Dolomiten Lauf

33. Memories of Worldloppet ski

by Brendon Hyde, Gold Master n.2095

After skiing the Australian Kangaroo Hoppet for 10 years my first European Worldloppet tour was planned for 2003. I started training along park pathways in the Oz summertime using cross-country roller skis where I gave local kangaroos a bit of a fright since they all quickly hopped away.

My first European Worldloppet was in Tartu, Estonia where the local ladies had cooked thousands of “Ginger Bread Men” all placed on enormous tables at race feeding stations. The end of race gathering, held on open benches in the forest, served warm beer with traditional Estonian music to entertain the jovial finishers. All diners ignored the air temperature of minus 13 Celsius.  

Memories of the Finlandia race held in Lahti,  Finland were the speedy decent into the ski jump bowl and finish line to be then hugged by some very brave ladies and then moving to race recovery under the stadium in the largest mass sauna I have ever seen – where one was even given beer to drink.

In the Swedish Vasaloppet race, we exercised at the starting line by throwing our warm clothing in bags high in the air and out of the area (would I ever see the bag again?).  I was impressed by the courageous blind Danish lady skiing alongside me in the forest, the fairytale image of the little oil lamps marking the ski trail snaking through the hills (I’m slow, so it got dark before I finished) and the great organization where our thrown ski bags were handed back to each of us as we alighted from the ski coach taking us to the change areas.

The spectacular Swiss Engadin race is surely the biggest buzz with circus- like tents at registration giving digital rides on F1 race cars, huge PAS music bellowing race atmosphere at the start and the race finish reception in the multi millionaire’s spa hotel. Inspired, I completed many more Worldloppets.

In Austria, I slipped on “black” road ice tearing a knee ligament. The hospital doctors sympathized that an operation would end my current ski venture but suggested I could bind the knee stiff to ski the race. This was performed by an Australian vet attending the Dolomitenlauf race, after commenting that if I was a horse he would have shot me behind a shed. The entire race was thus completed out of control on the descents in soft snow but in style on the flat section tracks with one leg kicking like a teenager on a skateboard.

The camaraderie of Worldloppet is such many fellow skiers offer friendship to you if you venture to ski in their own homeland. So it was when I was offered free hotel accommodation to ski the Italian Marcialonga. This long race ends after a tough ascent up to a Dolomite Mountain village, past homely folk cheering from their balconies and finally where you enter the central square to be greeted by tearful Italian Opera. I needed a Pavarotti handkerchief!

Golden memories remain of race receptions such as noisy brass bands after the Konig Ludwig Lauf in Germany, the “cake fest” and seafood banquet with singing after the  Fossavatnsgangan  Icelandic race and locals entertaining in the nostalgic past era Cadrona Hotel after the Merino Muster in New Zealand.

However, I most enjoy meeting again the fellow skiers who come from all around the world each year to participate in these great Worldloppet events.

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