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


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

FredagsBirken 2018

The snow was abundant and the weather glorious. What more could you want for a 54km trek across the Norwegian mountains?  The views were stunning, the snow-clad trees looked like fat snowmen squatting in the snow.  What a magical day?

20180316_162434_mStaying in Lillehammer at the hostel above the train station is highly recommended as it very convenient when arriving by train.  Also, the buses to the Nordic ski trails of Sjusjeon and Nordsetter depart from outside the station allowing skiers to prepare on the last third of the race course or just enjoy the 200kms of trails in the mountains above Lillehammer without having to climb up the 600+ vertical metres from Lillehammer.

The only disadvantage to staying in Lillehammer was that we missed the Worldloppet Masters’ pasta party as it was held in Rena, 2 hours drive away on the Friday evening.

Bib pick-up was available in either Rena or at Hakon Hall, Lillehammer on Thursday afternoon.   At Hakon Hall there was also a huge clothing and equipment sale that was well patronised by Norwegian skiers grasping overflowing shopping baskets full of bargains. Continue reading

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Bye-bye, Worldloppet friends

Hannes.jpgText by Hannes Larsson

At Finlandia hiihto 2018 I finished my 34th Worldloppet (WL) passport and decided to finish my WL « career » with that achievement, 27 Gold Masters  and 7 Silver Masters. Already several years ago I was thinking at reducing my involvement in WL races and discovering some other interesting events, but many friends convinced me to continue, saying that I was an inspiration for them, by  showing that it is possible to participate in challenging XC events beyond the age of 80 years.

The early years

My first WL race was the 1977 Dolomitenlauf. In fact, it did not count as a WL performance because WL was founded in 1978. I was curious to see whether I was able to ski a 60 km race after many years of absence from the XC skiing tracks. In spite of skis broader than the tracks it went perfectly and reaching the finish in Lienz I was overwhelmed by happiness. The following week-end I skied Marcialonga with the same skis and reached Cavalese 617th out of 3200 finishers. In 1978 I bought good skis and trained better. The results improved : 157th/2500  in Marcialonga ; I added Koenig-Ludwig-Lauf and Finlandia hiihto to my circuit, the following year also Vasaloppet and the Engadin Skimarathon, and later La Transjurassienne. From 1976 to 1988 I lived in Northern Italy at a 2h drive from the ski tracks. In the 1980ies I usually skied the Val Pusteria 60km CT race the WE before Dolomitenlauf. My personal best in Marcialonga was in 1982 at the age of 51 : 4.29.13 (15.6 km/h) ; in Vasaloppet 1983 I made 5.46.13 (15.4 km/h).

In those early years I got the virus of popular long distance ski races, but I was not interested in overseas races until 1995 (Australia), 1997 (Japan) and 1998 (Canada and Birkie).

My first WL Master No. 1055 was otained in 1996. Then I got the virus of WL races and my idol was Jan Jasiewicz, who was a multiple WL Master, several Masters ahead of me. I started a stimulating hunt and finally caught up with him about ten years later when we both had 16 Masters. What happened was that there were several places where two events were organized, on Saturday and Sunday. Jan skied only one of them whereas I skied on both days and was able to obtain two Masters the same year, repeatedly. Unfortunately, Jan had problems with a knee and later a fall from a climbing wall ended his WL career at 17 Masters.

HannesBook.jpgAssiduous WL skier

Skiing WL races became a purpose in my life. All those who have embarked on a pursuit of multiple WL Masters have exprienced the thrill. These races are high level events technically and organizationally. There are now 20 venues in the series. Returning to the same races year after year was never monotonous (my programme was never the same every year) because the conditions of weather and snow were different every time, often even the course was changed. The big attraction of WL is that you meet people from all around the world and get many friends of different countries and nationalities. Assiduous WL skiers inevitably experience sooner or later difficult weather conditions, that they bravely affront, whereas they would not go out for a training session in their homeland in such conditions. In my book « Cross-Country Skiing Around the World » I described some examples of extreme conditions, some adventures in travelling, and some outstanding persons I have met.

Especially after my retirement in 1991 I was a really assiduous WL skier, with a programme including all possible WL events, leaving just a day or two home once every month for clothwashing between the consecutive travels. This gave a good fitness level. In 2004 I spent more than a week in Mora and skied a series of races from Kortvasan and Halvvasan to Vasaloppet. The WE before Vasaloppet I skied both Öppet Spår events. On Sunday I took it carefully in 7.43, on Monday easily in 6.58. Tuesday morning I was bouncing on my legs and would have appreciated a third Öppet Spår. But there was only the 45 km Halvvasan that I made in 3.56.

