned and had a superb week of skiing on beautifully groomed cross country trails in a stunning location with rugged mountains in every direction. Like many others, Bethan and I skated the 42km Engadin course. It was a huge achievement for Bethan as previously her longest skate was 10km.  One day we skied right to the toe of the Mortertasch Glacier which has signs with dates, to show where the glacier used to extend too.  It was fascinating seeing how quickly it has receded in recent years and should be a message to us all about the effects of global warming. Most importantly we made the most of the unpredictable situation and hoping the Norwegian races would go ahead.

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Everyday we had discussions whether we should fly out of Milan or ditch our flights.  2 days before we were intending travelling to Milan (Italy) for our flights to Oslo, Norway for the final Worldloppet race the Birkebeiner, the Italian prime minister announced that Italy’s borders would be closing immediately.  Already the airline had changed our scheduled flights 3 times without contacting us. We contacted our travel agent to try and change our booked flights to fly out of Switzerland but the airline wouldn’t permit it so we were left with no option but to cancel the tickets and hope to get a  refund (still waiting).  We hastily booked new flights online with Brussel Airlines to Oslo departing from Zurich flying via Brussels.  We all began to relax with the decision to avoid Italy and fly out of Zurich. The night before we left Engadin Valley, I went online to check our flight numbers only to find out that one our flights, the one with SwissAir had been cancelled and we had NOT been re-scheduled. We tried numerous methods to contact Brussels Airlines via online chats and telephones but no luck. We caught the train to Zurich as planned. Leaving Bruce and Jim minding our gear at the train station, Bethan and I walked in the drizzle to the nearby Swiss Air office in Zurich.  Our first flight was with Swiss Air even though our bookings were with Brussels Air who had no office in Zurich. We pleaded with Swiss Air to change our tickets to a direct flight to Oslo the next morning.  Fortunately, the very business-like customer service officer reluctantly changed our flights at no cost due to extenuating circumstances.  We were so jubilant we bought chocolate and cakes to celebrate with Bruce and Jim at the train station.

Norway’s Birkebeiner:

Our joy was short-lived as that night we learnt that the Norwegian Birkebeiner Worldloppet race was cancelled due to the coronavirus ban on gatherings of more than 500 people. We debated whether to go to Norway or not but felt it would be safer to be further away from Italy so decided to go and make the most of our week’s skiing, staying at the typical Norwegian cabin we had booked and paid for at Sjusjøen, in the mountains above Lillehammer.  Our Welsh Worldloppet friends, Hilary and David decided to still join us as we all imagined a fun week exploring the 240km of groomed cross country ski trails around Sjusjøen. So despite the race being cancelled we were all looking forward to a great week.

Arriving in Norway we were very happy, incorrectly thinking our travel worries and the coronavirus were behind us.  The first few days at the mountain cabin were great. The Sjusjøen area is full of hundreds of family cabins perched on the hillsides.  Where Australians head to their beach shack, the Norwegians head to their mountain cabin.  Our cabin was right on a groomed ski trail, a 10 minute walk from the bus stop along the ski trail.  It was easiest to ski to the well-stocked supermarket.  Apart from a ski shop, supermarket, a few spread out cafes and the odd small hotel there isn’t much else at Sjusjøen.  We had always dreamed of spending a relaxing week at Sjusjøen exploring the area and now we were here.  Nothing we thought would stop us enjoying ourselves.

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On our first two days there were literally hundreds of kilometres of groomed cross country trails with lots of Norwegians out enjoying themselves too, some even had their dogs on leads pulling the skiers along.  Most of the terrain is above the tree-line, like Australia’s Bogong High Plains with huge rolling hills and beautiful snowy views in all directions.  You were literally on top of the rounded mountains, so different to Switzerland where you are in the valleys looking up at the steep cliffy alps.  Our second morning was picture-perfect, so Bethan and I set out to ski 54km, the distance of the Birkebeiner race.  We skied 27kms along the race course from our cabin and 27kms back again.  This was huge for Bethan whose longest ski previously was 42km.  It was a magical ski out with 360 degree views in all directions.  Unfortunately, by our turn-around spot the wind had picked up and changed direction so our ski back was into a strengthening headwind.  We were quite tired but very pleased with ourselves when we got back to the cabin; we had skied our “Birkie”.

On our third day at Sjusjøen it snowed and there wasn’t any grooming so some of us went for a short ski staying down in the trees. We skied round a lake, that we never saw, due to the white-out.

