Even in cross-country skiing, for some the fun only begins when the enjoyment stops. When the muscles are burning, icy wind seems to tear the skin of your face, or endless wide white areas wear down the mind.
The season calendar features a number of events that offer extreme cross-country skiing experience. Here are the highlights among the extreme races.
At 220 kilometres, this is the longest cross-country skiing race in the world. The course north of the Arctic Circle is open to everyone, the number of participants is limited. In the classic style about 1,500 meters of altitude are to be mastered. The course takes you through the forests and frozen lakes of Swedish Lapland, from the small village of Purkijaur to Arrenjarka, where you turn around and walk the same route via Purkijaur back to Jokkmokk.
Start takes place at six in the morning. The runners must have completed the course in no more than 30 hours, and there are time limits at eleven other points along the route. At a total of 19 route points we are offered food and medical care as well as the possibility to warm up. At three of these stations change clothes can be deposited.
Next date: 28 March 2020
The Birkebeinerrennet, or Birkebeiner, is not as long as the Vasaloppet at 54 kilometres, but it is very demanding. The route leads from the small town of Rena to the Olympic ski stadium in Lillehammer. In between, more than 1,000 meters of altitude difference have to be completed. The path leads through plateaus above the tree line with swamp and moorland landscape, which is partly inaccessible in summer. Two mountains are crossed, fascinating views open up to the runners.
The participants must carry a rucksack weighing at least 3.5 kilos with food and change of clothes in order to be able to react to sudden changes in the weather in the mountains. Due to the difficult profile of the Birkebeiner, the classic diagonal step is more often seen among the top athletes than in most other popular races. And the distances are mostly quite large, short sprint decisions like in the Wasalauf are the exception. Among the prominent winners in recent years are Martin Sundby and Therese Johaug. The overall event "Birken Ski Festival" now lasts over a week with a total of ten races.
Next date: 21 March 2020
Temperatures sometimes as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius with sometimes icy winds, challenging climbs and rapid descents, which make the technical demands of the participants even higher, and the whole thing over a total of 160 kilometres with two overnight stays in unheated bivouac tents - the Arctic Cricle Race in Greenland is for the hardcore cross-country skier.
The danger of snowstorms is added, several times parts of the race had to be cancelled. But those who embark on this extreme adventure will be rewarded with unique natural impressions. From the inhospitable mountains wide views open up to the fjords. The route sometimes leads within a few minutes from the mountains to very close to the sea.
In addition, the stay of several days in the small town of Sisimuit on Greenland with its 5,500 inhabitants, which is associated with the adventure, brings the participants into contact with the culture and the people of the largest island on earth. The opening ceremony on the evening before the start as well as the atmosphere at the start and at the finish were unforgettable.
Next date: 03-05 April 2020
Running 24 hours in a row through a six-kilometre-long circular cross-country trail in the classic technique - that is the concept of this unique event in the Erzgebirge. We start at ten in the morning. A headlamp is mandatory. Single starters as well as teams of two and four can participate. The route runs around the Scharspitze near Altenberg, about 50 kilometres south of Dresden, near the border with the Czech Republic.
The track is not specially closed for the race. Between 822 (start and finish) and 730 metres above sea level, there are about 100 metres of ascent and descent to master - on each lap. Those who can hold out to the end can really pat themselves on the back, even if they are far away from the records. Ralf Große set up one of these in 2017. He made 348 kilometers, 58 laps. This also means: approx. 5,800 metres altitude difference!
Founded in 2007, the Miriquidi every two years since 2009. In 2013 it fell out due to a lack of snow, in 2015 an upcoming storm forced a premature demolition. In 2017 and 2019, however, the last events to be held were without a hitch.
Next date: 27-28 February 2021
The 90-kilometer run in classic style on a route from Sälen to Mora in the province of Dalarna Central Sweden is probably the most famous ski race in the world. The Vasaloppet was a founding member of the Worldloppet series and today attracts nearly 16,000 (limited) participants from all over the world.
Together with the Birkebeinerrennet it is the world's largest long-distance event in cross-country skiing. In addition, the overall ranking of the "Ski Classics" series will also be contested here. The event has been extended to a Vasaloppet week in recent decades: Spread over a whole week, ten more cross-country skiing races take place over different distances. In 2017 the night Vasa was staged for the first time, for teams of two, on the same track as the classic.
The track profile has a height of just under 1,400 metres. The route, also called Vasaloppet Arena, leads through a nature reserve, past small villages and picturesque chalets.
Next date: 1 March 2020
860 metres difference in altitude on 3.312 kilometres of track - exactly, this is not a cross-country ski run, but an alpine ski run. And not just for any one, but for the piste itself: the Streif in Kitzbühel.
Participants have the choice of how they want to climb this route with an average inclination angle of 27 percent, cross-country skis with skins are one option. For the hard-boiled a lot of fun and in the darkness (start 18.30 o'clock) on top of that an atmospheric affair. The "Rucksackklasse" runs the lighter "Familienstreif". The "Streif" race is by the way part of a "Vertical up" series.
Next date: 29 February 2020
Totally crazy: Down the slope with cross-country skis! This is the task at the Nordik Ski Spektakel in Kössen in the Tyrolean mountain valley Kaiserwinkl. And as if that weren't already daring enough, it is also a mogul slope on which slalom poles can be turned around.
Okay, at least that'll slow the pace down a little. But then the participants also have to cross over a small hill. And the whole thing as fast as possible, if you want to land as far ahead as possible. In the knockout system, 16 drivers always start, of which the top eight go on to the next lap. Since 1986 - with some interruptions - the event has been held with a compulsory helmet in addition to the cross-country skiing equipment.
Up we go to the Unterberg with the chairlift, for which there is a discount with a starting number for the race. In addition to the honour, the fastest will receive a small prize money of up to 200 euros, even the participant with the best costume will be awarded.
Next appointment: Not yet known