Multiple Masters

I never aimed the accumulation of WL Masters for the glory of being the most titled WL skier. It was a little disturbing for me to experience that people began asking to be pictured with me, and I tried to smile bravely. In my view, getting multiple Masters is not a big sport achievement, anybody can do it. The time limits in WL are very easy to pass, barely faster than leisurely walking. But travelling requires a lot of money. A Russian friend said fittingly that the list of Multiple Masters is like the Forbes list of the richest people in the world. This means that many younger persons, much better skiers than me, but lacking money, are excluded. My 34 Masters are by no means an unbeatable limit. My prediction is that in the coming years there will be one or more skiers who will achieve 40 Masters or more. I know a few of them, my best friends, and encourage them to continue their WL career, already in good progress. My result will be forgotten, but no worries, I am happy to be a pioneer who showed the example.



During those 40 years I had the opportunity to meet many race organizers thanks to my initiative, the founding of IAWLS (International Association of WL Skiers). Some of the improvements in the races were based on a proposal from IAWLS. I was the president for ten years and wish here to thank the race organizers for their collaboration and the volunteers who  worked as members of the IAWLS committee for their help.

Reasons for the stop

My decision to stop WL racing has two reasons. One is that I am tired of long travels, not of skiing. In the beginning of my WL adventure I adored travelling but getting older I  have developed a disgust for sitting hours in crammed aircraft, waiting at airports for delayed flights and carrying heavy luggage in long corridors and sometimes up and down stairs with no lift or moving staircase. I am now 87, and having reached 34 Masters I hope I have the right to retire. Not from skiing : there are many other than WL races that I wish to visit, at a leisurely pace. In the past I have already skied several races in France and in Italy, three events in Finland : Pirkan Hiihto (a 90km race, more challenging than Vasaloppet), Tervahiihto (the oldest race in the world, over 120 years ; Vasaloppet needs to update their claim that they are the longest and oldest race) and the Lapponia week (60, 50 and 80 km on three non-consecutive days), and the northernmost race, the Svalbard Ski Marathon in an Arctic Ocean island where there are more polar bears than inhabitants.

My first new experience after my last WL race, Finlandia Hiihto’s 32 km CT race in February 2018, was the Rajalta Rajalle (Border to Border) trek in Finland from the Russian border to the Swedish border near the Arctic Circle, 420 km in seven days, 8-14 March 2018. It was an unforgettable experience with lots of snow and mostly ideal weather conditions. There are similarities between RR and WL : multiple RR skiers in the former (one skier got a medal for his 10th participation) and multiple Masters in the latter. The feeling of togetherness is obviously much stronger in RR than in WL events because of common transports, hotels and meals for seven consecutive days plus the arrival and departure dates.

The second reason for my decision to stop WL skiing, the most important, is that I am disappointed because of the loss of prestige of the WL Master achievement. It was considered as a valuable goal by thousands of skiers ; in fact the Master system is the cornerstone of WL, a decisive feature for its  big success. But then came the cheating scandal : three skiers had during several years participated in an organized cheating system. Two members of the trio were supposed to ski together, as shown by identical intermediate and final times. But, as shown by photo and video evidence, only one was skiing, the other did not even need to make the travel. His companion picked up the two bibs, carried the two chips and obtained the stamps in the passports. This system was discovered by perspicacious IAWLS members who reported it to WL in 2016. It was described on the IAWLS website.

But the second scandal, as big as the cheating itself, is that the cheats have not been punished. The WL management has not stood up for principles. The only way to reestablish the prestige of the Master performance is to apply a severe punishment on the cheats. Their Master titles obtained by cheating have been removed (not all of them yet), but that is no punishment for an unbelievable wrongdoing. WL Masters, and certainly all WL skiers agree that such cheats must be excluded from WL.

I possess two more passports, numbers 35 and 36. They coud easily have been completed in 2019 but it would have required one overseas travel. Two more valueless Masters just for the vainglory would not have been purposeful. In my list of performed WL races not used for Master titles there remain some fifteen races. The pleasure I experienced when skiing them was my reward.

In my memory will remain only all positive aspects of my 40-year WL experience.


I wish all the best for you, my WL friends.

Bye- bye.

Hannes Larsson

Posted in News 2018 | 11 Comments

Engadin Skimaraton – Report 2018

On Sunday 11th March the 50th Engadin ski marathon was held in the spectacular Engadin Valley in Switzerland.  Many aspects of the race were organised to celebrate the 50 years of the event; in the St Moritz Elevator Gallery there was an art display of pictures from previous races, the 42km race course made a “50” groomed race circuit shape in the snow which would have looked brilliant from above and near Silvaplana there was a billboard display with children wearing a separate race bib for each year of the Engadin marathon.

Leading up to the race we were extremely fortunate to have a couple of days of sunny warm weather to explore the race trails up and down the valley.  We also skied the trail to Mortertasch Glacier which is a highly recommended diversion from training on the race course.

Bib pickup started on Thursday and was highly efficient at St Moritz Bad Health Centre where a large ski expo lined the sides of the cross-country ski trail.  The expo area became extremely busy on Saturday afternoon as some 20,000 skiers and friends converged on St Moritz.

On the Saturday afternoon there was a Worldloppet Masters’ Reception attended by about 80 people.  It was a great opportunity to socialise with like-minded skiers from many different nations over wine and nibbles and to recognise the efforts and persistence of new Worldloppet Masters.

