Engadin Skimarathon

Race Reporter Philipp at the Engadin Skimarathon 2019

My 9th Worldloppet race brought me to the wide valley of Engadin, Switzerland. The Engadin Skimarathon is the second largest cross-country skiing race in the world and certainly one of the most prestigious trophies for skating specialists. The last three Worldloppet races have been far away from home, Japan, Canada and the USA, – it felt good to just jump in the car and head to St.Moritz.

The host city of two Olympic winter games

St.Moritz is well known for its alpine ski tracks and during winter time the beautiful and rich like to be seen in mountain village. Certainly, far from the average cross-country skiing atmosphere, but as soon as you leave the clicking sound of ski boots and the fur coats behind, the Nordic skiing fever is back. The marathon village, centre of the “Engadiner”, was located in St.Moritz-Bad and also hosted a night sprint on Friday night. I arrived on Friday afternoon, went for short ski session and after dinner followed the spectacular sprint through the marathon village. The swiss national and international sprint elite was fighting for every centimetre and the crowed was wild. A great teaser for what we could expect on Sunday for the main race. In the afternoon I had time to stroll through expo and pick up my bib. Friday seemed a good day for pickup, on Saturday the line in front of the race office was long. Signage, organisation, accessibility free WIFI in the marathon village, public transport and parking were as I expected from the Swiss – smooth and running like a swiss precision clockwork 😉

Frozen lakes and sunshine

On Friday and Saturday, spring weather was on the menu. Cold nights and sunshine throughout the day with mild plus degrees. I skied more than usual on Saturday simply because the weather, tracks and atmosphere were so welcoming. 14200 participants signed up for the race and you could see that already the days before the start. Lots of skiers on the tracks, both professionals and amateur skiers. Waxing skis was not an issue, a public wax room was available as well as several fee based wax services. The Worldloppet cocktail invited passport holders for Swiss finger food and drinks, race talks and recommendations included. The usual last-minute race preparations after dinner ended my Saturday and I felt confident for the 51st edition of the Engadiner.

My fastest marathon

Sunday started early at 5 and after breakfast I took the public transport from St.Moritz to the Start. Seeding for the start wave was a bit funny as I got assigned to the 3rd wave. First, I was a bit disappointed as I would not be able to ski with the fast guys. Throughout the weekend I started to like the idea of just skiing an easy marathon without pushing hard. I was determined to take it easy and enjoy the race. You can guess what really happened after the start gates opened two minutes after the 2nd wave. I threw all relaxed plans over board and started chasing the “elite”. Thanks again to the guys in the first row of my wave who let me join them.

14200 participants and I was skiing alone the first kilometres. A very nice feeling to have the track almost for myself 😊 Of course when I caught the first skiers after 4km the fun was over. I had to double pole to overtake and be very careful. I have heard the Engadiner is a place were poles get broken and I can confirm, never have I seen more broken poles on a race track. So, if you are ambitious, make sure to bribe the right people and get seeded to a good wave 😉. From the start in Maloja you pass several villages on your 42km to the finish line in S-chanf. Many spectators followed the race and they cheered for everyone and cow bells could be heard in every place. I reached the finish line and was surprised, 1 hour and 33 minutes for a marathon. My fastest ever cross-country race. A nice surprised waited after I crossed the finish line: the Swiss chocolate drink I loved as a kid was served to the race participants. After the race, participants could take the train “Rhätische Bahn” back to St.Moritz. The train is part of the UNESCO world heritage and is one more special way of transportation I experienced on my journey becoming a Worldloppet Master.

(c) swiss-image.ch

Overall the mega event “Engadiner” is organized with Swiss precision and I understand why it’s a must on every skate skiers bucket list. Finding a hotel is not too difficult along the race track as the area is very touristy and with the excellent public transport you don’t really need a car, at least not on race day. Skiing season in central Europe is almost over, I think I must dust off my roller skis if I want to stay in good shape for my 10th Worldloppet race. The Fossavatnsgangan on Iceland will be my last race this season. See you on the first weekend in May, until then make cross-country skiing great again and ski around the world!

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