However, that afternoon our idyllic week changed as we received an email from the owners of our cabin telling us that the Norwegian Government had instructed all foreigners to leave the country as soon possible, “so what were our plans?” they enquired.   Many Norwegians had escaped the city to their cabin and this was now banned and all Norwegians were told to go home or face fines. To persuade Norwegians to go home all grooming was also stopped.  All hotels were instructed to not accept any new bookings, all shops except supermarkets were shut.  No cash was accepted anywhere, pay by card only.  Buses and train services were reduced.  We told the cabin owners we had flights departing Norway the following Sunday with 3 nights accommodation already booked in Lillehammer after the cabin but that we would investigate possibilities of leaving earlier. The cabin owners informed the Health Dept of our presence who told us to stay at the cabin until we could depart.  We were very pleased we had somewhere to stay until we could leave and an empathetic cabin owner.

sjusjoen2020

We contacted our Australian travel agent, however they didn’t get back to us till the 3rd business day when we eventually rang after 4 unanswered emails.  In the meantime, I had spent an hour on the phone waiting to speak to someone at Lufthansa who owned our plane tickets.  To change the date on our tickets Lufthansa wanted AUS$4,500/€2,800 per person. I couldn’t believe it, I told the customer service person this was a rip-off so she hung the phone up on me.  We searched the internet trying to find cheaper tickets which we did but they were disappearing quickly with other airlines inflating prices too with so many travellers keen to return home.  We needed to confirm with the Australian travel agent if this Lufthansa quote was correct and find out if we could cancel our existing tickets etc but the travel agent didn’t answer our emails.

Bethan successfully changed the dates of her Qatar Airways tickets and only had to pay AUS$180/€112. David and Hilary decided to fly back to the UK early but SAS charged them exorbitant fees to change the dates on their tickets.  So on Tuesday morning we waved Bethan, Hilary and David off as they boarded the bus (the only passengers) heading home.  We still didn’t know what we were doing so to fill in the time we went skiing on the ungroomed trails, practising social distancing and not speaking or going near any of the few other skiers.

Australian business hours were 11pm-7am Norway time.  After 3 days of no contact, I was determined to speak to the travel agent so waited up late, ringing at 11pm. The travel agent was most apologetic for not getting back to us but was finally working on getting us home.  It took 2 more days and 2 sleepless nights before flights were finally finalised at 8am Thursday morning with us agreeing to pay AUS$2500/€1560 each to change the date on our tickets until the travel agent argued more with Lufthansa and got  the change fee down to $1500/€935 each.  By this time the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison had put a travel ban on Australians and told us all to come home as soon as possible.  We had already made our decision well before this, pre-empting the significant reduction in fights and not wanting to get stuck in Europe or Thailand indefinitely.

We left the Sjusjøen cabin at 9am Thursday to begin our long journey home, bus to Lillehammer, train to Oslo, flight to Frankfurt airport transit, flight to Bangkok for another airport transit and finally flight to Sydney.   Even though we had plane tickets things were changing so quickly we broke our journey into stages and rejoiced each time we successfully completed each stage as services were rapidly shutting down and we didn’t know if buses and trains to get us to the airport were still running, let alone whether we could actually transit Germany which was in lockdown or if Thailand would allow us to transit.  Fortunately, it all worked and thoroughly exhausted we arrived in Australia last Saturday morning.

Our Worldloppet trip certainly didn’t turn out as we had planned.  Even though we know travel is unpredictable we learnt it’s important to make the most of the situation and change your plans as needed.  We wouldn’t have gone to Lapland except that 2 races were cancelled and we had a brilliant time there exploring a totally new destination.

Overall, we travelled to 10 countries for the Worldloppet races. We successfully skied 9 races in 5 countries with the races ranging in distance from 22km to 70km. Races were cancelled in 3 countries (Germany, Estonia & Finland) due to lack of snow and 2 countries (Switzerland & Norway) due to coronavirus.  Unfortunately, none us completed another Worldloppet Master but we are close so will just have to travel back again once the current situation eases and the coronavirus is under control.  We met lots of wonderful people during our journey many who assisted us when things were tough.

Travelling from Australia to complete Worldloppet races is incredibly expense, an expense that we are usually happy to expend, however when races are cancelled the expenses soar as we can’t just return home for the week like Europeans can. Even though our Worldloppet trip was planned meticulously this couldn’t prevent the circumstances or significant extra expenses that we found ourselves needing to pay. Several of the cancelled races have offered partial refunds, minus bank transfer fees which are hefty or whole/partial transfer of race entry fees to 2021. We think that all races should try and have back-up plans to try and offer a shortened race at a nearby venue, like Dolomitenlauf does if at all possible. We also think that if a Worldloppet race is cancelled then all skiers who have travelled from different continents should receive a 100% refund of race entry fees in recognition of the huge expenses and arrangements we have all incurred regardless of whether the race is cancelled or not. We would like Worldloppet to discuss this at the general meeting. This would only affect a tiny percentage of skiers.

