Your Keskinada Suggestions!
By: Fans of the Keski (2007/03/15)
Creating a more visible event with more excitement and greater community involvement could all help make the Keskinada a higher profile event that would lead to a better event. Looking for ways to create greater visibility, excitement and involve non-skiing community members takes creative effort, foresight, business links and money. There do not seem to be enough resources currently to provide a stable infrastructure to support the event properly.
Funding, I imagine, currently comes from sponsors, government support and entry fees. I would suggest Keskinada look at other revenue streams to provide a greater infrastructure and a greater race. Some ideas:
- hire a fundraiser - make their compensation (salary) dependent on their success!
- hold revenue earning events throughout the year - races, ski movies, presentations, wax clinics, Keksinada training session courses similar to the Running Room's marathon courses where 'non-runners' can pay to join a group to guide them through the training process. The Keski training course would attract new skiers, provide revenue and bring in a third party supporter!
- sell keski merchandise throughout the year; clothes, hats, poles, posters, DVDs, movies, prints. Develop a branding and marketing strategy to sell the idea of 'KESKINADA'. Find retail partners to sell the merchandise.
- Have a big afternoon event (ie fundraiser) in September. Hire a celebrity. Provide entertainment, ski videos and a live auction. At the live auction sell the Keski winner's poles, autographed picture of Pierre Harvey, dinner with Becky Scott, etc. Invite the media.
- liaise with local businesses. Invite them to provide ideas that could bring money and people to the Keskinada (and to their businesses) while bringing awareness and excitement to the event.
- Establish a capital fund. Capital funds, if managed properly, can provide enormous infrastructure opportunities in long term scenarios. The hardest part is the set-up. For the first number of years little benefit will be seen. Once the capital is built and managed well the interest can be partially reinvested and partially used as a source of operating funds.
President; Harry Nowell Photography, Inc.
After reading the summary of comments on your website, I think what would be great is to organize a group of skiers into a "Friends of Keski" advisory committee. Just like corporate boards of directors can have advisory committees, this would be great of Keski. The "Friends of Keski" could table suggestions to the organizers on an ongoing basis, focusing on four areas that are clearly the major areas of concern
- Course Layout: Primary and contingency plans including use of volunteers to move snow into locations with light coverage
- Marketing geared towards growing the event: Both locally and internationally. Keski can be a 30,000 skier event if the will is there. We need to get elite athletes here from around the world. What most people do not get, is that you can only become an "A" class endurance sport event, if you attract the best from around the world. This is why Chicago Marathon rocks. This is why Ironman Germany rocks. They sell out their race, because mid pack participants want to race the same day and the same course as the celebrities of their sport. Keski needs to work with CCC, CCO, NCD, local clubs, and other races worldwide and NorthEast. I'd be glad to work a Keski Booth at the Lake Placid Loppet. Was there a Keski booth at Birkie (I doubt it). I asked many of the racers at LP if they were coming...most did not know where Keski was, and did not know it was on the next weekend only 3 hours away and that there was a major airport to fly into.
- Corporate Branding and Sponsorship Programs: The Keski lacks money because they don't treat the event like a business. The sponsors follow the elite athletes, the participants go to where the "show is", the show is good when there is lots of "hype" and for that you need media, but without a "show"' there is no media and no sponsors. Its a three pronged attack....elite+media+lots of participants = more sponsors.
- Skier Friendliness and User Experience: This is what Boston Marathon, NYC marathon and all the big Ironmans do so well. They cater to the athletes like Rock stars. On that weekend, they are the centre of attention. The entire community bends over backwards for the event. Things to consider
- Communication to athletes through web and direct email
- Goodies from sponsors in race kit
- More Keski swag to buy at the expo
- Better meals
- Good grooming
- Going back to point number 1, an interesting course
- On course safety
- Reasonable spacing of aid stations
- Loyalty programs (for example, I've done the 50 skate race every year for 18 years...but only I will know when I hit 20)
- Family and club packages, which will drive up numbers.
