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The Gatineau Loppet is Canada's winter bucket list cross-country ski race

New Discover Waves make it easy to join in on the fun and competition in beautiful Gatineau Park

One of Canada’s beloved winter traditions is the iconic Gatineau Loppet. Canada’s largest cross-country ski event, which features a packed weekend of snowy fun and some great new additions for 2022, is back, in-person, and a must-add on your Nordic bucket list.

The event is scheduled for Feb. 18-20 in beautiful Gatineau Park, Quebec. The Gatineau Loppet dates back to 1979 and has grown in popularity as the only Worldloppet event in Canada, often drawing upwards of 2,500 participants.

And it’s not just the competition it’s the community spirit that makes the weekend special to so many long-time participants and first-timers alike. It’s what people need: fresh air, exercise, and fun. A lot of fun.

“The Gatineau Loppet has been around for 44 years now and some of the racers have been participating in the races for over 40 years,” says Kim Murray, Gatineau Loppet spokesperson. “It is the largest historical cross-country ski gathering in Canada and celebrates and welcomes skiers of any level. It’s a very inclusive community and the passion of  cross-country skiing at any kind of level is celebrated.”

This year, several new programs have been added to the weekend. One new option that is garnering significant interest is the Discovery Waves, which took inspiration from the virtual Loppet that was held last year.

“Many new participants mentioned how fun it was to do the race at their own pace without being stuck in a racing wave with more athletic skiers that are concerned about making their time,” Murray says. “So we are introducing the Discovery Waves that consist of non-timed waves after all the races (except the 50 km races) to allow the less competitive skiers to enjoy all the hype of a competition without the stress of the performance.”

It’s also good for those who have never participated in a race of this length, and want to just try it on for size before coming back the following year and kicking cross-country butt.

In addition, the event has also added a new U23 competition as well as a four-person relay event, which will kick off the Gatineau Loppet on Friday night and is open to clubs and companies, as well as, any group of individuals looking for a new challenge.

The Loppet includes several competitions over the weekend with distances ranging from 5 to 50 kilometres in the freestyle or skate and classic. The highlight is the challenging 50-km linear distances that have always been the most competitive drawing an international field to Gatineau Park.  

“It’s a testing ground for a lot of people,” says David McMahon, of Natural Fitness Labs, who has been involved with the event for decades as a competitor and in other capacities, including training those looking to take part. “There is a certain amount of prestige associated with it, and it’s an objective a lot of people have. There’s also a lot of camaraderie that goes along with it.”

As the country continues to recover from the pandemic, race organizers are unsure of the extent of the social side of the weekend and the restrictions that will be required, but the ski tradeshow will be back this year for people to check out the latest and greatest in equipment. And, the lovely Gatineau Park and the greater Gatineau area are always open for business.

The Gatineau area is renown for the city-nature proximity and many many tourism partners such as restaurants, pubs, hotels will allow for skiers to connect after the races and celebrate while respecting all the sanitary restrictions in place at that moment,” Murray says.

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