Catching the bus on race morning from St Moritz Bad was a time-consuming task as there were hundreds of skiers lined up at various transport pick up spots and only buses fully laden with skiers passing by.  I recommend allowing plenty of time ( 1 hours +) to wait for transport to the race start and be prepared to stand on a crowded bus for more than 30minutes.  As we alighted from the bus at the race start at Malorja it was lightly raining and skiers were dashing about trying to find plastic bags to use as temporary rain jackets and heading to the 2 large heated tents.  Fortunately, the rain was short-lived and very soon turned to wet snow for the next hour or so.  Our ski gloves were no sodden and cold.  By the time the race started it was mostly dry however remained cloudy and ominous for the rest of the day with the slower skiers experiencing more rain later in the day.  The temperature fluctuated around zero – 4 degrees for most of the day.

As we prepared our equipment at the race start, we noticed there were many skiers in fancy dress teams including a large group of smurfs, a collection of Mexicans, a few apes and ducks were spotted, a couple of pirates and an assortment of tutu costumes.  Some of the costumed racers also had some great music emitting from their outfit.  It all added to the race birthday theme.

At the start there was a significant number of well-labelled trucks, where skiers deposited their race bag with spare clothes that was transported to the finish. But it was a very busy area with surging crowds of bag and ski laden participants going in opposite directions and the occasional urgent skier pushing through.  The luxurious clothing bags that were handed out with the bibs were a great idea instead of the usual plastic bag that is thrown away after the event.  Skiers could take these sturdy colourful bags home and use them as reusable shopping bags as well as a souvenir of the race.

The race began with “Happy Birthday to Engadin” being played over the loud speakers.  The elite had a mass start but as there were some 22,000 citizen skiers following in the gold 42km race and silver 21km race awaiting in steel fenced ‘paddocks’ in an ideal start format.  This allowed everyone to commence skiing in a safe and relaxed manner.  Citizen skiers went into paddocks holding their skis and when your start time arrived you walked into the start zone and had 5 minutes to put your skis on and begin skiing.  Friendly helpers with devices to clear snow from ski boots were there assist. Your time began when you crossed the start line.

The first 10 kilometres or so was across frozen lakes, before reaching the first uphill where the pace slowed to a stop as skiers 6 wide herringboned up the steep incline. Then a short downhill and a little flat terrain and the course went right through the middle of the ski expo with lots of spectators and a brass band playing.  Next was the climb out of St Moritz where the progress ground to a snail’s pace, however enthusiastic spectators plied skiers with bananas, drinks and glucose tablets.  This really exhibited the local community’s support for the event.  Beyond the climb out St Moritz, the views were spectacular as some peaks tried to break through the cloud.  The course wound through a forested section before descending down the famous “Mattress Hill,” so named because the trees close to the race track are wrapped in orange mattresses to protect skiers who crash at speed weaving around the trees.  There is also a safe walking route option around this steep section as it does get very busy with skiers of varying skill levels trying to ski down the hill as fast as possible, resulting in some spectacular crashes at speed.  Hurtling down the hill beyond the trees and it’s a quick ski across the trains tracks before the final descent into Pontresina where the 21km half marathon finishes.

Now, I thought the trail might become less congested however this was not to be as the groomed trail narrowed to 2 skiers wide for a few kilometres with some more short sharp ups and downs.  Near Samedan the route flattened and widened, finally giving an opportunity for faster skiers to overtake safely before skiing the big 50 ‘shape’ in the snow.  The final third of the course was undulating and passed directly through several villages where spectators weren’t deterred by the threatening weather conditions and turned out in large groups to cheer weary skiers along.  The last few uphills I actually had to skate up, rather than herringboning as the crowds of skiers had thinned in the final rush to the finish line.  Finally a sharp left turn, down to cross the river and up to the finish line to join the thousands of skiers who had got there before me and were celebrating their success with drinks and food.

Having race bibs with my name printed on it, meant that on many occasions spectators and other skiers called out my name.  I also had an Australian flag on my bib which was a conversation point for other skiers.  A suggestion for race organisers would be to have the skiers’ first name and their country printed on bibs rather than first name and family name as is the current practise for this event.

The race was run in very good spirit with a lot of cooperation and politeness amongst skiers.  At many squeeze points especially uphills, or a narrowing of the track progress was halted yet the vast majority of skiers patiently waited their turn.  In one particular situation beyond Pontresina, as we waited, friendly conversation broke out amongst skiers and I convinced 2 swiss skiers to consider visiting Australia for the Kangaroo Hoppet, Australia’s Worldloppet ski race.

The majority of skiers skate the Engadin however classic tracks were laid and in the early stages of the race, a 40cm snow berm separated the skate lane from the classic tracks.  The classic tracks remained intact for most of the race with skate skiers mostly avoiding skiing over the classic tracks. Some skate skiers used the classic tracks to double pole as in some spots it was faster and also gave the legs a break from the skating technique.  The classic tracks were also a good way to overtake slower skaters when it was congested.  Overall the grooming was excellent, though in the flat light it was tricky to see where the skate lane finished and I found myself off the packed track and in soft snow a few times especially when overtaking.

