FasterSkier.com has featured a number of ultramarathon ski races in recent days. Now we are declaring today to be Official Ultramarathon Day on FasterSkier.com, and we are bringing you a few more articles about extremely long races.
A number of these races are claiming to be the longest ski race in the world. But which one is the longest?
For instance, there is the Defi Boreal ( http://www.fasterskier.com/racing2090.html ) in Quebec which, at 100 kilometers, bills itself as the longest loppet in the world.
Then there is the Equinox Ultraski 100 km race run by (and usually won by) Audun Endestad in Fairbanks, Alaska. This race doesn't claim to be the longest, but it is equal to the Defi Boreal, and it takes place on ungroomed snowmobile trails on a river. This year's Equinox Ultraski will take place this coming weekend on March 19.
Then there is the Leadville 100 Mile race in Colorado, which is longer than the Defi Boreal and calls itself the longest race in the world.:
2005 Leadville 100 Report: http://www.fasterskier.com/racing2128.html
2003 Leadville 100 Preview: http://www.fasterskier.com/training305.html
2003 Leadville 100 Report: http://www.fasterskier.com/racing350.html
And in Alaska, there is a 100 mile race called the Susitna 100. Competitors can ski, bike, or run the Su 100.
2005 Su 100: http://www.fasterskier.com/training2129.html
2004 Su 100: http://www.fasterskier.com/training917.html
Now, you could probably debate for hours about which 100 mile race is tougher. The Leadville race takes place at 10,000 feet and has 6,000 feet of climbing. The Su 100 takes place on remote snowmobile and dog mushing trails (parts of the Iditarod Trail) which are usually narrow, bumpy, and windblown. Because it is a self-supported race each Su 100 competitor must also carry about 25 pounds of gear and water with them for the whole race. So we'll just say that both races are extremely tough, and leave it at that.
We also have to mention the 24 hours of Telemark in Wisconsin. This race does not have a set distance. The 24 Hours of Telemark is a cross-country ski relay race where the person (or relay team) that completes the most laps on a 5 km course in 24 hours is the winner. This year Matt Ara skied 335 kilometers on his way to victory, which is about 208 miles. Women's winner Stacey Dean skied 200 km (137 miles).
24 hours of Telemark: http://www.teamsportsinc.com/telemark24
2003 24 Hours of Telemark: http://www.fasterskier.com/racing155.html
But even 200 miles isn't enough to lay claim to being the longest ski race in the world. That honor, as far as we know, goes to the Alaska Ultrasport (previously run as the Iditasport http://www.alaskaultrasport.com ). That race, like the Su 100, begins near the start of the Iditarod Sled Dog race, and it follows the Iditarod trail for 350 miles to the finish in the village of McGrath. This year’s Ultrasport race started on February 26th. 29 people finished the 2005 Ultrasport, but only one of them was a skier. Gail Koepf, the only skier to finish, took 7 days, 6 hours and 18 minutes to complete the race. Mike Curiak won the race on a bike in 3 days, six hours. Thirteen others (including two skiers) dropped out along the way. Jim Jaeger holds the ski record, completing the course in 4 days, 8 hours in 2002.
As if that’s not long enough, that is just the SHORT option in the Alaska Ultrasport. Yes, for the toughest of the tough, there is an option to continue along the Iditarod trail all the way to Nome, a total of over 1,000 miles. No skiers completed this race this year, but the leader in the race to Nome (on a bike) is currently on day 12 of his race somewhere near Unalakleet, about 800 miles from the start. The record time for skiers going to Nome is 23 days, 5 hours and 4 minutes, set by Bob Baker and Tim Kelley. Baker and Kelley actually set this record before the Alaska Ultrasport race existed, when they challenged (and beat) a pair of bikers in a race they called the Nome Odyssey.
Another unique feature of the Ultrasport Nome race is that, because the race overlaps with the Iditarod sled dog race (which started March 5 and the winner finished yesterday), competitors have the unique opportunity to see all the dog mushers somewhere along the trail.
As far as we know, the Alaska Ultrasport ski race to Nome takes the title as longest ski race in the world. But if you know of another ultra race that should be included in this discussion please let us know!
Regardless of which race is longest, each one of these events offers up plenty of adventure for those who are ready to take the challenge. A hearty congratulations goes out to everyone who has completed any of these epic races. In these events, it is definitely not about who wins or loses. It's simply about making it to the finish line.