Ski Classics, the long-distance race series, represents a unique opportunity to race the same course as the elites, on the same day and compare efforts. But unlike the pros, most of us have to pick only one or a few of the marathons each year. Here is your guide to the 2018 Ski Classics marathon lineup.
La Sgambeda, Italy, December 2:
At 36 kilometers, La Sgambeda is the shortest of the Ski Classics event, in an amazing place and magnificent scenery, well worth a trip if you want to kick start your race season early. However, beware that the altitude makes the event quite challenging.
Kaiser Maximilian Lauf, Austria, January 13:
Seefeld is one of Europe’s best cross-country destinations, and this event is organized on the famous Seefeld courses. A healthy amount of climbing makes this 60-kilometer race challenging. Bonus: Seefeld is easy to access both from Munich (GER) and Innsbruck (AUT).
La Diagonela, Switzerland, January 20:
A spectacular event with amazing scenery in the valley of the famous Alpine destination St Moritz (SUI). Mostly easy terrain with some sustained climbs, which makes this 65-kilometer course medium hard overall.
Marcialonga, Italy, January 28:
One of the biggest classic events in the world and one for the bucket list! The 70-kilometer race Incredible atmosphere, well-run event on a great course with a legendary 3-kilometer monster climb to the finish in Cavaleze, in Val di Fiemme (ITA). Val di Fiemme has hosted several FIS World Championships and is home of the Italian Olympic cross-country hero Franco Nones, who in at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble (FRA) became the first non-Scandinavian and non-Russian skier to win an Olympic gold medal.
Toblach-Cortina, Italy, February 3:
Like the previous two Ski Classics events in Italy this season, Toblach-Cortina offers fantastic scenery. The 50-kilometer course is partly set on an old railroad track and features a healthy amount of elevation gain in the category “gradually climbing.”
Jizerska Padesatka, Czech Republic, February 18:
One of the original Ski Classics events, Jizerska Padesatka is a challenging event in the deep forest south east of Liberec in the Czech Republic. When the weather is good, racers are treated to magnificent views several places along the 50-kilometer course. But often it is not, and the race has earned the nickname “Hell of the north” adopted from the classic cycling event Paris-Roubaix: A challenging race that often takes place in challenging climatic conditions. But the trip from Prague to the race is a breeze.
Vasaloppet, Sweden, March 4:
Needs no further introduction: The original. Founded in 1923, Vasaloppet is the oldest, the biggest and the most prestigious of any classic cross-country race. Simply a tribute to skiing, celebrating the joy of skiing, right in the heart of Sweden. The Vasaloppet Winter Week attracts almost 70,000 skiers to the nine events: Kortvasan (30km), TjejVasan (30km, women only), Öppet Spår Sunday (90km), Öppet Spår Monday (90km), HalvVasan (45km), StafettVasan (5-leg relay, 90km total), NattVasan (90km skating, night race), UngdomsVasan (youth race 9km/19km), Blåbärsloppet (9km) and Barnens Vasalopp (children’s race) and of course, the original 90-kilometer Vasaloppet from Sälen to Mora.
Birkerbeinnerrennet, Norway, March 17:
The legendary Norwegian ski race was established in 1933, and features one of the toughest courses on the Ski Classics race schedule. The spectacular and exposed 54-kilometer course is mostly above tree line and traverses two mountains between the start in Rena and the finish in Lillehammer, at the Birkebeiner stadium built for the 1994 Winter Olympics.
Reistadløpet, Sweden, April 7:
If you love challenges and/or skiing uphill, you will love Reistadlöpet. The 50-kilometer race, which debuted on the Ski Classics schedule for the 2017 season, features a course mostly above tree line, offering amazing views. The event is very professionally run, and easy to access by the nearby airport at Bardufoss.
Ylläs-Levi, Finland, April 14:
This 67-kilometer classic race features the some of the most scenic Finnish ski areas close to the northern Swedish border. Nice course with a nice combination of tough climbs and long double-pole sections in gentle terrain.
Now, the biggest challenge is: which one(s) to pick?