- An A Class sports expo. What we have is a nice start....we just need more. The athletes village at Ironman LP, or Boston Marathon are fantastic examples of the potential...huge payback for sponsors and great shopping for athletes.
On another note, I don't think the Keski price is too high. If they package it with more services as mentioned above, then $100 is not crazy. I realize that skiers are in some cases cheap, but right now they are charging Ottawa Senators ticket pricing for Midget AA event. They just need to bring the quality up to NHL level and people will part with $100 without a problem (people already spend $200 for flouro powders in the middle of the pack back in 200th place...). If people will part with $600 for an Ironman they'll do it for a big league sports event. What is lacking the the desire to "think big league". Frankly, if I want to build an event, I'd rather cater to the well heeled customers who will part with their $$$$ for high quality...just follow up and build the quality and the revenue will follow.
Great feedback on Keskinada. Here are my thoughts.
- Have a designated place for on-course wax technitions (classic) and broken pole replacements. and add this info in the race package.
- I noticed people getting confused by the finishing "U". Some Orange snow fencing to mark the U would be a good idea. Or even the Blue wooden triangles they have in World Cup races.
- Thoughts on what American Birkie does right:
- Purple race bibs (I think for 10 or more races)/ Marking number of Birkies you done on your bib (very similar to CSM). creates prestige.
- World Loppet Passport Holders breakfast. It was a great way to meet all the people around the world, and to welcome those who traveled the world to get there.
- They take over 2 towns...if only we could take over ottawa!
- Shovel crews. They truck in a ton of snow to make that race go.
- Provide training tips.
- Things the Birkenbiener-rennet (Norway) does right:
- extra prize for finishing in the top 25%.
- certificate of completion
- of course they have the history.
- Make Keskinada a Canada cup or NorAm race.
- Keep up with the toques. It is becoming a great tradition.
- I like the medals for all kids.
- Attacting the fans:
- Cow Bells -- give them out if you can! or sell them cheap. the Swiss embassy might be able to help out.
- Advertise the Keski at the Gatineau park parking lots.
- Pancake breakfast at startline!
- Bonfires for Fans. Keep them warm and at the line not in the gym.
- Make sure it advertised as a Winderlude attaction.
- Alternate Classic/Skate days.
- Create a "pursuit" result category to encourage people to do both races. Usually around 50 people do both 50km races. Most of those are from europe.
- Bring back sprints and have them downtown again (advertise the Keskinada heavely).
- Be nice to have the distance of the splits (@ keogan is not meaniful after a while)
Thanks so much for taking the initiative to revive an event I love and have participated in for 29 years and have been dismayed and saddened to see it decline in almost every sense over the past few years... from last year's fiasco at the 53km classic race where even local skiers who know the trails well were misdirected off course and subsequently disqualified, to this year's sad event where we slogged along the endless parkways passing by some of the best trails in the region.
I can recall the days of the Riviere Rouge where there was so much excitement surrounding the event; where we would finish on the main street of Lachute "on truckloads of snow covering the road" and spectators lining the sidewalk, cheering us on; the next day there would be a colour photo on the front page of the Citizen with more photos and stories in the sports section. When the race moved to Gatineau Park, I was thrilled - the course was amazing (skiing Burma Road downhill, Trail 36, across Meech Lake and then up MacDonalds.Whew!!!). We finished at Asticou Centre. Catelli was one of the sponsors, I remember, and we had a big pasta lunch and watched video of the course taken by helicopter! A couple of times before the event, I'd receive a newsletter about the upcoming race with lots of photos and articles. Enough of the good old days. Right now, we have the potential of a much better than ever Loppet. We have the best ski trails for this type of event anywhere, we have more enthusiastic skiers than ever in this area, a number of ski clubs bursting with energy - plus a core of elite skiers who understand they are a part of a larger community. For myself, I agree with all of your thoughtful suggestions and only hope they are seriously considered by the powers that be. Some specific comments I have:
- I think the loop at the start down the parkway and up Trail 5 is an excellent idea for a number of reasons.
