The Gatineau Loppet: An international sporting event in Ottawa’s backyard

While you may have been cursing the snowfall last week, the organizers and competitors of this year’s cross-country ski competition, the Gatineau Loppet, were thrilled by the prospect of good ski conditions in the Gatineau Park this past weekend.

This year’s honorary president Malcolm Hunter was a 1972 Olympic skier and four-time Canadian champion. Hunter grew up in the region and thinks it’s no surprise the Gatineau Park hosts such a well-known international event for the sport every year.

“The Gatineau Park is famous for being the best place for cross-country skiing,” says Hunter. “The park has a long history going back to the 1920s and almost consistently has the best conditions from December to early March as well as a variety of trails to choose from.”

The event is open registration and hosts races in the classic and freestyle technique with distances ranging from 2 km for children to the larger 51 km races. While there are competitive racers from all over Canada and the world that compete to win, many skiers enter to challenge themselves.

“It’s a race more with myself,” says Ted Cheskey, a local cross-country skier from Ottawa. “It gives me a fitness goal every year that I can work towards. It’s a really great international event and it’s really well organized.”

The sport itself has grown over the years and has gained popularity.

“I started cross-country skiing back in the late 1950s,” says Hunter. “It was a relatively small crowd of us at that time but in the 1970s and 1980s you saw it mushroom. Today it is a very mature sport and I see more and more young people getting involved.”

Cheskey just thinks it’s great to have an international event right there in the region.

“On the bus we take to go up to the starting point,” says Cheskey, “I hear people speaking Russian or Norwegian which I think is pretty cool.”