Note: This article has been updated to include the prize money up for grabs in this season’s Björn Dæhlie SKI Challenge.
A new long-distance series in debuting in Sweden this winter, with five popular marathon races — all classic — much like a national version of the international long-distance cup, the Swix Ski Classics.
The first race of in the inaugural Björn Dæhlie SKI Challenge is the AXA Ski Marathon in Falun on Dec. 28. The next event is the Intersportloppet on Jan. 17 in Mora, followed by Västgötaloppet on Feb. 8 in Ulricehamn, and the Wadköpingsloppet on Feb. 15 in Örebro. The Skinnarloppet on Feb. 22 in Malung concludes the five-race series.
According to the founders and CEOs of the cup, Martin Holmstrand and Lasse Strand, the idea of the race series is to allow both elite and recreational skiers to participate in the same events, with the same start and finish, and a fun and inclusive atmosphere.
“At five different occasions, we head to the tracks, for different reasons and with different ambitions,” Holmstrand said in a press release on the Björn Dæhlie SKI Challenge website. “For a lot of skiers, our marathon events serve as a motivation to challenge themselves and push their own limits. For others, these events represent exciting adventures and simply experience something entirely new. No matter what group you fall into, we will do this together, side by side on the start line with skis on our feet and poles in our hands.”
Erik Wickström, a guru in Swedish marathon circles, masters coach and author of several books about skiing and endurance training, will take part in the series and help promote its concept. Wickström also plans write several articles for the SKI Challenge website on training advice, technique tips, equipment guides and an online primer on ski waxing.
“I’m stoked about the new long-distance cup,” he said on the SKI Challenge website. “I used to race the Swix Ski Classics events all over Europe, but now that I’ve become a dad and have a family and a house to take care of as well, I am looking to minimize travel while still being able to race. So a cup with high-level competition right here in Sweden is just what I was after.
“In 2011, I raced all of the events in the mountain bike cup, and I really loved the concept that allows both elite and recreational athletes to race in the same events with an inclusive and fun atmosphere,” he added. “If the organizers do as good of a job with the winter version as they do in the summer, this long-distance cup is going to be world-class.”
The SKI Challenge is based on the Swedish Mitsubishi MTB Challenge, a nationwide marathon mountain-bike cup that has been held every summer since 2000.
In addition to naming the top male and female over the course of the season, the new long-distance cup will also name the overall top male and female in the junior and masters age categories.
Prize money was announced Thursday on the website, with the top overall male and female each earning 12,000 Swedish krona ($1,614 dollars). Second-place gets 8,000 SEK ($1,076), third 6,00o SEK ($807), fourth 3,000 SEK ($403), and fifth 2,000 SEK ($269).
In the masters’ categories, men and women, 40, 50 and 60, there will be product prizes for the overall top 3.
Additionally, there will be raffle drawings for non-elite racers who have participated in at least four of the five races.
Finally, clubs collect points for all participating members, and the club with the most points after the series will be recognized at the awards ceremony at the Skinnarloppet on Feb. 22.
Inge is FasterSkier's international reporter, born and bred in Norway. A cross-country ski racer and mountain runner, she also dabbles on two wheels in the offseason. If it's steep and long, she loves it. Follow her on Twitter: @IngeScheve.