Marcia and Jim Beckner cross the finish line at the Merino Muster Loppet, New Zealand, on August 31, 2019. (Photo contributed)

Column: Celebrating 50th anniversary by loppet hopping in the southern hemisphere

Trail Tales by Marcia Beckner

Marcia Beckner

Contributor

Ski season is in full swing in the Larch Hills.

With the recent dumps of snow the trails are stellar – both trackset and backcountry.

We are so blessed to have a cadre of tracksetters who are up the hill very early in the morning each day to make sure we have trackset trails – sometimes to the south, sometimes up around Cec’s Cabin, sometimes out to the east.

With such an extensive trail system we cannot expect to have all trails done each day. So just follow where the tracksetter has been that morning.

Jim and I actually started our ski season back in late August. We determined the best way to celebrate our 50th anniversary was to ski a couple of Worldloppets in quest of the gold pin that comes with completing 10 Worldloppets. Sitting at five, we felt completing two more would be a suitable anniversary treat. So, mid-August we headed Australia, to ski the Kangaroo Hoppet Loppet, a 42-kilometre loppet at Falls Creek, north of Melbourne. Travelling with Rob and Beth Savage from Salmon Arm was terrific since Rob grew up near Melbourne, has local contacts and knows the Falls Creek trails well. What different ski environs greeted us as we initiated the Falls Creek trails. Not the forests of Larch Hills, but sparse vegetation since the trails are understandably built at the top of the mountain where trails are viable.

Wind was a factor, especially on the day of the Hoppet Loppet where the wind was 30-plus km/hr., gusting to 50!

Jim and I plugged along in the diminishing classic tracks, affected by the wind and the skaters ahead of us – determined to finish but happy to take our time and relish the experience. Ultimately we reached the finish line, celebrating our achievement with Rob and Beth who kindly stayed to welcome us in.

Worldloppet passports stamped. Now at six!

Read more: Registration underway for Reino Keski-Salmi Loppet at Shuswap’s Larch Hills

Read more: In photos: Santa Claus comes to town

Read more: Ski with Santa fundraiser and beginner trail opening coming to Larch Hills

Interestingly, the Under 75 Women’s category was overlooked at the Awards Ceremony that evening and, since I had won the category – not many women over 70 skiing Worldloppets – I was determined to get my Kangaroo Hoppet Loppet mug! After some consultatio,n the organizers saw their mistake and I indeed got my mug.

On to our second August Worldloppet, the Merino Muster Loppet in New Zealand. The trails at the Snowfarm, just out of Wanaka where we were staying, and where the Canadian Para cross-country ski team trains –including our very own Natalie Wilkie – are even more exposed than the Falls Creek trails. No vegetation! But lovely skiing with great vistas, good tracksetting for both classic and skating, and little appreciable wind. Five sunny days of skiing the trails before the Muster made for great memories of skiing wide open terrain. The view of snow-capped mountains all around was breath-taking! Another 42-k loppet, and we skied along together, again savouring the experience. And again the international gang we were staying with in Wanaka were at the finish line to greet us, complete with Canadian flag.And the age category prize this time was a stuffy called Sam the Lamb. Both prizes are treasured momentos of our southern hemisphere Worldloppets!

Check the Larch Hills website for upcoming events. Happy Holidays! And ski on!!

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