At the refreshment stations there many friendly volunteers who had trays of drinks, bananas, muesli bars and chocolate that was well-spaced, so there were lots of options to obtain a drink, food then another drink even though there were significant numbers of other skiers trying to do the same thing.  Well done!

Bands playing music at several locations throughout the race were a welcome distraction, creating a light-hearted party atmosphere.

All in all, the Engadin lived up to it’s reputation as a popular extremely enjoyable race on the Worldloppet calendar.  It contains a collection of flat sections, undulating sections, meadow sections and some more challenging climbs and descents.   Just remember to look up occasionally at the surrounding white peaks.

Marg Hayes, Australia

Thanks to Alan Levy for some of the photos.

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Bieg Piastow 2018, Poland

Poland certainly puts on an extensive array of races at the Jakuszyce cross country trail area including 3 Worldloppet races, being 2 silver and 1 gold as well as some shorter races.  Friday 2nd March was the 30km freestyle (silver), Saturday 3rd March (gold) was the 50km classic and Sunday 4th March (silver) was the 25km classic race.

Our last visit to Jakuszyce, Poland was in 2014 when the snow was extremely marginal causing the Bieg Piastow Worldloppet races to almost be cancelled.  Races were run,  just, but were significantly shortened to just 10km with a lot of unavoidable brown snow and stones in the finish approach area.  This year we were absolutely delighted when we peered out of the train windows as we left the Czech Republic and approached Jakuszyce, Poland to see an awesome snow cover.  We couldn’t wait to get our skis on and explore the well-groomed trail network for several days prior to the races.

Whilst skiing around the tracks we kept meeting up with other Australians who we didn’t know were coming to Poland.  In the end we counted 12 Australians so we all had dinner together one night in one of the many affordable restaurants in Szklarska Poreba.  It was great catching up with Aussie friends and news as we had flown out of Australia on Xmas Day heading to China on our Worldloppet extravaganza.  It was hard to believe there were so many Australians who had come so far to ski the Bieg Piastow.  Between us we were skiing all three Polish Worldloppet races, so we had a good cheer squad as well.

To get to Poland we had flown into Prague, however there is no straight forward route via public transport from there. There are slow trains, often with numerous changes, however we caught an express bus to Liberec then the scenic train to Szklarska Poreba. The journey took about 4.5 hours. However, we learnt that there is now a direct train from Wroclaw Poland to Szklarska Poreba taking just 2.5 hours so that maybe worth investigating.

There are a few hotels at Jakuszyce where the cross country trails are, but we chose to stay in an apartment at Szklarska Poreba to enjoy the atmosphere and facilities of the friendly small tourist town less than 10km from the skiing.  The train departs every hour or two for Jakuszcyce and is very inexpensive, i.e. $3AUS.  On race days regular free buses are provided from Szklarska Poreba (and beyond) to the race start area for skiers and spectators.

At bib pick-up a detailed colour course map for each of the distances was included in the race bag so it was easy to know the exact course before the event and get to know where the tricky downhills and long uphills were situated.

The Polish race organisers invited all Worldloppet Masters to a delicious free dinner on Friday 2nd March at the Bornit Hotel in Szklarska Poreba.  It was great to meet up with skiers from many different countries.  The Polish Worldloppet Masters’ Reception is certainly hard to beat with food and local presents.

The 30km and 25km courses were very similar with the 30km course having a tough extra 5km that wound up and down some hills.  The 50km course went in reverse to the shorter courses and included some extra distance on further out loops.  All of the courses involved quite a few hills with the longest and steepest on the 50km course.  It was an extremely interesting course with a variety of terrain from forested tracks to high points with views across to snow covered peaks. The 50km course seemed to twist and turn, up and down and I felt like we visited every track junction on the trail system and more.

The cold temperatures continued for the first few days with the thermometer hovering between -10 and -15 degrees, however there was little precipitation like in other parts of Europe.  Friday dawned clear and cold with a frosty start for the 500 freestyle racers as they tried to stay warm before the race began.  Classic skiers (approximately 30) appreciated the one classic track being provided despite most skiers being skaters.

On Saturday it was another cold start of around -14 degrees though by the time the 2 000 skiers had skied the first 4kms uphill most people had warmed up.  The bag deposit and change tents were right next to the start area so it was easy to stay inside until a few minutes before the race began.  It was mostly cloudy during the event apparently warming up to -8 degrees though with the cool wind I felt it was much colder in the forest.  Nearing the finish I skied into a sunny patch and instantly warmed, mmmm …nice!.

Sunday’s 25km race had approximately 1200 skiers who thoroughly enjoyed the warmer temperatures of -4 degrees and sunshine, though a cold breeze was blowing during the afternoon. There was a significant number of slower skiers requiring faster skiers to regularly change lanes. Race organisers could encourage slower skiers to stay right unless overtaking by displaying a few signs with arrows indicating this, as the Vasaloppet does.