- I like the idea of using Trail 15 (ideally, it needs to be widened, but that probably requires a million dollar environmental study). It's nearly all uphill, so I don't know why there would be many bottlenecks.
- Surely, much more can be done to publicize this event to local media.
- A traditional Keskinda course needs to be finely established (even the old Gatineau 55 course was constantly tinkered with). Imagine a one way race starting in Wakefield and finishing in Hull - now that would be a course I'd be happy to pay $100. to ski!
- It seems this is a turning point for the Keski and again, thanks XC Ottawa for your leadership in hopefully reinventing our Loppet.
Noted your reference to me and the Ottawa Race Weekend. I'll throw in a correction to say that we now have about 30,000 runners, up from about 9000 my first year being involved in 1999. I believe that Ottawa/Gatineau is sitting on a huge opportunity here with the Keski race weekend and I would be glad to provide my input as a person who also loves the sport of XC skiing.
Ottawa Race Weekend....and Nakkertok Jackrabbit coach :-)
I was very impressed with your report and agree with the points you raised. The main issues I see with the race are cost, food, website, course, seeding/waves, and participation. As you pointed out the cost is too high - there is no reason why it should be more expensive than the NCM. I entered the event over 3 months in advance and still paid $80! I agree that the food could be better, especially the post race meal. It would also be nice to have some gels on the course. The website needs to be improved and updated more often - definitely agree there. Even if a participant chooses not to receive event emails they still want updated info on the website. Speaking of event emails, I was waiting for a Keski email but never got one. As for the course, I suggest it could be made more interesting by varying it slightly each year. Using all or part of the old Gatineau 55 course is a great idea! There are so many options for trails that could be used. Now on to waves and seeding. I have some serious issues here. I am a 3-time participant in the Keski 53k freestyle and my finishing times were around 3:20 to 3:30. To me there is a problem if I am placed in the A-wave as happened this year. Even if my expected finishing time was 3:15 or faster, I should still be in the B-wave. There should be a system of assigning a participant to a wave based on previous years finishing times (seems obvious enough?). As for participation, I really don't know why more people don't enter the event. Completing the event is no more difficult than a regular marathon. There are also a substantial number of people that register for the event and don't show up - that is a shame. I think the event lacks "atmosphere", which is related to many things you mentioned. Again, going back to the NCM, think of how many people line the course to cheer on the participants. Anyways, I hope that the 30th edition will be bigger and better than ever. Thanks for your efforts to promote and improve the Keski.
I have participated in the Keski many times over the years. I believe I did my first in 1983. Like many long time participants, I feel the quality of the race has taken a distinct downturn in the last few years. I would love to see this trend reversed. I agree with the vast majority of your suggestions but especially the comments on the course. The park has wonderful challanging trails, and there are many volunteers(including me) who would be eagar to help out in poor snow years. Even this year before the snow right before the race, the course could have been fixed. I challange the organisers to re think their goals and make this a world class race again!
Thanks. I've taken a look at the suggestions for the Keksi. Well thought through and makes a lot of sense. Thanks to XC Ottawa for doing such good job of cohering all this info.
Here's a bit of a random rant:
I think we completely undermaket this event to Europeans. Everyone I ran into who had done the Keski or Gat55 was full of praises about what a wonderful course it is, how friendly and well-organized it was. Cross-Country Ski Canada should have a booth at the Mora pavilion promoting Canadian events, with the Keksi being the crown jewel, to the Vasa crowds!
I also think we could talk Rogers into televising the Keski - at least the final part of it. The CBC should be abolished for their appaling lack of coverage of XC - unless there's a drug bust for them to muck rake over. I truly envy the kind of TV coverage Vasa gets in Sweden... Imagine a big screen on the Canal where they show live shots of the Keski...
I think your article is terrific. This was my first year of competitive xc skiing and thus my first Keski. I thought the entrance fee was prohibitive, compared to other athletic events. For roughly the same price I can enter an 8 hour adventure race. Mountain bike races cost less than half as much. Skiing at Mont Tremblant is half the price of a Keski race.
