Today was the big Vasaloppet 90km classic XC ski race in Dalarna. The Scandinavians take their skiing very seriously and this is one of the biggest, if not the biggest race of them all. The whole race is covered live and uninterrupted on TV following the leaders by helicopter and snowmobile. It’s a interesting race for a number of reasons. One is that it is a point to point race instead of doing a bunch of shorter loops at the same place. And, the race isn’t just for the top athlete – thousands of weekend warriors take on the challenge that starts at 8AM and for many goes for 12 or more hours. They have lots of refelling stations along the way that serve cinnamon buns and blueberry soup.
In the fall I thought that it would be a great experience to try this race, but wasn’t sure I’d be ready so didn’t sign up. I had assumed I’d be able to store my skis at the university and ski on the trails there a lot as it is close by, but it turns out those trails shown as ski trails on the map are not actually for skiing but for running so they get gravel spread on them which makes them unusable for skiing. So, my skiing has been limited to weekends and it would have been a real struggle to make the full 90km, so I was happy just to watch this time.
We were watching live online this morning and it looked like a great course. Lots of parallel tracks over rolling terrain with lots of gradual downhills for double poling. Double poling is my favourite technique (closest to paddling) so the course looks like it would suit my (admittedly limited) strengths. Maybe some year! Since we wanted to get in our own ski today we didn’t stick around to watch the finish, but it turns out that after 90km it came down to a three man sprint for the line with the top two finishing with the same time and third place just three seconds behind. They completed the course in only 4hrs and 3 minutes – amazing stuff from some great athletes.