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As you improve as a skier, you may want to consider entering a cross-country ski race. Compared to running with its hundreds of marathons and thousands of 5-K and 10-K races, there are not as many races to choose from if you're a skier. And since one essential of the sport is ample snow, you only find them in the North, only in winter and usually away from the cities where there are trails through the woods. Nevertheless, between December and March, you can become a ski racer if you don't mind traveling to race.

The largest ski race in North America is the American Birkebeiner, the Nordic equivalent of running's Boston Marathon. The "Birkie," as it is called, attracts approximately 6,000 competitors each February to a 55-K course that winds through the woods north of Hayward, Wisconsin. In addition to the full-distance Birkie, there is also a second race called the Kortelopet that allows competitors to stop halfway after going 29-K. Many major ski marathons also have short-distance alternatives.

The Birkie attracts top skiers from Scandinavia, who skate the hilly course in times faster than runners do marathons. As in running marathons, others will finish hours behind, being more content to go the distance than to go it fast. The Birkie is part of two major ski circuits, one national, the other international. The Worldloppet circuit features ski marathons in different parts of the world: Norway, Sweden, Finland, even Japan and Australia. The Great American Ski Chase features a half dozen ski marathons in North America, including the North American Vasa (50-K and 25-K) in Traverse City, Michigan. The Vasa is preceded the previous weekend by the White Pine Stampede (50-K and 20-K), that utilizes some of the ski trails at Shanty Creek.

One way to locate ski races is to contact Nordic Centers or stores that sell ski equipment in snowy areas. While most of the major ski races are marathon in length, other local so-called "citizen" races may be as short as 5-K or 10-K and welcome novice skiers. Still other races, where skiers often leave the line one at a time at 30-second intervals, are geared more to serious racers. Usually a beginning racer can determine whether he or she will be comfortable entering the race by examining the entry blank. If in doubt, ask.

Getting Started Ski Technique In Full Stride
Introduction Moving Forward Destinations
Conditioning Going Uphill Racing
Equipment Going downhill Nutrition
Where to Ski Turning Snowshoes
Two Techniques Stopping Downhill Skiing