For us, festival season is on the horizon; with competitive skiing and some serious partying on the agenda, we look ahead to the Engadin Skimarathon and Holmenkollen Skifest.
From March 4, the quaint and peaceful Engadin region will be taken over by a swarm of elite cross-country skiers, amateurs looking to test themselves and revellers who’ve come for the spectacle. The region attracts all types of people throughout the week, but what can be guaranteed is that over the nine days, all will unite in the enchantment of the 49-year-old event.
It all gets going with the evening opening ceremony at Promulins Arena, Samedan with participants of the races invited, along with sponsors and partners to celebrate the beginning of ‘Engadiner’ week.
THE MAIN RACES
After the niceties of the night before, all is soon forgotten as the competition starts with a bang on Sunday morning with the 17km Womens’ Race. Setting out from Promulins Arena, Samedan, the women wind their way through the stunning Engadin scenery on a relatively flat course before striving for the line in the main area S-chanf.
For the first time in the Engadiner week’s history, Sils will host the start of the maiden Engadin Night Race on the 9th. Starting at 7pm, the participants head off under the night’s sky for a truly unique experience in the mountains. The 17km floodlit route stretches through the valleys, rupturing the tranquil aura of the mountains with a streak of electricity and drama. The event is certainly not one to miss with the atmosphere at the finish in Pontresina promising to be exhilarating.
SKIMARATHON & HALF MARATHON
The focal point of the week takes place on Sunday 12th March in Maloja as the 49th Skimarathon and Half Marathon get underway. Beginning at 1820m, the course meanders through the breath-taking scenery over undulating terrain. The 10km route passes through picture-postcard mountain villages, giving the participants a unique experience to ski on the frozen lakes and discover new environments. At the half-way stage, the profile drops and the race falls 100m quite sharply as it passes through the lively Pontresina village. At this point the Half Marathon participants peel off and those going for the full 42kms are cheered on by the familiar soundtrack of cowbells as they push through the trickiest stage. The route carries on over relatively flat terrain before a small incline as they arrive into S-chanf for a manic rush for the line in order to take the coverted 49th Engadin Skimarathon title.
Taking on the Skimarathon offers an original test of stamina and determination and the great thing is, anyone over 16 can enter. It is a great test and a remarkable thing to be able to say you’ve completed, the opportunity is one not to be missed. Ensuring you’re prepared for the event is of utmost importance; the Odlo cross-country ranges offer excellent breathability and keeps you warm and dry with innovative technology, leaving you to focus only on pushing your limits on the trail.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE
The Skimarathon isn’t just about the skiing; there are plenty of other events going on throughout the week. On the 9th, the Convention and Event Centre Pontresina hosts an evening of laughs and fun with comedy duo Edelmais.
A favourite with families is the Night Sprint in the Marathon-Village, St. Moritz-Bad which showcases on the 10th. The sprint has become an un-missable evening tradition for the Engadiner week that sees the top athletes go head-to-head as the DJ whips up the crowd into a frenzy. It’s a full-action, non-stop evening with an electric party atmosphere as the crowd watches the competitors’ battle for the line.
Things slow down a bit come the 11th as the region celebrates its religious roots and holds a ceremony in St. Moritz-Bad. The service is lead by Pastor Etienne Josi with music from Central Music & Friends and offers a more serene option before the main event.
Head to Engadin at the start of March for an unforgettable experience in the Swiss Alps and discover just how the cross-country scene loves to work hard and play hard.
As home to the most recognisable ski jump slope on the World Cup circuit, thousands flock to Holmenkollen every year to experience the men and women’s FIS Nordic World Cup events. The SkiFest plays host to the Nordic Combined, Cross-country skiing and Ski jumping world cup disciplines over the weekend and vantage spots are hotly contested around the whole area to get your piece of the action.
The festival is opened at the opening ceremony on the Friday afternoon; just prior to the first ski jumpers descend the famous slope to take to the air.
THE MAIN EVENTS
The competition gets going on the Friday with the Nordic Combined Provisional Competition round in the day. The crowds will be treated to a master class in endurance, power and bravery, as they compete in the Provisional Competition Round in an attempt to qualify for the main event.
When the evening comes around, the main Holmenkollen arena will swell as a 70,000 strong capacity crowd arrive to watch the men’s ski jumping qualification round. A sea of red often engulfs the whole arena as the Norwegian’s come out in support of their local athletes. The night sky, the excited crowd and impressive skill of the athletes make for a very special atmosphere on the first night of the Skifest.
Proceedings start at 11am with the Nordic Combined athletes in their ski jumping round. They will later take on the 10km cross-country route around the forests of Holmenkollen, finishing in the arena where a vibrant crowd will have amassed to cheer home the winner of the combined competition.
The cross-country men get going on the Saturday afternoon for the 50km drag. The route winds its way through the forests in the region giving the crowds the ability to catch a glimpse from numerous vantage points. Many opt for the truly Norwegian experience and watch the race submersed in the Oslo winter. By venturing out to nearby Frognerseteren by train, you can camp up next to the ski route and watch as the athletes swing round the turns in the technical part of the course. This is a truly Nordic experience that is not to be missed.
Saturday evening, the atmosphere in the main arena gets ramped up a notch. As the sun sets over Holmenkollen, the men’s team event gets in full swing. With even more athletes to get behind, the crowd’s hysteria multiplies as the crowd urge every centimetre from their compatriot’s jumps.
Come Sunday, it’s the women’s turn to take the stage with the ski jumping competition drawing the fans in the morning and the cross-country skiing in the afternoon. The women tackle the 30km route starting in the arena in Holmenkollen and heading out into the forests to the chimes of the customary cowbells.
The headline event of the festival is the men’s ski jumping competition that takes place on the Sunday afternoon. The crowd are treated to unforgettable moments as the best athletes in the world go toe-to-toe vying for the top spot on the podium. There will be chanting, flag-waving, cowbell-ringing in abundance as the festival comes to a close in a true party atmosphere.
WHAT ELSE TO SEE
With its proximity to Oslo, only 20 minutes on the metro from the centre of the city, Holmenkollen is exceptionally accessible. It gives you the opportunity to head out in Oslo of an evening and enjoy all of the nightlife and restaurants that are on offer in the capital.
During the day at the festival, take some time to go and visit the oldest working ski museum in the world and take a journey back through the history of the sport and the arena itself. Discover the equipment once used by the world’s best and be bewildered by how they managed to get round on their old planks.
Head out into the forest and find a great vantage spot at Frognerseteren which is all setup with camps for families as well as groups who are looking to enjoy themselves a bit more. Tuck into the hot food and drink on sale there and enjoy the Norwegian culture. Alternatively, stay amongst the arena and absorb the atmosphere with incredible views out across Norway’s mountains whilst sat on the iconic ski jump structure.
The two ski festivals offer a unique mix of amazing party atmospheres alongside elite sports events in stunning surroundings. The draw of the special events attracts thousands each year, make sure you are one of those thousand next time round.