As we move into the spring, our ski calendar fills up with loppets.

The word loppet (as with many ski terms) is Norwegian, but the definition is the same the world over. A loppet is a long, mass participation event geared towards the casual skier rather than the hard core racer. It’s skied on a relatively easy, controlled course and skiers are given a time.

In Scandinavia, loppets are a big deal. The Swedish Vasaloppet boasts 15,000 participants on its 90-km course and receives live TV coverage with 1.7 million viewers.

With numbers like that, it’s obvious that everyone doesn’t think they have a chance at winning. Except for a very few, the goal is fun rather than glory.

It’s the same at the ski club here in Whitehorse.

Our premier one-day participation event is the Northwestel Yukon Loppet. It will be held on March 5 this year, the 28th edition of the event.

Like its ancestors in Scandinavia, our local loppet is all about having fun and participating. It’s a family event and everyone is welcome (although we do ask you to leave the family dog behind).

For some, it’s an opportunity to challenge longer than normal distances. For others, it’s just an excuse to go skiing with a bunch of friends.

Distances are geared to all levels and it would be hard to find a local skier not capable of challenging one of the courses offered. And yes, there will be a few lycra-clad speedsters holding down the front of the pack, but those at the rear will be having more fun.

There are still a few weeks to go before you line up at the start line, so here are a few things to think about in the meantime.

If you aren’t already familiar with it, ski your chosen course before the big day so you’ll know what to expect. Nothing like getting caught by surprise when a hill or a tricky corner unexpectedly pops up.

Maps of the various courses will be posted in the waxroom by the middle of February and the various courses will be marked a week or so before the event, giving lots of opportunities to check things out.

If you are worried about what wax to use, the ski club will be hosting another in its popular Coast Mountain Wax & Wine series the night before the event. These are great social events and worth a visit, whether you are a novice or a veteran.

Start the day well hydrated. It’s pretty amazing how much fluid you can lose, even on a cold day when you don’t necessarily feel thirsty.

In an event like the loppet, it’s important not to start out too fast. Pacing is critical in skiing and a minute gained in the early stages will be lost later on if you go too fast too early.

Loppets are always mass start events, so line up with skiers of similar speeds. That way you won’t be tripping over other skiers and you won’t be tempted to go too fast if you get mixed in with skiers faster than you.

Starting out slowly also helps you with your technique. Skiing distances is all about technique; think smooth, think glide. Starting out too quickly can destroy your technique and chew up that efficient stride you have been practising.

Remember weight shift, stretch out those skis and glide.

One of the nice things about loppets they always seem to feature aid stations at some point along the trail. Think chocolate! Powerade! Smiling volunteers! Other delights! Wow!

Now you have completed the course and the finish line is in sight. Pick up your speed a bit (important to look good here), one last check on that technique and you are done.

Have a drink (there are always drinks at the finish line) and start working on war stories to tell your friends at the evening awards banquet.

Entry forms are available at the ski club, Coast Mountain Sports and at Icycle Sports. Or check on the internet at www.xcskiwhitehorse.ca. Early registration deadline is February 19 and entries will be accepted until February 26.

See you on the trails.

Claude Chabot is executive director of the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club. If you have questions about the club or its extensive network of trails, you can reach Claude at ed@xcskiwhitehorse.ca