On returning to Australia we are all in 14 days mandatory isolation and have plenty of time to reflect on our recent Worldloppet trip.

Signing off till the next Worldloppet adventure.

Regards, Marg Hayes & Bruce Wharrie

Posted in Race reports 2020 | 1 Comment

Worldloppet 2020 report (part 2/3)

By Marg Hayes & Bruce Wharrie,  Australian Worldloppet Masters, citizen skiers!

[See also part1, part3]

Czech’s Jiserska50:

czech2A marathon 5 trains (12 hours) from Oberammergau saw us reach the Czech Republic.  Arriving in Bedrichov the Monday before the race we were shocked to see there wasn’t any snow on the ground at all. We immediately thought the Jiserska50 would be cancelled. Our hosts promised us it would snow that night, which it did.

The Jiserska50 race is a memorial race for a group of 15 local men from Bedrichov village, who whilst on a 1970 mountaineering expedition to Peru, died in a devasting earthquake that in total killed 70,000 people.  It was the 50th anniversary of these events so race organisers were keen for the Jiserska50 race to go ahead in whatever form possible to remember these locals. However, race organisers plans for an alternative race wasn’t very appealing for Jim and I.   A shorter race of loops would be held with only 400 skiers participating at any one time, so different time slots were available.   By the time we realised this (a text message from Dave but we were out skiing) and accessed the internet the only time slots available were 7.15pm or 9.30pm Friday night by headtorch. I didn’t mind skiing in the dark but with 399 other enthusiastic people (mostly men) on a tight course doing laps, that wasn’t appealing.  It also meant my 2 events, a 30km skate race and a 50km classic race would be held on the same day. Bruce,

Dave and Alan all got daylight time slots.

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On Tuesday we skied in 10cms of fresh snow making our own tracks (no grooming) but by Wednesday there was 30cms of new snow with more snow falling and by Thursday the race organisers decided that with so much fresh snow the full races could be run as per usual. We were so pleased! The thin sections of the course were shovelled. We skied past the stone boulders memorial for the 15 mountaineers, their race bibs hanging above, knowing they would be happy the Jiserska50 was going ahead as per the program. Usually there is a Worldloppet Masters reception but this year Worldloppet Masters received a commemorative headband instead.

On Friday it was still snowing for the 30km (silver) freestyle race. With 1200 skiers on a narrow track it was very difficult to overtake anyone on the uphill sections (the first 10kms) so one had to be patient skiing in queues until either tired skiers stepped aside or the track widened. I was very happy to finish in a pretty good time of 2hrs 7mins especially considering the conditions. By Friday afternoon the sun shone and we relaxed in the warmth of the sun.

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Saturday was picture perfect postcard weather for Bruce, Jim and Alan’s 25km (silver) classic race with fresh glistening white snow everywhere.  Not only was the weather perfect but the tracks were perfect too. The start was bedlam but apparently crowds thinned after a few kilometres. I skied out to cheer them on at a drink station midway round the course and was amazed that there were some 2,500 skiers in the 25km event as well as some 3,000 skiers in a shorter 10km race.  It was superb to see so many enthusiastic skiers participating in the multitude of events.

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Sunday was the Jiserska50 main race, a 50km classic event with some 6,000 skiers. Skiers start in groups of about 800 people. Everyone rushes up the first hill, but as the track narrows the queues form.  I decided to just stay out of trouble and cruise along on the right hand side of the tracks knowing that after the first 10kms of hills the track widens a bit and the field spreads out a little so if I had any extra energy I could go faster then which is exactly what happened.  The fresh snow was still sticking to the trees making for beautiful scenes so I enjoyed the environment and the variety of terrain that the race goes through; forests, open plains, the small village of Jiserka with cheering spectators plus views over the plains of Poland.  Unfortunately, with so many skiers, so much new snow and temperatures around zero the classic tracks fell apart and got very wide so the legs shuddered and wobbled as the skis slid around in the wider and wider slots. I seemed to be skiing in crowds most of the way which means you have to concentrate more, in case the skier in front falls down or changes lanes unexpectedly.   Conditions were similar to Italy’s Marcialonga.   I was very pleased to finish in 4hrs 21minutes and earned a 2nd heavy, glass medal.   After finishing skiers are treated to a meal and drinks.  I chose the plum pudding which was absolutely huge. Other choices included a meat goulash or couscous with chicken & veges. It has to be the one of the best venues for tasty post-race food.  Well done to the Jiserska50 race organisers for having a back-up plan and being determined to run an event regardless of the conditions.