I think the event is dramatically underpublicized. The Keski is virtually ignored on the Ottawa side, which makes no sense when most of the people live there.
Your website is without question the best souce of xc info out there. Keep up the great work.
I have skied about seven or eight of the 25 km classic race.
I think that I last skied the event sometime around 2000 and must confess that racing on the parkways is rather boring. One starts to question the high entry fee for skiing parkways.
I too have noticed a real decline in the quality of the post race food. The last few times I skipped the meal and went home to eat. I did not get the feeling of a festival atmosphere within the CEGEP. It seemed rather quiet and subdued. Not much excitement.
As a spectator, I find the race venue at Nakkertok to be far more interesting. Perhaps its the smaller venue, more interaction between the volunteers, spectators and competitors...
Hey you dear XC Ottawans,Thanks so much for this. I totally agree with all your points. I have skied the 25K classic 3 times and participated in the Keski climb once, and been a spectator at many more Keskinadas.
My experience has always been positive, the volunteers have been fantastically friendly and helpful and it's been easy to get around and find things on race day. The races have been overall enjoyable, except of course the bottle necks, especially for those of us in the lower orders of skiers. Not sure what you can do about those.
Yes, less parkway skiing.
Yes, a better web site. (Please, I dread looking at that thing, it's so difficult and confusing, and I work in IT.)
Yes, more involvement of the Ottawa community. Did we do something to offend the organizers?
Yes, more hype, more huzzah, more excitement.
Suggestion to your submission: can you give a priority rate, what you think are the first things they should look at?
My first priority is probably sprucing up the image, acting more like they need us and want us, as opposed to condescending to provide us with a race. Am I the only one that kind of feels like that? Coming across earlier than race day as a friendly, inclusive event, that loves all skiers and celebrates the great ones.
Their emails could be better formatted and way WAY better written.
Thank you! Thank you for this!
I read your site faithfully and feel enriched by your presence in the skiing community.
Thanks for incorporating my comments. Many of your comments are bang on about shovelling snow and prepping the terrain pre season. I'd be glad to ski up to Penguin with a shovel on my backpack and shovel snow all over Penguin if it meant having it on the race!
We read the whole report and you are right on the mark. Great job!
I would emphasis a few points:
The course seems always to be a last minute thing when it should be the TOP and ONLY PRIORITY. There have been years when they even forgot to groom. The course is dumbed down to parkway from what used to be a interesting route. And there is no excuse. I skied Berma in Dec this year and it was pefect. It is analogous to going to a mountain bike race only to have it run entirely on the roads. Overlapping races and bi-directional routes is disaster waiting to happen.
People openly question where their $100 entry fee is going, when the course already exists, and they don't doing any grooming. What are people paying for? Certainly its not the food for that price.
The Keski suffer from lack of medai and sponsorship coverage because there has been a deliberate shut-out of media. Fopr example we (an da number of TV stations) were told by race organizers to shut off our cameras and go home because we had not paid to cover the event. And they wonder why there is no coverage. We have plain given up offering to cover the event in our films. Sponsors feel the same way, they feel exploited.
The web site and race information is hopelessly out of date, showing the wrong routes.
The race feed stations are in good places for the volunteers but not the racers, often they are not ready when the lead pack comes by..
And finally safety, every year there is a close call with one of the organizers on skidoos and the racers. I have it on film this year, a skidoo going head to head with the lead pack, losing control and a near miss. Skidoo drivers have to be responsible and aware. It seems like an excuse to race around the course, knocking people over and tearing up the track.
The keski has a lot of potential. It needs to focus on the most important parts: the course and the skiers.
Hope that helps,
Great idea to do this, so many times us skiers will sit around a pub and complain about events, but never give any feedback and keep the issues to ourselves. I'll put something together and send this to some running friends of mine who's done the Keski as well.