The races started in waves of approximately 250 skiers with 2 minute intervals. This was just enough time to spread much of the congestion, though the tracks were busy for much of the race in the classic events.  For instance, the 25km race was very congested until the Orle drink and food station, about half way into the course.

There were regular drink and food stops attended by friendly volunteers.  It was great to have a variety of food available at refreshment stops such as banana, chocolate pieces, orange segments, muesli bars and biscuits.  A suggestion for organisers is to place rubbish bins or rubbish collection structures 20 metres along the track after the station so skiers can throw their rubbish in bins rather than creating a mass of cups and a hazard all over the tracks as well as being a big mess to be cleaned up afterwards.

Whilst the races were in progress the cross-country ski tracks were officially closed to other skiers. This meant there were few non-racers on the tracks but also meant there were very few spectators along the race course except at the start and finish. Due to heavy security that wouldn’t allow you on the tracks even an hour before the races began, it was extremely difficult to have a ski and cheer for our Aussie team mates when we weren’t racing as we would usually do.

As I skied the 50km race I ticked off drink stations from last week’s Oppet Spar and found the course to be so short and easy compared to 90km of less than a week ago.  It was great to reach the finish stretch with energy and mindfulness to sprint double pole the last 3 kilometres to beat another skier who had been on my tail for kilometres. There were masses of people lining the finish shute, cheering as I crossed the finish line.  It was a great feeling to have notched up another gold Worldloppet race.

I highly recommend the Bieg Piastow to other Worldloppet skiers because of the interesting varied course (no boring repetitive loops), great organisation and the warm welcome that Worldloppet skiers receive.

By Marg Hayes


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Kortvasan & Sunday’s Oppet Spor 2018

Sweden’s Vasaloppet Week is amazing, as some 100,00 skiers participate in a variety of races leading up to the main race the actual 90km Vasaloppet on Sunday 4th March.  Races include the 30km Kortvasan, the 30km Tjejvasan (Women’s race with some 14,000 participants), Halvvasan (45km), NightVasan(90km), a relay race and the Oppet Spär(90Km).

Getting entry into the actual 90km Vasaloppet is extremely difficult for us, as internet connections in our small town in country Australia are unreliable at the best of times, so trying to be online at the exact moment race entries were opened and trying to complete the race entry before the race was filled 5 minutes later was an impossible task for us. Instead, we entered the Oppet Spär which is the Vasaloppet Open Track, run on the same 90km course 1 week prior to the main race Being an Open Track there is no winner or trophies however individual skiers’ times are recorded and best of all qualifies a successful skier with a gold stamp for a Worldloppet passport.  The start is low stress with a single line moving through a timing gate as opposed to a hectic mass start.

Arriving in Mora, Sweden (about 3.75 hours by train north of Stockholm) a few days before races commenced, we were extremely excited to see so much top quality snow.  All the way north from Stockholm there was snow everywhere.  Locals told us this was a superb snow season, the best in perhaps 20 to 50 yeas, and we were very happy to be part of it especially since on our last European Worldloppet ski trip in 2014 where we had had 3 race cancellations due to poor snow.

The atmosphere in Mora was building up with lots of road closures and barriers in place as all races finish in the main street of Mora, a medium sized regional town.  The shops all displayed welcoming signs to skiers.  We stayed at Mora Parken, a cabin park, less than 1km from the race finish. The actual race course went right through the park, so it was a great location to watch the multitude of races, as well as being able to ski right out the door when there wasn’t races happening. Ski waxing  rooms are also provided at Mora Parken, facilities we struggled to find in many of our previous accommodations.

Friday 23rd February was the Kortvasan, a race along the final 30 kilometres of the Vasaloppet course.  Successfully finishing the Kortvasan, some 12,000 skiers skied the gently undulating 30km course.  It was extremely well-organised with skiers leaving in waves of approximately 1,000 skiers every 15 minutes from 9am from Oxberg.  This meant the fastest skies in wave 1 were finished in Mora before the final waves commenced their race after 12 noon.  It was -3 degrees and still in the forest.  The recent snowfalls meant the snow was very light and fluffy resulting in slow glide.  The tracks remained in good condition throughout, even for the slower, later skiers.  The course was mostly in the forest with a few small villages being skied through. Enthusiastic spectators gathered at any possible road /race course junction to cheer skiers along, yelling “hejah, hejah.” It certainly spurred skiers on.

Sunday 25th February was Sondag Oppet Spär with some 7,200 skiers, there was also another Oppet Spar on Monday 26th February with 5,000 skiers. If staying in Mora, the 90km Oppet Spär involves catching a bus from Mora between 4am and 5am to be transported 2 hours to the event start at Salen. Being an Open Track, skiers could start anytime between 7am and 8am. Cut-off times seemed fairly generous, with the final being 7pm at Eldris, 9km from the finish.

