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New Courses for the Keskinada? An Interview with Claude Laramee
By:  Sheila Kealey   (2006/01/17)


The Keskinada Loppet is Canada's largest cross-country ski event, and prominent on the calendars of many Ottawa area skiers. Organizers estimate that more than 11,000 people (skiers, spectators, and volunteers) took part in last year's event.

The 28th annual Keski will take place from the 17th to the 19th of February 2006. This year's edition will feature a new course for some of the events.

I asked Claude Laramee, president of the Keskinada Loppet, a few questions about the event, including the new race course.

In 2005, the Keskinada start area moved down the road to the Mont-Bleu stadium and secondary school. How did this change affect the skiers and organizers?
The new start area made it much easier from an organizational standpoint. With the start/finish at the same spot, it was easier and less expensive than our previous site. From the feedback I received, it created a better race atmosphere and was more popular with skiers.

This year there are more course changes. Can you describe them briefly, and note the reasons for the changes?
The main course change involves a loop through the start/finish area at about 8.5 km. For the last 27 years of the Keski, spectators saw skiers as they left the stadium and then only again at the finish. We think the new format will increase visibility, attract more spectators, and hopefully more sponsors for the event. 

We have also changed the finish so that skiers will loop around the baseball field. Again, this will increase visibility and be more exciting for spectators since skiers will be visible for about 300m before the finish. 

The new format is definitely better for spectators. But there has been discussion and some concern among the ski community about the course for the premiere event, the 53km skate. The new course uses narrower trails in the earlier part of the race (trails 5 and notably 15) and doesn’t have several long uphills on the wide parkway to separate skiers like the previous course.

Do you foresee any skier traffic congestion with the leaders running into slower skiers in the later starting waves as they loop through the start area at 8.5 km?
The leaders will likely be looping through the start area in about 17 minutes, and we will be reducing the number of waves to minimize any overlap.

I think reducing the number of waves will put more skiers out on the course at the same time and add to the congestion. Can you reduce the time between waves, or have seeding lines within the waves to make a more pleasant experience for skiers?
That is something we’ll consider. We’ll be watching Saturday’s events closely (the classic races use the same course) and adjust if necessary.

Trail 15 is quite narrow to skate on and currently only groomed for the classic technique.
The NCC and Lafleur will be widening trail 15 so that it is similar to trail # 3 (Burma). It does come at about 9km in the race, so there is some opportunity to spread out. Certainly it will be one skier at a time, but bottlenecks are not uncommon for many Worldloppet events.

About 3,000 skiers participate in the Keskinada events. While this seems large, the American Birkebeiner (North America's largest cross-country ski marathon) attracts 8,000 skiers and many European Worldloppets attract over 10,000 skiers. Are you trying to increase the number of participants, or are you satisfied with this turnout?
We definitely want to increase the number of skiers in the Keskinada. This will help meet our costs, increase visibility, and attract sponsors.

Other Worldloppets have long-term participation awards, and/or special bibs to designate the number of years participating in the event. This seems to be extremely popular and motivating for the skiers. Does the Keskinada have plans for any type of long-term-participation awards or special bibs?
We have no plans for this at the moment. A lot of it comes down to money. We don’t have the major sponsors that the other Worldloppet events have, so our funding limits what we can do.

The Keski Sprints haven't been well attended. Do you have any plans for a different location, course, or format this year?
Yes. Instead of Jacques Cartier Park, we will be holding the sprints at the Start/Finish area. Friday night there are usually about 1000 people picking up bibs, so we’re hoping they will stick around to watch the sprint races.

The sprint course will be more interesting than the oval format used in previous years. We’ll do what we can without compromising the start/finish area for Saturday and Sunday’s events.

When will the Keskinada be an official FIS Marathon Cup event again?
It costs $35,000 to be part of the FIS Marathon Cup. At this point we don’t have a major sponsor to pay for that.

After 6 years, you will be ending your term as president of the Keskinada. What’s in the cards for you?
It’s been busy! So now it’s time to go out and ski so I can earn the title of “Worldloppet Master”! This year, I’ll be skiing the Konig Ludwig Lauf in Germany and La Transjurassienne in France.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s been a funny year with the weather, but regardless the course is in good shape.

Lafleur does a great job with the grooming. It’s incredible what they can transform into great ski tracks . . . we’re lucky!
Yes, since Lafleur has been grooming the park there has been a notable improvement in ski conditions.

Thanks for your time and the effort you've put into the Keski!

For more information about the Keskinada, visit


Questions, Comments, Suggestions?

Follow these links to view the course maps:

53 km classic and freestyle:

29 km classic and freestyle:

16 km/ 10 km/ 5 km

Not Skiing?
The race is largely made possible by many volunteers . . . consider being an integral part of this major sporting event. For more information, see

Sheila during last year's Keskinada.

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