By Teemu Virtanen
The fireworks have now faded and the turn of the year, well the decade, celebration is a just a collective memory for all of us. But the new year comes along with an optimistic inspiration and a hope for greater things for us to achieve as we look into the future, and the new ten-year period will certainly change the face of the world.
And this new and exciting decade begins with two great Visma Ski Classics Challengers events that are quite literally worlds apart. On Saturday, Vasaloppet China takes place in Changchun while Craft Ski Marathon in Sweden starts on Sunday morning.
Vasaloppet China, the biggest cross-country ski event in China, is organized in the suburbs of Changchun, Jilin Province, in north-east of China. The race is a 50 km long classic one with two laps surrounded by the beautiful nature that is very similar to Northern Europe – there is also a 25 km race available for those who crave for a shorter distance. You can reach the location by air from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong – the flight from Beijing takes about 90 minutes while the fast train takes about six hours.
The ski area is in Jingyuetan National Forest Park which has a total area of about 100 square km. The park consists of large forest areas with water features and the topography is moderate to very hilly, but the course is suitable for all skiers. In 2007 the park hosted a World Cup stage and in 2017 Vasaloppet China was a member event of the Visma Ski Classics Pro Tour. The area has very good conditions for Nordic skiing and the settings around the ski arena are graced by huge snow sculptures, which are a part of Changchun Winter Festival.
Craft Ski Marathon is Orsa Grönklitt, Sweden, is a 42 km classic race (there are shorter distances as well), also with two laps, and it is one of Sweden’s leading long distance ski events. The course is optimal for all types of cross-country skiers as there are no really long climbs or challenging downhill sections. The total climb on a single lap is 190 m and the difference in elevation is 55 meters.
Orsa is a small town in the center of Sweden, but despite this it is an incredibly popular resort for tourists, mainly those who are coming from other areas of Sweden. It is situated just to the north of Lake Siljan and is about 10 km from the town of Mora, the finish of Vasaloppet. The area offers the outstanding natural beauty, therefore making it a haven for hikers, sightseers and anyone else who loves being in the great outdoors. Orsa Grönklitt is also a wildlife park noted for its bears and ski resort, and it is the only zoo in Europe to house Kodiak bears.
Craft Ski Marathon attracts many of our Pro Team Athletes, particularly from Sweden, and works well as a preparation for the next stage of the Pro Tour, Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in Seefeld, Austria, which is on the following weekend.