cross country skiing event
Lake Placid, New York, USA 

info sources

this is Ken's unofficial web page: not checked or updated since December 2010.


Description from ORDA website as of January 1, 2011:

50km Classic Technique Loppet

25km Classic Technique Kort-Loppet

50km Free Technique Loppet

25km Free Technique Kort-Loppet

Note that from my looking at the official results in recent years, it seems like very few people do the 50 km Classic event any more. So perhaps better to think of that one as a "personal achievement" rather than a "race".

Also many of the racers in the surrounding region prefer to do the 25 km Free race (instead of the 50 km). I suspect this is because most racers prefer to skate, and the hills are so tough that skating them again on a second lap doesn't feel like a "race pace" for athletes who are less than National Team contenders. And that the second 25 km is a repeat of the first removes some of the "endurance adventure" aspect - (though many sections are interesting enough to be worthy of doing twice).

So I have noticed a trend that many of the people who do sign up the the 50 km Freestyle tend to be "athletic animals" from out of state who made the long drive for the opportunity to show off their superior skate-climbing capability.

If you want to try to just make it thru the 50 km of hilly skating as a personal achievement, keep in mind that (unlike some other ski marathon events) the Loppet (as of 2011) does not offer a non-competitive "touring" option, so your finishing time and your ranking in your age-group must be published on the web. But your ranking in the 50 km age-group results might not look very good -- versus if your time had been divided in half and included in the 25 km results, your age-group ranking might have been relatively higher.

my story

I did the Loppet several times from 2000 to 2007.  What's special about it?

  • finishing an event with the most challenge.

  • skiing a course with variety and thrills.

  • seeing the variety of people all out there on the course at once:  shuffling tourers, fast racers, classic striders, skaters, high school volunteers handing out drinks and snacks, adult patrollers at different points.

On the main race day, they've been holding four events all on the same 25 km course at Mt Van Hoevenberg ski center.


The course is so challenging because most of it was designed for the 1980 OIympics. Several major sections of the course are on trails rated "Most Difficult" on the official trail map for the Mt Hoevenberg ski center. The challenge comes with variety:  multiple examples of every kind of gentleness and steepness up -- and down -- and combines those with all kinds of curves -- some unexpected, some tilted inward, others tilted outward.

Anyone who wants to try any of those Loppet events should have advanced skiing skills, experience, and judgment to be able to handle such a difficult course, also in snow and weather conditions which can be difficult and changing. Some participants have gotten injured in the past.

One unusual trail condition is that later in the event the snow on the trails gets impacted by the passage of lots of racers, and there is no practical safe way for the ski center operators to re-groom the snow during the event. Especially on curves on or at the bottom of downhill sections, the snow on the inside of the curve can be scraped off to reveal an underlying hard fast surface, while the snow toward the outside is soft and deep and slower.

If skiing one of the 50 km events, note that the same section of the route, or the same curve, can be much more difficult the second time than the first time earlier in the day.

? touring option?

It's an excellent accomplishment simply to complete the 25 km course -- and one of finest Northeast U.S. cross country ski tours for advanced skiers.

Unfortunately the Loppet organizers are not yet (as of February 2010) offering a "Touring" option, so that non-racers could ski the course under their real name without having their age and finishing time revealed.

see also


One thing that makes the Loppet special it that it's an open citizen's event held on an Olympic race course -- so some parts are much more steep and difficult than most trails at most cross-country ski centers. 

The route has multiple examples of every kind of gentleness and steepness up -- and down -- and combines those with all kinds of curves.  It covers most of the trails at the Mt Van Hoevenberg center (but not flat trails near the main lodge).


For those who want to check out the course on days when it's not set up for the Loppet event, Sharon and I noticed (as of December 2007) there are faded-red plastic squares with a black letter "L" and an arrow on them mark many (but not all) of the junctions on the route.

It can be difficult to find the "L" square for some unexpected turns (which on Loppet event day are marked very obviously), so it helps to have an event course map to compare with the Mt Van Hoevenberg center's full ski trails map. Or check this detailed text description of the route, which could also help if one of the "L" squares is missing sometime.


The total uphill climbing in the Loppet might be more than any other event of similar distance held on groomed cross country ski trails in North America -- but what really sets it apart is the steepness of several of the individual hills .