A couple things off the top of my head:
1) The comment about bringing in Beckie and others: great idea and with Olympic athletes they tend to have a short shelf life. Beckie gave the sport lots of exposure here a couple years ago and would have gotten alot this year. But, as every year that goes by with her being retired, less people will remember her.
2) You guys have nailed it with all the elite comments, why not try to engage the various European communities here? The new Swedish Ambassador is a big skier, the Norwegians have talked about helping to bring over a group in the past. The previous Keski Chairman often was more interested in inviting the organizing committe from another World Loppet than any racers.
3) Little things like the signs really piss off a skier; if you lose your speed having to slow down because you don't know which way to turn, that's all you're going to think about for the next while on the course.
4) The Keski sprints have the potential to becoming really important for skiing in Canada. But, this could only happen with groups working together; and they have to be on board early. None of this scrambling the night of to get help with how to run a sprint race. Has to be mega professional, good fields and crowds. When Ed was pressed into service as a colour commentator, that was a great addition.
5) How well do Lafleur and the Keski organisers get along? I've heard nothing but great things about Lafleur and they seem so on the ball and willing to go the extra mile to support elites as well as to showcase Gat Park. They are being ignored is seems; this year with not using Ridge, last year they said they could have north of Pengiun groomed (for the classic) and it didn't get in the race even thought it was groomed.
6) Add a summer trail running event: http://www.lidingoloppet.se/ If I get a job in Ottawa this spring/summer and move home, I'd like to put on a race like this.
7) I was going to stop at 4. Something to do with the entry fees: the race needs to get those guys from Ottawa who are good skiers but can't be bothered to pay all that money to ski on trails they train on all the time. These are your cheap runners, triathletes and former ski racers. They don't enter now because they feel it's a waste of money; if things are changed, they will enter.
When CBH met with the new chairman in the fall, he was saying how committed he was to communication with groups. What he needs to do is a survey of other races around Canada (and beyond) and find out things that work. The Canadian Birkie here is a smaller race, but has a reputation as being very very friendly. It's not as elite driven as the Keski, but everyone who does it has great things to say about the experience.
Once again, great idea doing this, I'm sure I'll come up with other stuff, but your initial document is very good, who did most of the writing?
In my opinion, the issues are as follows (in order from higher to lower priority):
- 1. Too much parkway
- 2. Too expensive for little return
- 3. Race isn’t growing
- 4. Poor course selections/layout (e.g. sharp turn onto trail 5)
- 5. No races for younger children (e.g. 1km and 3km)
- 6. Poor website (e.g. little mention of Ottawa and Winterlude, no live video coverage of the elite race, infrequent updates, spelling errors)
- 7. Poor publicity – very little coverage in the Ottawa citizen
- 8. Very bad food post race food
In my opinion, it can be solved by,
- 1. Don’t re-invent the wheel – use lessons learned from successful events (i.e. American Birkie, Ottawa Race Weekend, Ironman hawaii)
- 2. Getting more involvement local ski clubs (e.g. Nakkertok and XC Ottawa) involved
- 3. Adding races for younger children (e.g. 1km and 3km)
- 4. Making frequent updates to the website
- 5. Reduce entry fees – especially the children’s races (and lower costs – charge for post race food)
- 6. Encourage past winners to return (elite and age group) – buildup a tradition
- 7. Have women’s elite field start ahead of the men’s elite field – offer special prize to the first man/women across the line.
- 8. Ensure elite competition not adversely affected by age group race (e.g. 2006 and Steve Cyr)
- 9. Alternate order of skate and classic races each year (e.g. Saturday vs. Sunday). If classic held on Sunday, more skaters would do it.
- 10. Update website to showcase Ottawa and Winterlude activities in order to attract more families
- 11. Plan a race course that makes it exciting for locals. This can be accomplished by using trails/terrain (e.g. Camp Fortune) that is not normally accessible.
- 12. Increase Ottawa representation on the board
I think that that producing a vision of what the Keski could be is an effective way of getting buy-in from people. It can illustrate what is a successful event:
Couple of ideas:
- You go to get your bib admist the 10,000 other participants.
