John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won Vasaloppet 2014. Photo: Madshus

John Kristian Dahl (NOR) won Vasaloppet 2014. Photo: Madshus

Ski Classics 2016 kicks off with a double-header in Italy on December 5 and 6, and the marathon racers are chomping at the bit to get started with the long-distance race series.

The 15-kilometer Proteam Prologue in Livigno, Italy, opens the show for the marathon race series, which has been extended to eight events this season.

The Prologue, in which the teams must field at least three racers to be eligible, was added last year, and is a team effort where the third person’s time determines the team result. The next day, the skiers embark on the first long event, the now 24-kilometer classic technique La Sgambeda.

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Madshus marathon racer Øystein Pettersen after the Team Prologue 2014. Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics

Madshus marathon racer Øystein Pettersen after the Team Prologue 2014. Photo: Magnus Östh/Ski Classics

While the Team Prologue is only open to professional teams registered with the 2016 Ski Classics, the La Sgambeda classic race on Sunday, December 6, is open to amateurs as well.

The Prologue on Saturday will be held on the original course, but due to lack of snow in Livigno, the classic marathon La Sgambeda on Sunday will be run on an alternate course. The participants will ski four laps of 6km for a total of 24km, all on artificial snow, instead of the original 35km course.

“Last season, seven of the nine Ski Classics events had to change their courses due to weather issues. We can just cross our fingers that the political leaders at the environmental summit in Paris this week are able to make the right decision,” says Ski Classics CEO David Nilsson in a press release earlier this week.

For the 2016 season, there are 28 pro teams registered for the Ski Classics series.

After the Italy season opener in December, the Ski Classics takes a break until the Jizerska Padesatka in Czech Republic on January 10, 2016. The race series concludes on April 2, with Årefjällsloppet in Sweden as the season finale, as it has been for years. New this year is the Toblach/Dobbiaco Cortina, a 50-kilometer classic race in Italy on February 13.

Vasaloppet matters most
For Madshus racer John Kristian Dahl (NOR), who won the Vasaloppet in 2014, the 90-kilometer race from Sälen to Mora in Sweden is the main goal for the 2016 season.

“It’s the longest and one of the oldest races in the circuit, and very special with the flats. That package makes it very unique, and difficult to win, too. In our world, it’s the Championships in Marathon Skiing, and I’m happy that we have it every year,” Dahl said in an interview with Ski Classics earlier this fall.

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Vasalppet start field. Photo: Vasaloppet

Vasalppet start field. Photo: Vasaloppet

2016 Ski Classics Schedule
05.12.2015, Proteam Tempo Prologue, 15km C, Italy
06.12.2015, La Sgambeda, 35km C, Italy
10.01.2016, Jizerska Padesatka, 50km C, Czech Republic
23.01.2016, LaDiagonala, 65km C, Switzerland
31.01.2016, Marcialonga, 70km C, Italy
07.02.2016, König Ludwig Lauf, 50km C, Germany
13.02.2016, Toblach/Dobbiaco Cortina, 50km C, Italy
06.03.2016, Vasaloppet, 90km C, Sweden
19.03.2016, Birkebeinerrennet, 54km C, Norway
02.04.2016, Årefjällsloppet, 65km C, Sweden