Norway’s traditional last ski race of the season this weekend, a mountain classic known as Skarverennet, was supposed to have been an eagerly anticipated battle of the superstars and a grand finale for Marit Bjørgen. Strong winds and poor visibility ended up cancelling it, also for the 12,200 others who had signed up to take part.
“The poor conditions and with the winds expected to increase, would have made it irresponsible to send the thousands of participants into the mountains,” read an official announcement from the Skarverennet organizing committee Saturday morning. The decision was made by the race jury, police, technical experts and the organizers themselves.
“This isn’t what anyone wanted,” the announcement stated, “but the safety of participants and those monitoring the race along the course must come first.”
It was a big disappointment, not only for all the skiers who already had traveled up to the area but also for sports fans who were looking forward to seeing Bjørgen ski the last race of her professional career after announcing her retirement just after Easter. Others were eager to see skiing star Therese Johaug back in action after her lengthy suspension on doping charges ended last week.
The race was also set to pit Olympic medal winners like Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Martin Johnsrud Sundby against both each other and Petter Northug, who’s also trying to mount a comeback after failing to even qualify for the Olympic team this year. Media hype had been heavy on all week, only to see the event fall victim to the weather and dangerous conditions in the mountains that also have sent avalanche danger to record high levels.
Johaug, who met reporters in Oslo last week to mark her return to the sport, will now have to wait until next season to make her debut. She claims she’s full of motivation and very keen to do very well. Bjørgen, meanwhile, now wants to withdraw from the public spotlight, spend more time with her family and ponder her next career move.
Norwegian Broadcsting (NRK) reported late Saturday that some skiers objected to the race cancellation and decided to ski the course anyway, despite all the warnings. “Some people are just crazy,” Jarle Uthus, leader of Skarverennet’s organizing committee. “They were told to take off their start numbers and that they’re skiing at their own risk.”