- After the race you watch for yourself on the video up the climb at 5km on the large video screen which is looping over all of the skiers every 25 minutes.
- Then you watch the top 50 finishers on another screen.
- The comments that have been made on the website and by James (above) I am in general agreement with.
- The race is too expensive for what you get out of it. I wavered about going in it this year.
- The classic race is different than the skating race and should contain even less parkway than the skate race. Sharp corners etc are fine. Use the incredible natural trails that are available for classic skiing (Highland, Franks, Burma, Trail #15, Western, Race course at Camp Fortune).
- I have entered Keski approx 5 times, and completed the 53km classic the last two years.
The Keskinada needs to change or it will make itself irrelevant. The following are suggestions for improvements.
Foremost: Make sure there is a clear recognition and statement of WHY the race is being held. The race itself has evolved in terms of what it puts on, where it is held, who is targeted, and what is done. Revisit the fundamentals first - what is best for serious competitive skiing and the athletes.
There needs to be real interactive connection with the local ski community XC Ottawa's survey is a start.
French-English cooperation should make this event a positive national showcase for the future invest in successful cooperation.
The sport governing bodies (CCC and provincial xcski organizations) should be encouraged to incorporate the Keskinada as an opportunity for competitive development and racing, not merely schedule around it.
Somehow the race needs to present a real opportunity for sponsors to generate $$$ - likely this will require NATIONAL publicity and outreach.
The Keskinada committee should make use of the expertise of knowledgeable skiers and coaches in Ottawa especially those with European coaching and racing experience. The only way to evolve is to make sure we are aware of the very high standards and methods used in the organization of equivalent European events. To establish a Œworld class¹ event we need to first recognize those standards as benchmarks.
If consultants are to be relied on connect with those having a significant history of high-level ski competition International experience, if possible. We need to recognize fresh approaches.
All elements of the race need to be reviewed (and changed) - start line, ski-trail, and finish line.
Consider safety, access for skiers and supporters, quality of trail as a challenge to good technique, publicity, international standards for racing, opportunities for trail maintenance wood chip coverage, etc.).
Is the current location the best place to start can we make better use the Gatineau terrain? The parkway should be avoided.
The post-race service especially the banquet food, has been appalling. Already noted in your survey.
Pavol Skvaridlo and Rod Klassen - Athletic Directions.
You’re doing something very worthwhile with your ideas for the Keski. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1. Keskinada Membership
A number of years ago I became a member of the Keski - this opportunity was offered at the kit pickup desk. It involved a fee for membership and option for a donation - both of which I did. Since then I have been invited to the AGM and have received the complete minutes of the AGM. I’ve never been asked to renew my membership - something I would be quite happy to do (I guess I’ve become a member in perpetuity). A source of funds for the cash-strapped Keski would be to renew the membership idea - I’m sure there would be many skiers who would be more than willing to ante up a few piastres to support the Keski.
2. Wattsford Bypass
The chief problem with maintaining Penguin is the short-steep section just before Wattsford Lookout. The snow base, there, suffers from the more recreational skiers who are trying to get back to P7, and who in terror scrape the snow base away in a frozen snowplow. If the guys at the Visitors Centre could find the money to put in a bypass around the area the problem would largely disappear - e.g., extend Skyline southward to join #30 upstream from the junction with #8. This would get rid of what is probably the most dangerous place in the park and would leave the snow base on Penguin.
3. The Anglo Media Curtain
Much of what you are suggesting depends upon PR in Ottawa to make people aware of the existence of the Keski. This is particularly difficult when the English media totally ignore the Keski. The Ottawa Citizen seems to have the view that if it’s French or if it’s in Quebec it doesn’t exist; English CBC seems to have the view that any outdoor activity in the winter is impossible and is outright dangerous.
It’s disappointing when people come here, from around the world, in the anticipation that they are coming to major event and find that, outside the ski-community, nobody in Ottawa has ever heard of the Keski.
Recently The Mad Trapper’s snowshoe race in Wakefield (30 participants) received good coverage in the Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and on CBC. There has to be some way to break through the Ottawa Anglo Media Curtain.
