In Visma Ski Classics, skiers both professional and recreational meet for a spectacular skiing festival. Long distance travel in such gorgeous surroundings can hardly be described as anything else than a true ski adventure. The 2015-2016 season kicked off in Livigno with a prologue on December 5th, followed by the classic La Sgambeda the very next day.
This is Visma Ski Classics 2015-2016
Visma Ski Classics is the championship of long distance cross-country skiing. The premise is simple: Several of the most well-known and well-loved ski touring competitions are gathered into an annual championship for professional athletes, both male and female. There are in total 28 Pro Teams, which are privately-sponsored teams of professional athletes who with great pride and honour carry the job title “long distance skier”. To my eyes, several of the most beautiful ski runs in the world are on the calendar in Visma Ski Classics. The following runs enter this year’s season:
• 5. December 2015: Team Tempo Prologue. Livigno, Italy. 15 km.
• 6. December 2015: La Sgambeda. Livigno, Italy. 35 km.
• 10. January 2016: Jizerska Padesatka. Bedrichov, Czech Republic. 50 km.
• 23. January 2016: La Diagonela. Engadin St. Moritz, Switzerland. 65 km.
• 31. January 2016: Marcialonga. Trentino, Italy. 70 km.
• 7. February 2016: König Ludwig Lauf. Oberammergau, Germany. 50 km.
• 13. February 2016: Toblach – Cortina. From Toblach to Cortina, Italy. 50 km.
• 6. March 2016: Vasaloppet. From Sälen to Mora, Sweden. 90 km.
• 19. March 2016: Birkebeinerrennet. From Rena to Lillehammer, Norway. 54 km.
• 2. April: Årefjällsloppet. Åre, Sweden. 65 km.
ABCs of bibs and scoring
In this year’s edition of Visma Ski Classics, the athletes and teams will compete in each ski run – not to mention the four bibs that will be awarded: One yellow bib for the champion of Visma Ski Classics, one green bib for the athlete with the most sprint points, one pink bib for the best athlete aged 26 or below and one blue bib for the team with the highest overall score over the course of the entire Visma Ski Classics season. 200 points are awarded to the winner (both on the men’s and women’s sides) of a single run.
A ski memory for life
I’m enormously excited to follow the long distance circus this season. The unique thing about Visma Ski Classics is that you and I have the opportunity to challenge the greatest long distance skiers in the world. Every run in Visma Ski Classics is open to the public. In Visma Ski Classics, world cup athletes are given the opportunity to test their mettle against the best cross-country skiers. The duels are prestigious: It is no longer a certainty that our traditional cross-country skiers are better than long distance skiers when the run stretches over several tens of kilometres. But while the pros challenge one another and compete for the high scores in Visma Ski Classics, you can join any run you like and set your ambitions as high as you choose. Train with a goal in mind and compare your time with the world’s greatest long distance skiers, or complete a relaxing Sunday trip with a bib number on your chest. No matter what you choose: Joining a Visma Ski Classics run is an experience for life!
Visma Ski Classics has in many ways contributed to development and innovation in the sport of cross-country skiing. Because there is no doubt: Athletes in Visma Ski Classics are at the top – mentally as well as physically – and they truly break boundaries. Just consider how far the athletes go. The Vasaloppet run is long. Very long. Specialized training over a long period of time is needed to handle the enormous strain of skiing the 90 kilometres between Sälen and Mora. The extreme ski poling training has undoubtedly developed cross-country skiing as a sport and fostered innovation. Even world cup athletes have incorporated more ski stride training, and are continuing to gain upper body strength as a result. For instance, the Swiss giant Dario Cologna entered the roster in the historical region of Davos. He double-poled the entire way in what can best be described as a tough track best suited for the highest capacity athletes. Many felt that by doing this, Cologna started a revolution in the skiing world. For long distance skiers in Visma Ski Classics it could hardly be considered a revolution to pole 15 kilometres. With the Aukland brothers at the forefront, it is the long distance skiers who over time have forged a new path of development and renewal of the Nordic sport. These long distance skiers have broken boundaries and proven that what we once thought was physically impossible can in fact be achieved.
Keep an eye out for these heavy-hitters
Who should you follow extra closely this year? On the men’s side my favourite is the poling monster from Tverrelvdalen, Petter Eliassen. With the immense strength he displayed last year, I firmly believe it will be difficult for anyone to beat the humble man from Trøndelag in Norway. Close on his heels is the man with the pilot goggles and the bronze prize winner from the 50K in the Oslo World Championship in 2011, Tord Asle Gjerdalen.
He has really picked up the pace ever since he announced his transition to long distance skiing and Team Santander. You should also look out for Christoffer Callesen, one of the many promising athletes on Thomas Alsgaard’s Team LeasePlan Go. With a strong second place showing in last year’s La Diagonela, several other top scores as well as the Youth bib under their belt, it isn’t hard to imagine a top-speed Callesen striding his way to the top.
On the women’s side, Team Exspirit’s Tuva Toftdahl Staver and the Swiss long distance skiing queen Seraina Boner are strong. Toftdahl Staver has shown great development since her transition to long distance skiing, and I’m very excited to see what she can do.
I’m ready for a long and action-packed Visma Ski Classics season. I hope you are too! Maybe we’ll see each other out on the arenas this season?