A unique ski experience in the middle of the Alps!

Two races of the Visma Ski Classics long distance ski world championships are now behind us and the holiday season is just around the corner. Pro skiers are still training hard for the longest season in history, and some of them are performing very well in short distance races. Team Santander’s Tord Asle Gjerdalen did very well in Lillehammer this weekend where two Scandinavian Cup races were held; he was second both in skating and classic races. Well, there was not much diagonal striding for him as he double-poled the whole 30 km race on the same track where the FIS World Cup took place a week ago.

Besides racing and training, December is the month when everyone wants to be friends with “the bearded dude” hoping that he can bring the greatest gift that any cross-country ski enthusiast can hope for; white snow and a lot of it. Because Mother Nature has not been overly generous in supplying that magical powder, artificial snow is currently being made everywhere and many race organizers gaze upon the December sky wishing that the white gold would fall on the ground. This is certainly the case in Seefeld, Austria, where the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf organization committee is counting the days knowing that there is not much time left before the D-day. This Visma Ski Classics race is the first one on the European soil in 2017 right after Vasaloppet China – the race takes place on Saturday 14.

Right now we don’t have natural snow, but we are producing artificial snow whenever the weather is cold, which is nearly every night,” Martin Tauber, the chief of competition says sounding quite hopeful. “We have 14 snow making machines working constantly and our track extends about 200-300 meters every day, but of course we need the real stuff. We got a little bit of fresh snow today, but 30 cm would be enough for us to have the race on the planned course.”

Kaiser Maximilian Lauf is a new addition to the Visma Ski Classics family as it had its debut last winter. When König Ludwig Lauf in Germany had to be canceled due to insufficient snow conditions, a team of eager Austrians promised to put together a race on a whim.  They only had a few days to make a race out of nothing, but the organizers managed to pull it off. The course was perhaps the toughest one in the cup giving the pro teams and their skiers the challenge they had been waiting for (previous events were shortened and held on alternative courses). For this year, the Seefeld based team has had much more time to get ready and the course is now created to fit the needs and wishes of both elite and amateur skiers alike.

“We have worked really hard over the summer,” Martin continues. “We have widened the course and it is now one continuous loop instead of three laps like we had last year. We have cut some trees here and there, and last three kilometers of the course will be on the future world championship course, which will be great for amateur skiers. We also have a new tunnel going under the main road and it replaces the old one that was built for the 1985 World Championships. It is 25 meters wide and there should be enough space for all skiers. The track now goes to Leutasch, which offers a nice and easy section of the course for skiers. We built a new track in the area, and a waxing station will also be located there along with the Visma Ski Classics sprint. I think some leisure skiers may want to re-wax their skis by the time they get to Leutasch because the weather usually warms up during the day. Altogether we have seven feeding stations where we serve potato soup, cakes and sport drink. That’s needed because when going back from Leutasch, you will face the toughest climb towards Wildmoos.”

For the Kaiser Maximilian Lauf participants, the event is more than a leisure day on skis. Martin promises a great party afterwards where the fun keeps going until the clock strikes midnight.

“We have a big after-party in downtown Seefeld starting at 4 pm, and there will be a lot of people there enjoying the festivities. We have a snow festival happening at the same time and many wonderful sculptures will bask in winter splendor for tourists walking around in the town. Our party is a great chance to enjoy some mulled wine and local beer, which should please many of our Scandinavian participants. Speaking of that, we really want to make this event and Seefeld a new destination for all Scandinavian cross-country ski enthusiasts.”

Indeed, Seefeld is an important center for cross-country skiing in Tyrol, Austria. As many of us still vividly remember, the Nordic events at both the 1964 and 1976 Winter Olympics were hosted at this beautiful Tyrolean mountain village. The 1985 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships also took place there as well as some of the events at the 1st Winter Youth Olympic Games in January 2012.  Seefeld will also be the host of the 2019 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships.

“Seefeld is a wonderful place because we normally have plenty of snow at this time of the year,” Martin paints a perfect picture of his idyllic town. “The weather is almost always sunny and perfect, cold in the night and quite warm in the daytime. The nature around us is breathtaking. We have a well-prepared course grooming system with eight machines ready to go every morning on our 273 km of tracks. The infrastructure in Seefeld is great as hotels, stadium and very much everything is walking distance. There’s a bus that takes you back if you happen to be somewhere farther away.”

But Seefeld is much more than just alpine meadows with cross-country ski trails in the sunshine. It has a long history that goes way back to the times of a horse and carriage. It is an old farming village, in Innsbruck-Land District in the Austrian state of Tyrol with a local population of 3,312 (as at 1 Jan 2013). The village is located about 17 km northwest of Innsbruck on a plateau between the Wetterstein mountains and the Karwendel on an historic road from Mittenwald to Innsbruck that has been important since the Middle Ages.

Seefeld was first mentioned in 1022 and since the 14th century has been a pilgrimage site, benefiting not only from the visit of numerous pilgrims but also from its stacking rights as a trading station between Augsburg and the Venice. Seefeld was already a popular holiday resort even before 1900 and, since the 1930s, has been a well know winter sports location and amongst the most popular tourist resorts in Austria with more than one million overnight stays each year. Together with eleven other towns Seefeld is a member of the community Best of the Alps.

So, there is certainly much to see and enjoy in Seefeld when one comes to Kaiser Maximilian Lauf in mid-January. In addition to being a great platform for those Visma Ski Classics pro athletes to show their double-poling strength, it is a wonderful event for leisure skiers to soak up the atmosphere and admire the beautiful scenery that the surrounding Alps can offer. On Saturday January 14, participants can ski the 60 km course in classic style and the following day switch to skating while gliding through the Tyrolean enchanted forests. As Martin puts it; Seefeld and Kaiser Maximilian Lauf both have history and future hand-in-hand and that is what makes them an intriguing destination for Nordic skiers around the world.

See you in Seefeld!