How does a kid get hooked on skiing? I was 7 years old the first time I saw the Engadin Ski Marathon in St Moritz, Switzerland.
With a mom who worked for Northwest Airlines and a dad who grew up in northern Wisconsin, travel and skiing have long been part of my life. I remember the trains and sledding a lot more than the skiing on that trip. Still, that experience had an impact.
In hindsight, there are many threads that string together life experiences. For me, the Engadin is one of them.
That early trip inspired me to study German in high school. I spent my senior year as a foreign exchange student living with a family in Bern, Switzerland. That winter, I traveled to the 2001 Engadin with my local ski club. We spent the night before the race in a Swiss military barracks, sleeping in bunk beds stacked three high in a room with at least 100 other snoring skiers. Of course, the Swiss know how to run logistics. We traveled by iconic red train, along with 10,000 other skiers, to the start of the race on Sunday morning. That’s the Swiss equivalent of spending the night on a cot in the Hayward primary school gymnasium and taking a yellow school bus to the Birkie start.
I was rounding out my ski career 10 years later, when I led a small group of CXC Team supporters on a trip to the Engadin. The 42 km Engadin starts with about 15 km of flat skiing across three frozen lakes, groomed wider than a 12-lane freeway, before it funnels to a short, steep 3-lane climb before St Moritz. Most of the 14,000 skiers will end up at a standstill before herringboning up the climb. However, if you’re lucky enough to be one of the first 3 skiers coming off the lakes, you can ski up the climb as fast as you like. That’s where I found myself, putting a gap on the field along with eventual winner, Remo Fischer, who won that year’s Engadin by several minutes. Still recovering from an appendicitis two weeks prior, I ended up sliding back and finishing somewhere with the main pack. For me, highlights from that week were not racing, but the time spent with the guests on the trip and sharing some of my favorite aspects of Switzerland with them, like the hot chocolate, trains and sledding.
The Seefeld & Engadin week is now one of our most popular Lumi Experiences trips. The relatively high elevation offers the best likelihood of good snow in mid-March. March also means lots of sunshine. We have traded in the barracks bunks for comfy beds and a post-race fondue dinner. But don’t worry, the Swiss Army still handles the logistics of carrying clothes bags to the finish of the race.
This winter, when Norway cancelled the March Holmenkollen World Cup weekend due to Covid, Switzerland stepped in and offered to host the final World Cup stop this weekend -- on the Engadin ski marathon course. There will be a 10km / 15km mass start classic race on Saturday and 30km / 50km pursuit start on Sunday. Considering Jessie Diggins has a 342 point lead in the Overall World Cup standings. As a win is worth 100 points, Jessie has already clinched the Overall World Cup champion globe. Yeah, Diggins!! Still, the World Cup Distance championship could be a lot more interesting, with 5 skiers--including Rosie Brennan, within 200 points of Diggins. Stay tuned to the races this weekend. It will be exciting to see the Engadin course and races on international television. Hopefully watching that race will help inspire another generation of skiers.
We’d love to host you on the Lumi Experiences trip to Seefeld & Engadin next winter. An added bonus? Save $300 when you book your trip before March 31. We are also offering free cancellation until at least July 31. By then, we will hopefully have a better sense of when international travel will reopen. Have other travel related questions? Let me know!
See you on the trail,
Cross Country Ski Vacations