On the weekend of 3/4th February, Germany’s Konig Ludwig Lauf Worldloppet race was held in Oberammergau. The race start was near Ettal and finished at the Sports Centre in Oberammergau. On Saturday at 9am some 500 skiers lined up for the start of the silver 20km race. At 10am the long race 42km, or was it 45km or was it 50km (hard to work out from signage/publications) with 360 skiers started. The weather was predicted to be snowy with a temperature range of -7 to -1 degrees. Fortunately, at the start it was only overcast and the temperature was -3 degrees.
The long race involved 2 loops initially heading to Ettal as in previous years, then little ups and downs to a bridge beyond Graswang before heading back down the valley with great views of the mountains, crossing the road towards Oberammergau then back through the start area. We were disappointed to see the ski through Linderhof Castle has been omitted from the current course. This had been our highlight when we initially skied the Konig Ludwig Lauf many years ago and was much talked about with family, friends and other Worldloppet skiers. Skiing through the castle educated us to the name of the race, Konig Ludwig Lauf and gave us an understanding and connection to the history of the area and the race. Hopefully skiing through the castle grounds can be reinstated in future years.
At the end of the first loop long race skiers turned off the track to Oberammergau to head back to the start area, however this was where the least interesting part of the course was, a series of s-turns where the track kept double backing on itself, as if to just make some kilometres. It seemed to take forever to get back to the start area but there was a welcome drink station before heading through the now quiet start area, to do it all again.
The course involved a variety of forested areas, open paddocks, past farmhouses, barns, churches and even past the urban areas of Ettal, Graswang with the finish right in Oberammergau. There were stunning views of the surrounding mountains right from the start line with steep rocky peaks in all directions. At Ettal there was some keen spectators ringing large cow bells to cheer skiers on. They were even still there on my second loop through which was a significant time after the elite skiers. Thanks!
On the second loop as I skated out of the forest into the Graswang plains, I noticed that the mountains had disappeared from view, they were hidden in a big black cloud. Within 5 minutes large snowflakes began to fall. It was extremely pretty having the snow fall float down, as in Australia when it snows it’s usually a blizzard with strong winds and low visibility. The snow continued intermittently for the rest of the race and looked lovely clinging to the tree branches.
Initially, Saturday’s snow was well-packed for the short race skiers but the mass of skiers quickly turned the snow to a cornflour like consistency. The second loop for longer race skiers the snow surface had become significantly softer. Even though it was a freestyle race, the classic skiers appreciated the classic tracks that were available for the majority of the course. The drink stations were well attended by friendly volunteers who gave out drinks, bananas, oranges and muesli bars. Thanks to the Ambulance personnel who were available in several locations to assist if needed.
Congratulations to Aussie skier Sarah Slattery who won the female section in the 9km freestyle race on Saturday morning.
Sunday’s weather was predicted to be a mix of sun and cloud with a temperature range of -10 to O degrees however when we woke on Sunday morning it was snowing lightly. By the 9am long race gold Worldloppet start time the snow had stopped and it was just overcast, still and about -1 degrees when the 775 skiers began the race. The snow began again at about 1pm whilst the 250 silver short race skiers who started at 12 Noon were still out skiing.
Sunday’s course was the same as Saturday. The grooming was excellent on both days with 3 or where possible 4 classic tracks available on Sunday. The classic tracks iced up a little and very excellent for lots of double poling and stride poling. Being a predominantly flat course it’s probably the most stride double poling I’ve ever done.
Staying in Oberammergau we were given a Konig Card by our accommodation providers which gave us many free entitlements including free bus travel from Linderhof Castle and a free ride on the Laber-Bergbahn to see the wonderful views over the alps. It was a great place for coffee and cake (pre-race carbo loading) whilst enjoying the scenery. There are many other freebies with the Konig Card so well-worth combining skiing and seeing the sights of the local area for a few days.
Having to travel to Munich on Sunday night for early flights to Estonia, the silver race’s late start time of 12 noon made travel arrangements more difficult for those Worldloppet skiers doing multiple races. It would be much simpler for those travelling if Saturday’s race timings were used for Sunday though one of the slower long race skiers said he enjoyed the short starting 3 hours after him as many short race skiers caught him and he felt he was really in a race rather than being out skiing on his own at the back of the field in the long event.
It was great to see Hannes Larson, the grand emperor of Worldloppet Masters (32 Masters) skiing the Konig Ludwig Lauf, despite recent health issues. Congratulations Hannes, for completing the silver race on Saturday AND the silver race on Sunday. We all hope to be skiing Worldloppet races when we are your age, you are an inspiration for us all. We all look forward to meeting you at many more Worldloppet races in the future.