Estonia’s Tartu Maraton and Finland’s Finlandia:

After the Jiserska50 we caught the bus to Prague and flew to Tallin. Arriving we received emails to say both the Tartu Maraton and Finlandia were both cancelled. We were devastated! To have travelled so far from Australia and to now have 3 race cancellations, we couldn’t believe it. Fortunately we were able to cancel our booked accommodation in Oteppa and Lahti so surfing the Internet we began to search for other opportunities as we didn’t fancy walking round in the rain for two weeks plus we wanted to maintain our ski fitness as Bruce, Jim and I still had 3 further Worldloppet countries to visit including being entered into 2 x 54km races in Norway. Alan and Dave headed back to OZ as planned but Bruce, Jim and I decided to take the opportunity to do something completely different and travelled to Levi in Finland’s Lapland. We had a brilliant week skiing the 240km of beautifully groomed cross country trails to interesting locations such as a reindeer farms, an elf farm and indulging in lots of cosy trailside cafes selling delicious freshly cooked pancakes and hot drinks.  We spoke to a few locals who all agreed that the Finlandia race organisers should have moved the Finlandia Worldloppet race to Lapland where the snow was plentiful. It would be hard to do at short notice but it’s certainly worth considering as a back-up plan if the snow is poor is future years.

Poland’s Bieg Piastow:

Flying to Prague we met Bethan, an Aussie skiing friend on her International Worldloppet race debut. After spending the afternoon wandering around the old part of the city with it’s cobblestone traffic-free streets we travelled by bus and train via Liberec to reach Szklarska Poreba, Poland (132km – popn. 7000); a town with a mix of eccentric buildings very close to the border of Czech Republic.  It’s the nearest town to the Jakuszyce Cross Country Ski Center, the venue for the Polish Worldloppet race.  As the single carriage train pulled into the tiny station at Jakuszyce, a single platform in the middle of a snowfield, a surge of sodden Polish xc skiers boarded the train.  We were desperately hoping that the rain would turn to snow and….. overnight luckily this happened!

It was only a small snowfall but enough to cover most of the rocks and make the trees look very pretty.  We rejoiced and enjoyed the next 2 days skiing around the tracks in a mix of snowy, cloudy weather.  Out on the trails at Orle, there is a beautiful stone building, that was a former guesthouse and old glass making factory, now a café with open fire and serves delicious cheesecake and pancakes.  There was lots of other food but we couldn’t read the menu and nobody spoke English so we stuck to what we knew.  We observed that many of the Polish skiers were indulging in beer at 10.30am and noticed that it cost the same price as a hot chocolate, however we enjoyed our hot chocolate. Bethan and I met 2 young Ukraine army recruits who were most interested in the number of ski stickers on my skis.

Friday was the 30km freestyle race which Bruce classiced in snowy conditions.  I had tried to get a late entry but the number of skiers is capped at 700 and all the places were taken, so instead I met Bruce out on the course and skied with him a fair bit of the race cheering him on. It was great fun and Bruce did really well! (But had to hitchhike back to Szlarska Poreba as the race transport buses had ceased.)  That night there was a free dinner for Worldloppet Masters from all countries.  It was a friendly event where the Polish skiers invited us to sit with them.  Some didn’t speak English but others translated and it was a lot of fun. We had met some of the Polish skiers in China earlier this year.

Jim, Bethan and I skied Bieg Piastow’s 50km classic race on Saturday in very windy weather with a bit of snowfall falling too.  Fortunately, most of the race is in pine forests so we were protected from the worst of the windy weather.  The race was shortened to 42km because of the snow conditions but this was tough enough with quite a few uphills and poor classic tracks as the temperature was around zero without an overnight freeze.  I saw hardly any other female skiers and later Bethan checked the results and worked out that less than 10% of participants were female.  During the race at least 6 different men struck up conversations with me when they realised I was an Australian. (I wear a flag on my back and write Australia on my race bib). One of the men greeted me with “Holy s— are you from down under?” which was quite a surprise.  It certainly passed the time chatting to the friendly men from different countries who all spoke very good English.  One Polish man spoke 6 languages which I was in awe about.  It was a very friendly race.  This was Bethan’s first Worldloppet race outside of Australia; she did really well in challenging conditions.

