For those who feel that the Birkie and other XC skiing events aren’t challenging enough we can highly recommend Reindeer racing!
We asked on of our readers in Finland, former biathlon skier Ari Niittyvuopio (41) to tell us about his latest passion — Reindeer racing:
– We are training the reindeer from beginning of December, and the race season usually starts at end of February and last until end of April.
We are training the reindeers 3 to 5 times/ week depending upon if we are in the pre-season or competition period.
Every heat has six reindeer/skiers. The start is from a starting box- similar to racehorses on the track, but the reindeer driver is standing next to the box with skis on.
To qualify to race you have to post a time under 1min and 25 sec in a 1 kilometer time-trial on an approved test track. That reindeer and skier is then qualified to compete in the Open class and can start competitions. If the animal/skier goes under 1min and 19sec in the open class competitions it moves to Hot/racing class.
The season finale is called The Kingdom race and only the 24 best reindeer/skiers from all the previous races can race. Every race before kingdom race is giving points from 1 to 36 where the top reindeers/skiers advance to semifinals and eventually to the finale.
The qualification races are on Saturdays. 150 to 230 reindeer/skiers are usually racing and 36 advances to Sunday’s semifinal. The winner of each heat of six advances to the finale, second place to the B-finale and third place to the C-
The animals are big, strong and well trained. Most of the skiers are using Super-G skis.
The World record for 1-kilometer is 1.13.38 and set in Norway reindeer- MIILA . The record belongs to Jhon Isak Sara who lives in Kautokeino- NO. The competition is fierce and sometimes 20-25 reindeer are inside the same second.
Ari and his competition reindeer.