(Note: This article has been updated to reflect the adjusted distances for the men’s and women’s classic mass starts in Montreal on Wednesday, March 2.)
The U.S. Ski Team is ready. And we’re sure the Canadians are bursting at the seams. Are you? Over the last week, World Cup cross-country ski racers from about 25 nations descended on Ottawa, Ontario, and the Gatineau just across the river in western Quebec in anticipation of the first of eight stages at the Ski Tour Canada, which doubles as World Cup finals.
Races start Tuesday with the men’s and women’s 1.7-kilometer freestyle sprints in Gatineau, with the elimination rounds starting at 1:45 Eastern time, and continue Wednesday about 200 kilometers east in Montreal, Quebec, with the first distance races of the Tour: the women’s 10.5 k and men’s 17.5 k classic mass starts.
With temperatures up around freezing on Monday afternoon, the Gatineau sprint course both softened and transformed under the sun. It cooled down considerably overnight, with temperatures around -17 degrees Celsius (1 Fahrenheit) and a forecast high of -10 (14 Fahrenheit) with high winds expected.
A blizzard is also on the way, with snowfall anticipated in Montreal starting between 4 and 5 p.m. on Tuesday. Accumulation could be around 25-30 centimeters (10-12 inches) of snow Tuesday night and into Wednesday: race day in Montreal.
There, the 3.5 k course has been altered slightly from its original plan due to “technical challenges related to the water supply service,” which would have made snowmaking difficult atop Mount Royal, a large hill just west of downtown Montreal, organizers explained in press release earlier this month. The course was moved from the top to the bottom, near the George-Étienne Cartier Monument, “a location that is easily accessible to the public,” the release stated.
Snow conditions on Monday were “rock hard” and icy, according to one FasterSkier reporter, due to freezing rain Monday morning.
Like Gatineau, Montreal’s high temperatures were around freezing on Monday and forecast to be -10 Celsius on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Here is a collection of photos and quotes from the days leading up to the Tour, as well as a complete schedule below.
All races are expected to be broadcast on NBC Sports Live Extra (accessible to U.S. subscribers via cable or satellite), and all times are Eastern Standard Time.
Tuesday, March 1: Gatineau
(Not part of broadcast: Women’s qualifier at 11:15 a.m.: start list | Men’s qualifier at noon: start list)
1:45 p.m. – Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint heats
Wednesday, March 2: Montreal
12:00 p.m. – Women’s 13 k classic mass start
2:30 p.m. – Men’s 20 k classic mass start
Friday, March 4: Quebec City
3:30 p.m. – Men’s and women’s freestyle sprint
Saturday, March 5: Quebec City
3:00 p.m. – Women’s 10 k freestyle pursuit
4:00 p.m. – Men’s 15 k freestyle pursuit
Tuesday, March 8: Canmore
3:00 p.m. – Men’s and women’s classic sprint
Wednesday, March 9: Canmore
12:00 p.m. – Women’s 15 k skiathlon
2:30 p.m. – Men’s 30 k skiathlon
Friday, March 11: Canmore
11:45 a.m. – Women’s 10 k freestyle interval start
3:00 p.m. – Men’s 15 k freestyle interval start
Saturday, March 12: Canmore
3:00 p.m. – Women’s 10 k classic pursuit
4:00 p.m. – Men’s 15 k classic pursuit