Temperatures had dropped significantly in the 24hours before the Sunday Oppet Spar. It had been a pleasant -3 degrees with snow falling all day Saturday during the Tjejvasan, but predictions for Sunday was for -12 degrees rising to -8 degrees. However, when we arrived at Salen, the race start, at 6.30am, temperature gauges were displaying -17 degrees. Speedily, we got ready not wanting to linger in the cold. There was a plentiful supply of toilets, warm water was available and the baggage trucks displayed big number signs.

It didn’t seem too cold as we started skiing at about 7.15am, plus I figured with a 2 kilometre hill (the longest hill on the course) after only 1 km skiing, I would warm up quickly, however this wasn’t the case as the temperature seemed to get colder and colder, even expending energy climbing the hill didn’t warm me up. There was a moving queue on the big hill, much more so than when we had skied the Vasaloppet a few years ago. Up and up we went and finally reached the top of the hill crowded amongst the other skiers. The terrain then became undulating and continued like this all the way to Mora. There was a few larger ascents and descents in the middle of the course around Risberg/Evertsberg but realistically the track is fairly benign.

By the time I had skied 10 kilometres, I was bitterly cold; I knew I needed more clothing if I was to continue. Fortunately, I always carry a bumbag with light-weight jacket, warm gloves /and extra hat, otherwise I would have had to pull out as the risk of hypothermia was too high. I donned all my layers and it took another 5 kilometres before my frozen body started to warm up and I began to enjoy the pretty scenery with the first morning rays reflecting off the snow-covered trees. The race course passes numerous frozen lakes; some tiny, others expansive. Traditional wooden holiday cabins dotted the landscape.  The sun gave little warmth, but it was glorious skiing under blue skies with superb lighting on the frozen landscape.

There are few ski races where the average citizen skier begins skiing before the sun rises and if fast enough finishes before the sun sets, though with the final cut off being 7pm at Eldris (9kms before the finish) tired skiers were skiing the last sections of the course in the dark, with some coming in as late as 8.30-9pm.

For the first part of the Oppet Spar the track is extremely wide with some 8 classic tracks extending for 20 + kilometres. Skiers were shoulder to shoulder, faster skiers zipping between tracks if a small gap occurred. Onto Evertsberg (halfway) there was 6 classic tracks and for the final part of the course there was 4 classic tracks. All the way it was busy making it important to pay attention to what other skiers were doing, especially on the downhills. The classic tracks held well considering the numbers.

The drink stations were masses of skiers, so busy and chaotic that at the first couple of stops it was a long queue to even get a drink. A few volunteers had trays of drinks but often you had to queue at tables. Choices were very limited with only water, blueberry drink, enervit, coffee (at some) and small bread rolls offered. I was extremely glad that in my pockets I had extra food bars, cashews and some sugary treats otherwise I would have been very hungry. I recommend skiers carry extra food with you for sustenance, unless white bread rolls are your food of choice.

Organisers managed the rubbish from skiers extremely well by providing many rubbish bins as well as marked zones where skiers could drop rubbish. There was also a 15 minute penalty for anyone dropping rubbish outside of these zones which is a brilliant idea as in some race like the Marcialonga we were appalled at the rubbish from energy sachets dropped in many locations along the race course. Maybe other races should enforce a similar time penalty for those who incorrectly dispose of their rubbish.

Every kilometre there was signage informing skiers how many kilometres to the finish and how many kilometres to the next drink station. Compared to most other Worldloppet races the signage was exceptional; being of a size that was easily seen, very clear and easy to understand. It was so good not having to do a mental calculation to work out how far to go.

Transport of warm clothes was efficiently conducted with trucks in start areas indicating race numbers where skier’s numbered plastic bags could be deposited. On finishing the race, skiers were transported via bus a couple of kilometres to the sports stadium where skiers collected their plastic bags then had warm showers before being bussed back to the start area to pick up skis and diplomas. Drinks and protein bars were available at the end of the race, but no meal was offered after any of the races except after the actual main Vasaloppet race.

Finishing the Oppet Spar I felt a real sense of achievement, having skied 90km in one freezing cold day and arriving before sunset in less than my friend’s prediction of 9 hours. I recommend the Oppet Spar to all Gold Worldloppet skiers, you should do it at least once in your Worldloppet career.

By Marg Hayes


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Jizerska50 report in 2018

Three days of skiraces, classic and skate, many participants and a good skiarena. Yes, Jizerska is good. This year the weather was also good or did you notice? It’s when weather is bad people notice. Temperatures where around minus 5-6 to almost zero degrees each day (degrees celcius, we are in Europe).

Skiarena in Bedrichov where start and finish are, is about 10km from Liberec centrum. On Saturday and Sunday there are shuttlebusses for participants and later on spectators. The skate race on Friday starts as late as 13:00 and we drove our own car to start. Parking should be plenty we were told but when we showed up, not late, we searched a lot to find a parking spot. I don’t think we were allowed to park where we ended up but we had to, race was on.