Bruce was already entered in Sunday’s 25km classic race, Jim and I got late entries so had start numbers in 1580’s of 2,000 people.  Groups of 300 skiers or so were started at 3 minute intervals to spread the skiers out. To avoid the crowds, Bruce chose to be the last person over the start line but didn’t stay last for long. There were many less skilled skiers in the 25km race and I spent the whole race overtaking people.  It was quite tricky constantly changing lanes between the 3 classic tracks always looking for a gap between the slower skiers and checking no faster skiers were coming through. However I passed over 1,000 people and finished 547th  which was a great achievement. Bruce and Jim both had enjoyable races as well overtaking lots of other skiers. It was great to have so many enthusiastic Polish people out skiing the events in their countries biggest xc ski race.  This is a race that many normal, average Polish people feel comfortable participating in. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting so many Polish people and felt very welcomed and grateful that race organisers were determined to run an event regardless of the less than perfect conditions. Yes, there were some thin bits, some dirt and rock bits but we have had more challenging conditions in Poland before (2014) and survived. Thanks to the Bieg Piastow’s race organisers for doing such a superb job.

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Worldloppet 2020 report (part 1/3)

By Marg Hayes & Bruce Wharrie,  Australian Worldloppet Masters, citizen skiers!

[See also part2, part3]

Race cancellations due to lack of snow and race cancellations due to coronavirus, the 2020 Worldloppet season was certainly full of unpredictable situations and will be remembered for years to come. Due to significant race cancellations and the significant costs to skiers who have travelled large distances we would like Worldloppet to consider recommending to all member countries that  all skiers who have travelled from different continents should receive a 100% refund of race entry fees.

On 26th December 2019, three Australian Multiple Worldloppet Masters, Bruce Wharrie, Jim Finnie and myself, Marg Hayes flew out of Australia full of excitement each with the goal of completing another Worldloppet Master. Our intention was to ski 18 Worldloppet races in 10 different Worldloppet countrie,s a huge itinerary but very achievable or so we thought.

China Vasaloppet:

china2Our first destination was Changchun China for the China Vasaloppet. The China Vasaloppet race is in a forest park on the edge of the city. We stayed the first 6 nights in a cosy AirBnB apartment on the 12th floor building with views over the city and the final two nights at the Sheraton Hotel where the bus to the race departs from. We didn’t join the package tour offered when you enter the race, but made all our own bookings as it would be very difficult and dangerous getting straight off a plane from Australia’s Summer heat and trying to ski a marathon in sub-zero temperatures. Leaving Sydney’s 40 degrees, it was imperative to acclimatise to Changchun’s -23 degrees quickly, so we started with short skis in the city on a frozen river, then a frozen lake, then a city park as the race course isn’t open to skiers till the day before the race which makes it really difficult for skiers to become familiar with the race course or find anywhere with groomed trails to train on. Fortunately, by race day the temperature warmed up to -15 degrees so it was bearable.

The race was 2 x 25 kilometre loops of mostly man-made snow with a variety of skiing on forest trails and a frozen lake. The race is part of a Winter Festival with lots of winter events on the frozen lake including riding horses, snowmobiles, and other contraptions. The start area was transformed to contain over 50 snow carvings some as tall as a 4 storey building, 20 metres high and 100 metres long. Before the race started there was traditional dancing and singing. It was a lovely atmosphere.

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The hardest part of the China Vasaloppet race was the first few kilometres as many of the Chinese participants are over-enthusiastic young people with little ski experience but very fit so they are faster than us initially but in their rush to get past they ski recklessly on a narrow track. The first downhill was terrifying as many Chinese were skiing very fast, then crashing into other skiers. I was so glad to be past this section and settle into a rhythm. Most young Chinese were skiing the 25km race so the 2nd loop was absolute bliss with only experienced international skiers sprinkled around me and lots of peace and quiet.  Jim and I successfully skied the 50km race and Bruce easily completed the 25km event. It was a great feeling of satisfaction to complete as being the first race in our Worldloppet 2020 series, it was quite tough, especially for Jim who was recovering from breaking his collar bone in 4 places during the Aussie Winter which required surgery. There was more natural snow on the race course than 2 years previously and it had more glide.

We didn’t spend any time in Beijing this trip but flew directly to Vienna, Austria where two other Aussie skiers, Alan Levy and David Drohan joined us. Our group of 5 caught trains to Italy where we spent an enjoyable week skiing the impeccably groomed trails to stunning locations around Dobbiaco.

