Engadin Skimarathon innovates

In the 2017 events Engadin Skimarathon introduced two innovations. The first was the availability of two tents in the start area where the skiers could keep warm waiting for the start. A thick layer of wood chips on the ground gave a comfortable feeling. Maybe for the following years the organizers could afford to put up bigger tents that would be appreciated in case of colder weather than this year.  The second innovation was the introduction of the Night Race on Thursday. This 17 km race went from Sils to Pontresina, started at 7 PM and it was valid as a Worldloppet Silver race. Buses from various Engadin villages to the start were made available. We had hoped to enjoy skiing in the moonlight but unfortunately a little rain gave a somewhat unpleasant flavour to this première. The headlamps were really necessary. For skiers who had never tried night skiing before, this experience was interesting and they appreciated the practical arrangements. The final descent to Pontresina may have looked frightful in the dark but it went easily. Certainly this is an innovation that has its permanent place in the Worldloppet calendar.

The weather on the Engadin Skimarathon day (Sunday) was ideal: sunny with a few degrees below zero at the start and warming up to a couple of degrees above zero at noon, with a good glide. More than 13000 skiers were at the start, 10080 finished the 42 km race and 2094 the 21 km race.

Engadin Skimarathon belongs to the “elite” group of races that have adopted the “Ideal Start”, i.e. the start that is essentially a continuous flow of skiers. The organizers have not yet exploited the possibilities of the Ideal Start to its full extent. The start “groups” are too big, e.g. the start gates of Hauptgruppe C containing 4000 skiers were planned to open at 9.11 and for the last group Volksläufer at 9.23. By limiting the size of the successive groups to, say, 1000 it is possible to give to each group a more precise starting time. The advantage is that each skier knows his/her starting time within an accuracy of less than 5 minutes. If the weather is cold, it allows staying in the warm tent to the last minute. This year the starts occurred very smoothly without the least “battle-field” effect (as we had in the old arrangement with mass starts). But bottle-necks were observed in the first climb before St Moritz and later after Pontresina. These bottle-necks can be reduced by lengthening the time interval between the opening times of the gates of the successive start groups.

Hannes Larsson

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