The news release handed out in the January 2003 race packet said: 

The Loppet and the Kort-Loppet was run on a slightly modified version of the course originally constructed for the 50-kilometer cross-country skiing event during the 1980 Winter Olympic Games.  The course consists of one 25-kilometer loop skied either once or twice.

Because this course was designed for Olympic competition, it is more challenging than most citizen race courses.  The altitude ranges from 1,860 feet to 2,460 feet with the longest single climb being 230 feet.  The total vertical climb is just under 3,700 feet for the Loppet racers, or 1,850 feet for the Kort-Loppet.

The paper map handed out in the January 2003 race packet said:  

Height Difference  182 meters 
Maximum Climb  71 meters 
Total Climb  1070 meters 


(Ken's note on February 2003) : The paper map in the January 2003 race packet differed from the course map on the ORDA website as of January 2003 in at least three ways:  (1) near the Cascade area, the route bypasses "Peggy's Puddle"; (2) in the Porter area, the route bypasses the "Big Rock Loop"; (3) in the Ladie's 5K area, the route includes the "Inner Loop".  My judgment from doing the Loppet race in three different years is that the paper map is the one that showed more accurately where the actual race course goes.  Hopefully the website map will be improved. 

see also: Route notes


Ken's story -- February 2004:

I had a very fun time doing the 50 km Freestyle event.  I switched to skating this year, and made it thru all the big tough hills twice without stopping to rest -- my big goal for the race.  It was lots of fun to see all the Classic striders on the course at the same time as me, and skiing along with some other skaters at the same pace as me -- but without worrying about trying to go fast (until the end).

When I'm skating, I actually enjoy the feeling of mastery from going slower.  Because I found it difficult to learn to skate slow.  Somehow with classic striding, it's easy to go slow up the hills, but I wish I could go faster.  With skating it's technically easier to climb a hill fast -- once -- but then be burned out and hurting for the next hour.  So I feel good doing what's technically harder -- but also better for my performance in the whole race.  And my skate time was 45 minutes faster than my previous classic time.

Ken's story -- January 2003: 

I finished the 50 km Classic-style race -- the only race I did this year.  I learned my lesson from last time and paced myself carefully on the hills -- but I was still plenty tired at the end.  My time was half an hour faster than my first time two years ago.  I was hoping to have an even faster time, but those hills are really tough.  I got passed on the hills by some skiers in the Freestyle event -- amazing how they can actually skate up those steep hills.

Ken's story -- January 2002: 

I entered the 50 km Classic-style race again in 2002, and trained really hard for it.  But for the start I lined up too close to the front of the racers, and then I got all excited hanging with the truly fast skiers.  After twenty minutes of this I was real tired.  So I slowed down for a while. And then my grip wax stopped working. I decided that my muscles were so tired out that it wasn't going to be any fun for me to go my planned 50 km distance. 

So I completed my first 25 km lap with an exciting sprint against a 25-km finisher who happened to be near me, and just stopped there in the stadium.  But it was still nice to ski the different parts of the course again, and I had some good moments of camaraderie and competition along the way -- and it certainly was an valuable lesson for me in how not to start a big race.

Ken's story -- November 2001

The Lake Placid Loppet race in New York state is special because it's an open citizen's event held on an Olympic course. 

The route has multiple examples of every kind of gentleness and steepness up -- and down -- and combines those with all kinds of curves.  It covers most of the trails at the Mt Van Hoevenberg center, except the flat loop near the parking lot.

The first time I tried it in 2001, I saw some people doing the event on backcountry gear -- like a long tour with food stops.  I think simply finishing the 25 km course is a worthwhile achievement, and a fine Northeast U.S. cross country ski tour.

The big 50 km course (31 miles) includes a total of 1125 meters / 3700 feet of climbing.  Which might be more than climbing Mt Marcy, the highest mountain in New York state (which can be reached starting from near Mt van Ho).

I did the 50 km Classic the previous year, and I thought it was very fun, and I've scheduled my whole season around doing it again this year.  One interesting thing is they run four races simultaneously on the same course -- Freestyle and Classic techniques, 25 km and 50 km -- but they give the Classic skiers a one hour head start.