Austria’s Dolomitenlauf:

dolo3Next, just two hours train/bus north took us to Obertilliach Austria high in the Austrian Alps for Austria’s Worldloppet race, the Dolomitenlauf. Obertilliach is predominantly a farmers village with many traditional Austrian houses having the bottom storey for the cows and farm animals, and the families living on the second and third storeys. Some of the ski trails meander around fields, past many small barns mostly used during Spring/Summer for grazing purposes.  Other trails follow a narrow creek hidden from the sun all day long, with massive mushrooms of hoar frost and ice decorating the ground and trees. The creek trail was beautiful but very cold, certainly not a place to stop for a break. We skied the trails for a few days before the weekend of races. Travelling down to Lienz for bib-pickup was a bit tricky with the trains not working, buses instead, so we didn’t wait around in Lienz for the Worldloppet Masters reception.

Saturday was a 42km (gold) or 21km (silver) freestyle race which was either uphill or downhill involving 1 or 2 loops of a 21km course starting and finishing at the Biathlon centre at Obertilliach. Initially there were exciting downhills across open paddocks to reach the lower eastern end of the course, then the race-track followed the sparkling creek gently up and up on a narrow track where overtaking was difficult. Up, up on a quite steep climb which tested most skiers in the soft conditions. A few more hills then it was mostly down back to the Biathlon centre to start the second loop if skiing the long race. Classic skiers had good classic tracks available. Skiers were more spread out so it was easier to go your own pace on the second loop.

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Sunday’s race 42km (gold) or 30km(silver) was classical technique and was held on a totally different course to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dolomitenlauf. The start was at Heinfors, half hour bus ride from Obertilliach and the race followed a river gently down, down, down to the town of Lienz. Both races started and finished at the same locations, however the longer race had lots of extra loops through farmer’s paddocks to make up the extra distance. Snow had been trucked in overnight so we skied through Lienz’s main shopping street finishing in the central town square. It certainly had a lot of atmosphere skiing through farmers’ fields, beside a river and then through the main street of Lienz.

Italy’s Marcialonga:

italy1Leaving Obertilliach we travelled by buses and trains to Italy’s Cavalese (population 4,500) which is perched high on the side of a hill with no nearby skiing (except on race day). One day we caught a bus 20 minutes to Passo Lavaze, a high mountain pass where the cross country trails were perfectly manicured with stunning 360 degree mountain views.  On the Thursday before the Marcialonga there was a 22km Silver Worldloppet race at Passo Lavaze which we all participated in. A huge thank-you to the race organisers who helped us with transport as the ski bus arrived too late. It was a very low key event (about 300 participants) but very enjoyable with gifts for all entrants -a hat, ski bag or bumbag, each gift probably worth more than the €35 race entry fee.  A couple of other days we caught buses further up the valleys to ski on some of the Marcialonga course. On the Friday there is a Worldloppet Masters reception where it was great to chat and meet Worldloppet skiers from different countries.

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The Marcialonga race is huge, being 70kms long (gold) with 7,500 competitors and a further 1,500 competitors in the “shorter” 45km (silver) simultaneous race.  It’s a real tour through the Italian countryside of two valleys, Val de Fiemme and Val de Fassa as well as passing right through the main street of many tiny villages with the gap between buildings in a few places being only 2 metres.  Temperatures on Sunday morning were unusually warm being around zero-1 degrees.  It was great to be so warm but the problem was the classic tracks totally fell apart. The only skiers who had decent tracks were the elite and first few hundred people. By the time I was skiing (start number 4,287 start group 9 out of 14) the tracks were non-existent or very fat making for juddering, shaking legs. The terrible conditions made for slower treacherous skiing conditions. Each slide forward included a random, icy slip sideways.  The first 20kms of the course follows a river valley upstream with lots of short ups and downs. The track is quite narrow only 3 skiers wide.  Congestion was a problem on steeper ups and downs with queues of skiers usually patiently taking their turn.  At Canazei (20km) the race course crosses the creek and the downhill 30km begins; it’s mostly gentle, good for double poling, though the lack of tracks made the going tricky and the usually challenging descents icier and even more difficult.

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Every 8-10km there was a drink and food station which was very welcome.  At Pozza De Fassa (30km), the rest stop was a giant indoor tent that you skied through.  After 45km the 1,500 short race skiers finished their event but the rest of us continued on, thankfully the terrain was a little easier for 20kms.  The drink stations became more frequent, every few kilometres, as every tiny village hosted their own refreshments to cheer on the skiers. After 67kms I reached the final drink station at the bottom of the big hill. Dave told me later he had 5 coffees (macchiato, tiny cups of strong black Italian coffee) at this stop.  The final hill is a steep grind as you leave the river valley and climb 2.5km up the side of the hill in sloppy and unconsolidated snow between houses to Cavalese.  It’s up and up but there was heaps of spectators cheering me on and lots of other competitors around me.  Finally I skied into Cavalese between the 3 storey buildings on what’s usually a 1 lane cobblestone road and the final turn into the finish. There were thousands of spectators lining the street; a really party atmosphere. After 6 hours and 32 minutes of continuous skiing I crossed the finish line and was able to celebrate completing the Maricalonga. It was such a great feeling as conditions were so challenging that some 2,400 skiers out of 7,500 skiers didn’t make the rigid cut-off times so were not permitted to continue on to the finish line. When the last skier crossed the finish line they are crowned with a large wreath just like the winner and the valley erupts with the noise of a massive fireworks display across the night sky, signalling the Marcialonga is over for another year.  A beautiful touch!

