From March 1 to 12, the best cross country skiers in the world will end their season at Ski Tour Canada.
For the first time FIS World Cup finale will take place on Canadian soil. About 150 skiers from 23 countries are expected to compete in the cross-country competition over 11 days. They will also be competing for the FIS crystal globe, awarded to the leader of the overall standings for the season.
The final stretch of the World Cup circuit will stop in four Canadian cities. It starts in Gatineau, followed by Montreal and Quebec City. The races then move west to Canmore, Alberta. Alex Harvey, a four-time world medalist will guide the Canadian team of 26 cross-country skiers in this journey across Canada.
Gatineau – March 1
Gatineau is the first stop on the Ski Tour. The Individual Sprint will be held at Jacques Cartier Park. This park, across the river from National Gallery of Canada, has gorgeous views of the Ottawa River that skiers will be happy to pass by during the race. Skiers will race around the park and cross the finish line by the Fan Zone.
This event has the skiers starting every 15 seconds. The fastest 30 skiers move on to the quarterfinals, where they face off in heats of six. The fastest skiers in each heat move on to the semifinals, along with the two skiers with the next fastest times. The semifinals follow the same process, and the final race features the six fastest skiers for the win.
Montreal – March 2
The second part of the Ski Tour will take place in the city of a hundred bell towers. Montreal is home to the first cross country ski club in Canada. The 13km and 20km mass start (classical) races will take place here. For these races, all competitors start together and the first skier to cross the finish line wins.
This portion of the race was first scheduled to happen at the top of Mount Royal. The Ski Tour organizers announced a few weeks ago that due to technical reasons, the course would be relocated to the bottom of the mountain instead. This is great news for fans since the new location will be near the George-Étienne Cartier monument, near the bottom of Mount Royal. Fans will have much easier access to watch the race to support their favourite skiers.
Quebec City – March 4-5
It’s been four years since a FIS World Cup ski race has taken place in the Belle Province’s capital. Two events will take place here across two days.
Skiers will be getting a tour of the city while competing. The race begins at the historic Abraham Plains, before passing by Parliament buildings. Skiers then loop around the Tourny Fountain and pass by the Saint Louis Gate before heading to the finish line.
The Quebec City stage will start with sprint freestyle, with a race distance of 1.5km. On the next day, March 5, the 10km and 15km pursuit will take place. In this event, the leader of the Tour starts first, and is literally pursued by the other skiers. They leave the starting line at regular intervals depending on how far behind they are from the leader. The first skier to cross the finish line wins, and a prize is awarded to the skier with the fastest time.
Canmore – March 8-12
The last stop on the Tour is the Canmore Nordic Centre. This place was originally built for the Calgary 1988 Games, with more than 65 kilometres of trails. Canmore is also the hometown of Ivan Babikov, one of Canada’s cross country skiers who will be competing.
Four races are happening in Canmore. The first is the Individual Sprint (classic). The course is 1.5 kilometres, and skiers will have to make two laps around the course. Skiathlon is the second event. This includes two courses, classic and freestyle. In skiathlon, all skiers begin at the same time. The first half of the race is skied using classical technique. At the midway point, skiers enter a transition zone to switch skis and poles. The last portion of the race is skied using freestyle technique. The ladies race is 15 kilometres, and the men race for 30 kilometers.
The third event is the Interval Start (free technique). Skiers start in 30 second intervals, with the fastest skiers getting preferred starting positions. The final event is the Pursuit, and is the same format as the Quebec City Pursuit.
After the final race, the FIS crystal globe and medals will be awarded. Norway is leading the rankings, with three Norwegians in the top 3: Martin Johnsrud Sundby, Finn Haagen Krogh and Petter Jr. Northug. Alex Harvey is the highest ranked Canadian, in 15th.