In the 15 km classic ski race, Bryce Hartman stood second place on the podium. He knew his strategy of conserving energy paid off.
“At the top of the hill I tried to make my move,” said Hartman. “I guess it was at the right point and I just tried to ski hard from there.”
Hartman, 15, is almost half the age of the first and third place skiers in the 15km classic ski. He travelled to the Gatineau Loppet from upstate New York, representing the Nordic Team from Saranac Lake.
“This is my fourth time up here,” said the young skier. “I love it here, it’s the best race of the year.”
In Ottawa’s backyard, the Gatineau Loppet is one event in a race circuit that spans 16 countries worldwide. The circuit aims to provide competitive races for skiers like Hartman and allow them to break into the scene.
It is also a venue open to the public, allowing anyone to enter races from 5 to 51km. It’s a unique opportunity for amateur and professionals alike to ski together in the same race.
While some races are simple circular routes just outside the City of Gatineau, the longer competitions take skiers from the city out as far as Wakefield, Que. through Park trails.
“We have over 2,500 participants, so that’s the highest number we’ve had in a number of years,” said Yan Michaud, President of the Gatineau Loppet.
“We are really happy at this point.”
Between these participants, 26 countries are being represented in the races. The allure for the hardcore skier is to travel the world while competing.
Tom Walt drove from Wisconsin to attend the Loppet.
“It was kind of dicey driving, but I’m trying to get ten world Loppet races done,” said Walt.
Once at the ski site, the weekend weather of the Loppet was a temperate blessing compared to the frigid temperatures the Ottawa Valley endured this winter.
Roger Gerard, once a resident of the area makes sure to come back every year to participate. He feels the cold weather over the season had created great trails.
“The conditions this year are really, really good,” says Gerard. “It was a little soft going up the hills but otherwise okay.”
This year the Mont-Bleu Secondary School in Gatineau held a double function as a launch point for skiers entering races and as a market for companies to sell products from water bottles to boots and skis.
Swix waxing technicians were also on hand to wax ski’s free of charge to the racers.
The event is becoming as important for businesses as it is the skiers.
In its 36th year, the Loppet is held every mid-February in and around the Gatineau Park.
Interested participants can expect to spend between $35 and $150 depending on the length of races entered.