Germay’s Konig Ludwig Lauf:

Unfortunately, the Konig Ludwig Lauf was cancelled due to insufficient snow. As we had accommodation bookings that we couldn’t cancel without losing all our money and we had already booked non-refundable train tickets from Oberammergau to Czech Republic, we made the decision to still go to Oberammergau intent on making the most of the situation.

Travelling by train and bus to Oberammergau from Seefeld, we noticed that there was lots of snow and beautifully groomed xc trails at Garmisch, a mere 30 minutes from Oberammergau and felt that the Konig Ludwig Lauf race organisers need to think laterally and have a back-up plan if there is insufficient snow to conduct the race on it’s usual venue, then an alternative venue like Garmisch should be used.

Arriving in Oberammergau, there was snow everywhere from the recent weather event however by the next morning with the warm temperatures it was melting fast. We went for a ski on the Friday but the snow was literally disappearing under our skis.  We had an enjoyable 20km ski in rain then sunshine, but conditions were unsuitable for a race with hundreds of entered skiers though maybe shorter circuits could have been utilised if only for the intercontinental skiers who had travelled so far to participate in this event.  For 2 of our Aussie friends this would have been their 10th Worldloppet race enabling them to become Worldloppet Masters however each returned to Australia short 1 race, meaning they will need to travel overseas again to earn their Masters. Instead of ski racing, we spent the days exploring the local area which was interesting but not what we had come for.

Posted in Race reports 2020 | 3 Comments

Snow in Sapporo 2020

By Minoru Matsuyama from Sapporo, January 6th 2020: “We have no snow in Sapporo!! This is my first experience no snow, no skiing in Sapporo. I am not a member of race organizing committee of Sapporo ski marathon, I am WL skier living in Sapporo. Usually we have 40cm snow depth, but now we have only 1cm snow depth, Takino Snow World is closed, no snow around Sapporo Dome (start & goal point). Weather forecast says no chance of heavy snowing for a while from now on. I guess Sapporo ski marathon will be first cancellation this winter in 2020. (this is my private comment, not official)“.

Raceday for Sapporo Skimarathon is set to February 2nd 2020.

Posted in News 2020 | 6 Comments

The worlds biggest long distance skirace calendar 2020

As every year we present a list of circa four houndred skimarathon races. The longest we know of. The list is made by our executive member Thomas Huber.

Enjoy the list. It contains skiraces from so many nations. Happy travel and happy skiing to all! Download the PDF file here xc_long_distance_calender_2020_iawls

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Worldloppet Global Skirace Calendar map

You know the new Global Skimaraton Calendar and Ranking system by Worldloppet? The ranking system where everyone get some points. Compete in your age group towards the rest of the world. Only your best results count. Smart system, check it out and book travel tickets now. Read about the rules and ranking system of this concept.

Get to know where ALL the new global calendar skiraces are in this interactive map:

Colorcodes: The ordinary 20 Worldloppet races are colored red. Associate member races are in green. And all the others in blue are part of Global Skirace Calendar.

Posted in News 2019 | Leave a comment

New Worldloppet logos

One season with the new Worldloppet logo. What do you think?
It was in newsletter December 2018 we got a hint of “New Worldloppet visual identity from 2019” and in February 2019 we saw the new webpages.

wl old and new logo

Posted in News 2018 | 2 Comments

The worlds biggest long distance skirace calendar 2019

As every year we present a list of circa four houndred skimarathon races. The longest we know of. The list is made by our executive member Thomas Huber.

Enjoy the list. It contains skiraces from so many nations. Happy travel and happy skiing to all! Download the PDF file here xc_long_distance_calender_2019_iawls

big_race_calendar_ikon2

Posted in News 2018 | 3 Comments

Kangaroo Hoppet 2018

Wow what a day! Hoppet day dawned clear and still, such a contrast to the previous 6 weeks when strong winds, heavy snowfalls and blizzards had been blasting Falls Creek, a small ski alpine area 4 hours north east of Melbourne, Australia.

