Canadian Winter Glory: the CSM and Keski
[Bump from 2/8/06] Canada offers two winter events that seem worldclass yet neighborly.
The CSM and the Keski.
That is, the Canada Ski Marathon and the Keskinada.
They're both big long ski events. What's neat about ski marathons is that they're not that hard on your body. Nothing like running marathons. Sure, they wear you out, but they're doable and rather enjoyable the whole way if you keep eating and drinking. A bit like bike centuries. They're a great way to see the country in winter, in other words.
The Canada Ski Marathon is a ski tour (Feb. 11-12, 2006) from Ottawa to Montreal (basically, so I've read). It's hosted by volunteers, schoolkids and national guardsmen. It's over 100 miles long. There are three levels of participation yielding medals if you finish. Bronze Coureur du Bois (Heart of the Woods) is skiing the distance in 2 days, staying in a gym overnight. The Silver is done next, if you wish, and involves spending the night out on the trail (everyone gets their own hay bale to assist in insulation). The Gold you get by sleeping out...and carrying everything with you from start to finish. They don't let you over-reach. You can only get the medals in stepwise fashion. I've never done it but would love to. I've only heard good things, continuously, about it. It seems to involve the quintessence of the neighborly ski tour experience. And the heritage of such an event is plum rich. The winter woods-runner is hundreds of years old up there in the Land of the Voyageurs.
The Keskinada is the CSM's fancy, global metro cousin, held the following weekend (Feb. 18-19, 2006). It's a World Loppet marathon---on the world schedule along with about a dozen other marathons each winter. But it's much more than that even. It's a world class ski marathon held in a vast park on the edge of a very old city, Ottawa. Ottawa and Montreal are European-style cities that every American should visit and explore. Ottawa has the Rideau canal that runs thru it and freezes in winter. When it freezes people start skating and having fun on it all winter long. Restaurants, cafes, bars put tables out on it. It's civilized urban winter sport. Kind of like the ice rink at the Kennedy Center (or whereever it is) in NYC---only a lot more so. Right on the edge of the city of Ottawa is the Gatineau, a huge park of forests, hills, lakes. Outdoor people use it year-round and are VERY proud of it. The Keski is the nation's best tourism event of the year, I read! Meech Lake is there, where the Accords were signed, resolving Canada's crisis with Quebec and also the Indians. But the Keski is TWO marathons, in fact. Back to back. A 50k classic on Sat. then a 50k skate on Sun. Oh yeah! It's truly international racing. The Birkie in Wisconsin is the other World Loppet in N. America. It's huge in comparison---but I've heard the Keski is far more international. The total saturation of racing plus the friendly size plus the pro quality plus the wonderful city plus all the history of this region to me make the Keski a "must" event. And by all means take more than a long weekend to do it. (I sure do look forward to doing it myself someday. I've appreciated it from afar for many years.)
I sure do look forward to someday exploring the Land of the Voyageurs to the extent it deserves. I do, I do.
Here are some CSM photos:
(Unfortunately, I found zero acceptable images of the Keski, Gatineau, or Ottawa in winter. Weird.)