Screen Name Required

A screen name is required for sharing content on REI. Click here to create a screen name before continuing.

Set screen name

Skiers, Can You Resist the Lure of the Loppet?

Cross-country skiers, take your marks: Loppet season is upon us!

The loppet, translated from Swedish, is a long-distance, cross-country ski race. Some loppets are large, competitive races with serious skiers from all over the country. Others are smaller, local events. Serious skiers do compete in the local races, but most participants are in it for the camaraderie and exercise—or just to finish.

skate skiersSo where do the hotshots race? The Worldloppet Sports Federation, founded in Sweden in 1978 to promote the sport of cross-country skiing, organizes a race series that includes the world's largest cross-country ski events. 

Japan holds the International Ski Marathon in Sapporo, site of the 1972 Winter Olympics; Canada's race is the Gatineau Loppet, held in Quebec; the Aussies hold their Kangaroo Hoppet in Victoria. (It's reportedly for humans, but wallabies are also said to do quite well on skinny skis.)

race startThe most famous of the international races is the legendary Birkebeinerrennet held in Lillehammer, Norway (site of the 1994 Olympics). The legend goes that 2 Viking warriors—called Birkebeiner for the protective birch leggings they wore—smuggled the infant Prince Haakan to safety during the Norwegian Civil War in 1206. They carried the baby on skis from Lillehammer to Trondheim, a 50-kilometer trek through rugged terrain. Today's 54-kilometer race, from Rena to Lillehammer, is a tribute to their perseverance under adversity—participants are required to carry a backpack weighing at least 3.5 kg (roughly 8 pounds) to simulate carrying the infant.

Our version of the ski marathon, called the American Birkebeiner or "Birkie," runs between the towns of Cable and Hayward, Wisconsin. If you're of the marathoner ilk and think you'd like to take on this massively popular and difficult race, you may find this Outside Magazine article helpful for your training.

XC ski trail 
For the rest of us mortals who just want some winter fun, shorter races and noncompetitive treks are plentiful.

So is this the year you put in some trail time and train for a ski event? Most are held in January and February, so now's the time to start. 

Choose a race from this sample loppet listing:

                 • Lake Placid Loppet:        Lake Placid, NY        
                 • Vasaloppet:                   Mora, MN
                 • Bjornloppet:                  Bear Valley, CA
                 • Leadville Loppet:           Leadville, CO
                 • Hög Loppet:                  Leavenworth, WA

 Or check out more cross-country ski events around the U.S.

 Do you participate in cross-country ski events or loppets? What's your favorite?

Posted on at 6:34 PM

Tagged: Birkebeiner, Cross-country skiing, ski races and winter recreation

Ratings and Comments

(0) (0)
write a comment
You already voted on this.
Log in to comment or rate.
Ann B

Now I know what a loppet is! Fun article. Which one will you compete in, Julie?

Flag as Inappropriate

Flagging Questionable Content Protects the Community at

In what way this content is inappropriate? Please check one:

More Details (Optional)

Submit answer


Hi Ann, thanks for your comment!
I'll aim for the Hogloppet--if not this year then next!


My favorite loppets are the (American) Birkie (you gotta ski the Birkie at least once) and the City of Lakes Loppet in Minneapolis, MN.

The big question is how do YOU pronounce it? Law-pet or Low-pet?


Unable to Post Comment

We were unable to post your comment at this time. Your opinion matters, so please try again later.

  • Most Recent
  • Most Commented

    No entries found

    No entries found