In January, I viewed the Final Climb, the final race of the Tour de Ski, from Val di Fiemme, Italy, on WCSN, the internet sports channel that airs most World Cup Cross Country and Biathlon races (at $4.95 per month, it's an amazing bargain). As I watched Charlotte Kalla pass Virpi Kuitunen in this grueling climb up the face of an alpine ski mountain, I thought to myself that this must be the hardest race in all of skiing.
That, however, was before I entered the Boyne Highlands 10 KM classic race in March 2008, my first-ever Michigan Cup race and just the fourth XC race I've entered in 27 years of skiing.
Here's an interesting fact from the Tour de Ski website:
"The athletes have to...finish the Tour de Ski in the Final Climb to the top of Alpe Cermis. That mountain alone represents a total climb of 425 meters!"
Yep, that sounds pretty impressive until you realize that the Boyne Highlands Classic racers climbed a total of 1,500 feet (according to Nordic Ski Racer) compared to a mere 1,394 feet (425 meters) for the World Cup skiers who took part in the Tour de Ski's Final Climb on Alpe Cermis.