There is much more to the Keski than a ski-race - there is considerable human interest. In my Keski story I described a late-fifties Australian who did both 53's; over the years I’ve met people of equivalent interest. Even the mini-Keski is a blast.
The chief problems is getting their attention; however, this hasn’t been easy over the years,
All the best in your efforts.
I've done two Keskis, both 50k classic, the most recent in 2003. I live in Syracuse, so the trip up is very easy. There's nothing more the Keski could do to get me there--I always look forward to going but something seems to come up. This year the Bill Koch Festival was the same weekend, so I took my son there instead.
I have no complaints about the event, though the thoughts on your report make sense. I do like the idea of a shorter race for the kids.
In answer to your request, I did a monologue rather than bullets of suggestions as did not want to focus on the negative but give happy experiences as well.
I have completed the Keski/Gatineau 55 close to 15 times. I sent in 2 suggestions a number of years ago but alas saw no changes. This year I would have entered early but the lowest cost was $80.00, one time there was a discount for Gatineau Park Pass Holders. The cost seems to have doubled in say last 3-4 years. This year I sent in an e-mail saying that cost too high as have 2 in university and just could not justify entry fee but may reconsider in a few years. If they said half went to support developing young athletes I could accept this, however if every athletic event on the Ottawa scene went that route I would not afford to compete very often. To add insult to injury as a prior entrant in race received registration in the mail that was accompanied by advertisement for a cross-country ski race in Quebec at less than half the cost that looked even more exciting simply because it would have been new terrain. Given that the park is groomed anyways and have already paid for that, the cost is even more unjustified. I can run three running races for cost of keski now or a triathlon which has three different events and lots of organization. I know the keski has organization costs also. I compete in running rarely placing out of first 3 in age group, and in open in my heyday in many 100's of races starting in mid 1960's and have classic skied for over 40 years for simple recreation. I mention this only because if one has the competitive spirit you like to be able to do your best on the day of an event but this has not been the case in the keski due to a number of factors. (I have never trained for a ski race but the Keski/Gatineau 55 is only ski event I have ever entered.
For Classic skiing the 25 k the waves start too close together and seeding is an issue. These issues cause congestion over course in the woods and especially in one part of the course where many less experienced skiers wait in line to go down. Last time I did that course I fell rather than hit a fallen skier in that famous part of course with nearly perennial bottlenecks. The next skier must have been frustrated after his wait on top and with ample space to brake skied right into my side...I still finished. I normally do this event in 2:15 to 2:45, time exception being 4 years completed event without poles due to shoulder injury. Never forget that first year when learning to ski without poles and with one k to finish line an elderly lady turned to me as she passed so proud of her accomplishment "I want you to know you have the honour of being the only person I have passed in this entire race" oddly enough this is one of my most memorable racing moments. However each year instead of being in the B wave which would make sense by my times I end up in D, E ... . I love the course and feeling of doing one competitive cross country ski race a year but feel like I am in a parking lot or in traffic on the way to work in this race. I have never had this feeling in a running race or triathlon. If waves had fewer people and started with greater time space seeding and congestion would be less of an issue. The food and water stations on course are great and at the finish...but the lunch ...if you cannot improve it drop it. Keski lunch is poor advertising and is the last part of the race that entrants ....I would like to say enjoy so that all go away on racing high instead of a downer lunch.
Draw prizes after event may keep people around and add a little more camaraderie, the feeling I feel at running races and triathlons. You know, now that I think of it don't get that feeling at Keski I think for me this was building up but started to wane when name of this well known event the Gatineau 55 that every one knew about changed to Keski... that no one could ever pronounce properly and thought changing the name did not make sense. Yes I was there the year of the great melt down after which the name was changed, finished in my tee shirt which is quite a memory for a ski race in February.
So a little of my experiences and suggestions in the K.../Gatineau 55 and of course will always remember Mike Collingwood being there to answer all questions and many years skiing event along side another good friend.