Week two of my season-starting excursion to Northern Finland took Ida, Pepa and me to Saariselka, Finland. It’s a nice little town way up north, somewhat of a resort town for alpine skiing. During the heart of the winter apparently there are hundreds of kilometers of cross-country skiing trails, but since we’re here at the beginning of the winter, there is only a maybe 7-8k out-and-back segment of trail with manmade snow that has reliable skiing. It won’t be long until they open all the other trails around here, because it just keeps snowing, flurries all day and a considerably accumulation overnight! Sunday morning after the races Ida and I even got out onto the tourist trails which had great natural snow and grooming.
We drove over from Muonio to Saariselka on Wednesday, skied easy with a few speeds on Thursday, and then raced Friday and Saturday. It was a 5k classic individual start on Saturday (actually more like a 6k, 2 laps), and a classic sprint on Saturday. They were also holding a skate distance race on Sunday but with an afternoon start, we needed to be driving back to Rovaniemi in order to catch buses and flights, so we didn’t race on Sunday.
It was basically Russian championships at the races, in the sense that all of their fastest skiers showed up – it’s apparently a set of races that will heavily determine who starts for the Russians in the World Cup at Ruka next weekend. So there were lots of Russians in Saariselka, they brought their big wax truck, and they brought tons of staff and wax resources. 11 of 12 men in the semifinals of the sprint were Russian. There were also Belorussians, Germans, Bulgarians, Estonians, Finns, Kazakhs, Austrians, Japanese, Koreans, skiers from several other countries, and us 2 USA skiers!
Results from the races can be found here, and eventually they’ll be on fis-ski.com.
Thank you to the Bulgarian friends of Pepa’s who waxed skis for Ida and I on Friday and Saturday, throughout some tricky classic skiing 0C conditions! I can’t say we had perfect skis, but we put our best efforts out there, and tried to absorb the changes and testing chaos as waxes changed, zeros worked, then iced, then worked again, etc. If you’re a ski racer, you’ve been there… always a bit of a shock, but we get through it.