The skate race was 30km and not that many skiers, around 500. Good thing it was no more because the tracks were often wide enough only for 1.8 skiers skating, not two. So varying rude passings were made every now and then. To top it off: one skier NOT participating in the race told me to get out of the track because he was skiing faster than me. WTF?! With many skaters and narrow tracks the uphills got softer snow and made uphills even more hard. Espacially this non-stop 6km uphill after the 7km mark. After that part the tracks were pretty nice and easy.

The view you get in this kind of tracks is a lot of trees. Dens forest. It is a lot of forest roads you are skiing on. With snow on trees it was a christmas postcard scenary. A little more mountain views and oversights would have been nice. Each WL race is different, different taste and format.

The main 50km classic race on Sunday had a lot of skiers. Maybe not a record or maybe it was. Good weather again. One recommandation I would like to give the arrangers is to widen up the first few kilometers of track. It is just to narrow for this many skiers. With more wide tracks the skiers levels would even out faster. We ended up walking in line for a long time. Elite skiers get less walking in line, good for them.

In finish area we got a big glass medal that got very visible on my trophy wall back home. Food for evey skiers is included in start fee. All races should have that. I have seen some marathons that only offer cold fruit drinks in finish and you have to buy warm food. Three different meal were offered. All good, I think, because you only got one. The queue lines to get food were not noticed on the short races on Friday and Saturday but on Sunday these lines were very long, miles it felt like. From one end of the long eating tent, to the other end and then back again! Wow. Some people just skipped that line and bough warm food on one of the stands outside. Please add more capacity to the food serving.

Jizerska is a good race destination. Several races, good races, good ski arena and very low prices. Go to a restaurant, eat and drink beer all you can and you’ll see the low prices compared to other nations. Hotels and busses are also very cheap. Compared to other WL races this is a very cheap trip BUT just as good as any WL race destination. Value for money is what we call it.

Worldloppet Reception on Friday evening was very nice. Nice food, nice people. “The best reception” as Boris said to all.

-mvh Lars

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Konig Ludwig Lauf 2018 race report

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.

Marg Hayes


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2018 Marcialonga Report

Passo Lavaze: On Thursday 25th January the crowds flocked to Passo Lavaze for the annual 22km Silver Worldloppet classic ski race. The sun was shining, it was still and the temperature was just below zero, making for extremely pleasant conditions with dry powdery snow. The tracks were impeccably groomed. Some 340 skiers lined up at the start line, with the start being low key and relaxed.

The course did a loop on the open hilltop before descending through thick forest to break out in the sunshine at Malga Costa.  The tracks for a steep climb back up to Passo Lavaze testing grip wax effectiveness.  A quick drink station, then descending through a steep hairpin, with some undulating up and down, followed by a steady climb to Malga Ora for a well earned drink station. The undulations continued through the small downhill run at Malga Varena then predominantly downhill to the finish area at Passo Lavaze.  There were 2 drink stations and no food available on the course, although at the finish, skiers enjoyed meat rolls and warm drinks in the sunshine whilst chatting about the race.

It was great to be at the after race presentations especially to cheer the young Aussie duo who came 4th lady and 5th man. Congratulations Mark and Ella!

One suggestion for race organisers is to time the start of the race so that skiers travelling via public transport are able to participate in the race. Currently the race is programmed to start just 5 minutes after the first bus from Cavalese arrives making it extremely difficult for international skiers travelling via public transport. Fortunately the race start was deferred for 10 minutes to allow for those bus travellers but it would be more relaxing if this was known in advance.

Now the big Marcialonga race….

Bib pick-up was in the Congress Centre in Cavalese beginning the Thursday afternoon before the Marcialonga. The process was extremely well-organised with lots of friendly volunteers eager to assist. There was also a huge array of sponsor products which provided interesting displays.

On Saturday night at 5.30pm there was a Worldloppet Masters reception. Angelo Corradini made some wonderful announcements which are extremely pleasing for all Worldloppet Masters. Angelo said that Marcialonga really value Worldloppet Master skiers and really want their participation in future races. Marcialonga understand the difficulties with the current entry system especially for Worldloppet Masters in faraway countries and so from now on all Worldloppet Masters will be given entry to the Marcialonga by contacting the Marcialonga office before the release of entries to the general public. Contact the Marcialonga Office as early as possible before the online entries open. If you have any difficulties contact Angelo direct. Wow, what brilliant news, especially for us non-European Worldloppet Masters who have to travel half way across the world to reach Italy. Gaining entry to the Marcialonga has always been an adhoc, costly venture for us, so now we will be relaxed knowing we can source the most appropriate accommodation (like apartments) rather than having to stay at expensive hotels which offer race entry packages. Thank you to the Marcialonga organisers for valuing the participation of Worldloppet Masters in this fantastic event.

Race day dawned clear and still. The bus transport system from Cavalese to the race start was extremely efficient with a line of 20+ buses greeting  skiers in the main street of Cavalese. Waiting in the toilet queue at the race start of Moena, it was beautiful to watch the first rays of sun hit the tops of the Dolomites. The red rocky peaks really shone over the valley. This was my sixth Marcialonga and the warmest start I can recall but still a cool -1 degrees for us Australians.