Over 1,000 skiers from 25 nations and 4 continents gathered at Falls Creek to participate in the 28th Kangaroo Hoppet.  Great weather and deep snow enabled the full 42km course to be exceptionally well-groomed. Where possible the track is groomed double width especially on the exciting descent down the “Bladerunner” off Heathy Spur.

The Kangaroo Hoppet comprises of 3 simultaneous races; the 42km Kangaroo Hoppet main race that qualifies for a gold stamp in the Worldloppet passport, the 21km Birkebeiner (the Birkie) which qualifies for a silver stamp and the 7km Joey Hoppet.   All 3 races had increased participant this year.

At 9.30am the elite and fastest hundred Hoppet skiers flew across the start line. 1 minute later the next 100 skiers rushed forward and onwards every minute until the 5 Hoppet waves had begun.  1 minute between waves doesn’t sound like much time but it certainly spreads each starting field and decreases the chance of skiers crashing into each other, breaking poles, skis and bodies.  Birkie skiers start from 9.40am in waves with 1 minute breaks and Joey skiers begin at 9.50am in a similar fashion.  By 10am all skiers were skiing as fast as they could in stunning conditions.

Overnight the temperature lowered to -2 degrees (Celsius) and warmed to 4 degrees so it was crisp fast snow at the start with softening conditions by the second lap for the majority of Hoppet skiers.

All skiers initially headed out to Sun Valley for the first 7 kilometres which is mostly flat and a good way to warm up.  Joey skiers consisting of all ages from tiny babies being towed in pulks participating in the Pouch class to toddlers just beginning to walk then head back to the Nordic Bowl to finish their event whilst Hoppet and Birkie skiers skied across the magnificent dam wall high above the frozen water of Rocky Valley Reservoir.   The next 3 kms to Watchbed Creek is flat and great to get into a comfortable rhythm as skiers are found their pace.

Just after Watchbed Creek drink station, Birkie skiers turn left and head up towards the infamous Paralyser whilst Hoppet skiers turn right and have another 2kms of cruising before re-joining the Birkie skiers and begin the slow 3km climb up the Paralyser.  The snow is now slow so skiers had to find a comfortable rhythmic groove and just keep on plodding and grinding up that long hill.  Finally, the course breaks out of the beautiful snowgums (an alpine eucalyptus tree with knarly shaped trunk and branches)  into a large open area known as The Park and the gradient eases.

After The Park drink station the refreshed Hoppet skiers turn right and complete an extra loop around Johnsons for some superb views of the Snowy Mountains including Mt Kosciuszko ( the highest mountain in Australia – 2,228metres/7315feet).

Just after re-joining the Birke skiers a final, treeless climb looms.  On reaching the crest of Heathy Spur, you feel on top of the world looking around and seeing snow covered mountains in all directions and…. knowing there’s lots of downhills ahead.  Yeah.  The exciting downs continue along the broad Heathy Spur with one final climb ‘til the Bladerunner, a series of tight downhill corners which most people brake, skid, plough, step turn to go around and down.   Finally, the shaking legs get back onto flat ground for a relax and the cruising speed increases as the dam wall is crossed and back into the Nordic Bowl starting area.

The Birkie skiers can relax as they cross the finish line, however Hoppet skiers having skied some 26kms head out for another 16km of skiing.  Out to Sun Valley again, then across the dam wall, along the flat Bogong High Plains Road again, past Watchbed Creek (and a refreshing drink & food station) but this time instead of heading up the Paralyser it’s a much gentler series of undulations along the Pauls Track for the final 5 kms back to the finish line.

The Nordic Bowl was a hive of activity with skiers standing along the edge of the downhill finish area and around the BBQ in the sunshine cheering family and friends across the finish line whilst discussing race experiences and attempted tactics with fellow skiers.

Congratulations to the race organisers and volunteers who gave up a significant amount of time to prepare a superb course and arrange a great race. Well done to the Hoppet skiers who stopped during the event at the 35km mark to assist a Russian skier who had collapsed. The racers performed CPR whilst waiting for the Ski Patrol to arrive with a defibrillator.  The medical equipment enabled the successful restoration of the skier’s heart rhythm.  I very big thanks to those involved and the equipment used to save this skier’s life and facilitate his recovering in a Melbourne hospital.

Overall the Kangaroo Hoppet was a huge success with many skiers skiing their first Hoppet, Birkie or Joey race.  The after race evening celebrations and festivities were again held in the community hall in Mount Beauty.  A great get together of rested participants.  Well done to all the skiers who participated in this magnificent event.  See you all next year!

By Marg Hayes & Bruce Wharrie

Posted in Race reports 2018 | 2 Comments