The clearly labelled trucks with different bag colours were easily to find, to deposit clothing bags for pickup at the finish. Before the sun rose the first race group, the Elite Women were off and racing as the rest of us fiddled with last minute clothing adjustments.  Lining up in an orderly manner to get into the fenced off areas according to bib numbers, one felt a little like a caged animal, but the system worked. Once your group’s barrier lifts, you have 5 minutes to leisurely walk out to the start area, put your skis on and to ski across the start line truly makes the Ideal Start a relaxed, calm way to get 7,500 skiers  off and racing.  It is noted the shorter 45km skiers start with the 70km skiers.

Climbing the first hill to Moena, I remembered the queues of my previous Marcialonga skis and wondered how the crowds would be today. Right from the first houses, spectators lined the course yelling “ Bravo, up-up-up” and cheering us along, as the route wound between double storey houses barely 2 metres apart. The trucked in snow was quite soft, and dry, falling apart, feeling more like deep dry sand rather than snow. It would have been extremely difficult to make a snowman out of this snow. Looking up, the sun was glistening off the red rocks making for an amazing spectacle.

Climbing above Moena there were a few short hills where the pace slowed to a crawl as skiers herringboned up the steeper pitches.

Multiple tracks with 3 or 4 classic tracks where the width allowed was welcome. This gave an opportunity for faster skiers to zip through and overtake those skiing slower. Most skiers were calm and encouraging to others.

For some 17km the trail climbed up the Val di Fassa valley, meandering alongside a small creek, Torrente Avisio, with snow still hanging in the frosted trees.  It was great to finally break out of the shaded valley into the sunshine at Canazei. There were many cheering spectators as skiers pushed through the heavy deep snow to the turn around point right in the middle of Canazei.

It was great to cross Torrente Avisio and begin to head back down the Val di Fassa valley on the shaded side, with lots of double poling opportunities. The kilometres seemed to zip past with Pozza di Fassa uniquely covered drink station being reached in good time. Climbing the Soraga hill the church bells were ringing to indicate noon.

But the predicted 9 degrees began to make its way into the sunny segments and the tracks became wide and glazed in some areas.

Skiers seemed to thin as tiredness was creeping in for all. The managed descent to Moena was exciting with lots of crowds lining the course in Moena and cheering you over the small bridge. Meandering between the buildings and within centimetres of Torrente Avisio was very different to most ski races which are held in forested areas away from villages and wild spectators. It certainly adds to the memorable uniqueness of the Marcialonga.

Continuing down, down to the Val de Fiemme valley, it was good know most of the tricky bits of the course were behind me now. Passing Predazzo and waving goodbye to the 500 participants in the 45km Marcialonga Light, skiers seemed more spaced, just surviving staying upright with tired legs and tired bodies. The snow had changed to Australian powder (wet slop) so I felt right at home and my crown skis were gliding well.

The cheering spectators continued to give you an extra boost to push on a bit harder. It was hard not to enjoy the beautiful weather, sunny and clear though variable temperatures depending whether you were in the shaded areas or out in the open paddocks or river flats. All the way the red rocks of the Dolomites towered above us.

It was great to see the church spires of Cavalese and know that there wasn’t too far to go now. Under the Alpe Cermis cablecar and finally I got a glimpse of skiers heading up the final hill, knowing it was close but not that close as I still had to ski 3kms down the valley to the turnaround at Molina then another 3kms back up to the base of that famous climb.

There was a party atomsphere at the Molina drinks station as skiers knew it wasn’t far now and that they could do it.

Klister stations at Molina and the base of the climb were welcomed by skiers running out of grip wax.   However my crown skis gave me enough grip to keep progressing.

Finally, I made it to the final climb, a 3km uphill slog from the river to reach the finish line at Cavalese. Skiers just kept on going, onward and upward knowing the end was near. Finishing in Cavalese is amazing, skiing through the narrow streets, with cheering crowds helping me to push that little bit harder to make it to the finish line. What a feeling it was to cross the line and know that I had been successful in another Marcialonga.

Time to collect the bag, change the shoes, drink some hot soup, find my friends, then to the Cavalese Congress Centre for the pasta party. Marcialong Light  skiers reported the pasta party at Predazzo in a warm tent was wonderful too.

A highlight of the Marcialonga was the plentiful food/drink stations at each small village you skied through; music and friendly helpful volunteers cheered you along. In several of the towns (Canazei, Predazzo and Cavalese)  skiers’ names were announced as you skied through which encouraged you  a little more. The enthusiasm of spectators  hanging out the balconies or just cheering you on as you skied past was a real highlight too.  Some spectators even supplied water to slower competitors just at the right location.

Even though many of the small descents became icy bobsled runs with piles of corn flour snow pushed up on the sides courtesy was shown to fallen skiers to be safe and encourage them.

All in all, the Marcialonga is one of the iconic Worldloppet races with lots of appeal to skiers and well worth including on every Worldloppet Master skiers’ program.

Marg Hayes


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