New Moon News

What is a Loppet? Why a Loppet?

Finishing the 2023 Marcialonga Worldloppet event in Italy.
Author Ron Sawdey with his wife Cissy after finishing the 2023 Marcialonga Worldloppet event in Italy.

Lumi Experiences guest Ron Sawdey from Salt Lake City, Utah took time to reflect on his 2023 trip to the Marcialonga & König Ludwig Lauf Worldloppet events in Italy, Germany and Austria. Ron’s reflections share some insider insights for both the uninitiated and Worldloppet Masters alike. Read on to learn more about the trip. If you are interested in joining the 2024 trip, there is still limited availability. 

As an Official Tour Operator of the Worldloppet, Lumi Experiences can offer guaranteed entry in the Marcialonga – one of the most popular (and fastest filling) events of the season. Reach out to by May 15 for guaranteed entry in the 2024 Marcialonga Worldloppet event.

From Ron Sawdey: 

Skiing in the Dolomites
Author Ron shows off his classic skiing technique, flanked by the stunning Dolomites.

For the uninitiated, you may have heard the words, “World Loppet”, and have had some vague notion that it has something to do with cross-country skiing.  And you would be right.

The Worldloppet is a worldwide series of citizen ski marathons, though the majority of these races take place in Europe.  Yes, there are elite, professional teams that compete in these races, but the vast majority of the skiers are very average folks.  The US has it’s own World Loppet marathon in the American Birkebeiner (often simply called “The Birkie”), held each year between Telemark and Hayward, Wisconsin.

I got talked into doing my first of these ski marathons by my good friend, Jerry Richardson.  Jerry and his wife, Angie, shepherded me through my first Birkie a number of years ago, and I’ve managed to complete two more since that initial foray.  They have been a blast, and I would heartily recommend this very American experience (try the walleye)  to anyone who has a desire to test themselves in a true ski marathon.

Evidently, this whetted my appetite to take on more of these adventures, and with another skiing buddy, Cary Martin, we took on the Vasaloppet in Sweden six years ago.  This 90km ski is undoubtedly one of the highlights of my long ski life.  It was held under near perfect conditions (low 20’s, sunny skies, and no wind), and was a long, but joyous celebration of skiing for me and several thousand of my close personal friends.

The pandemic postponed plans for the last three years, but this year, Jerry again convinced me to take on a couple more ski marathons, the Marcialonga held in the Val di Fiemme in Italy, and the King Ludwig Lauf held in Oberammergau, Germany.  Hey, while you’ve gone to the expense of traveling to Europe, why not get the most bang for your buck.  Given how difficult it was to secure a lottery entry into the Marcialonga, we opted to go through a tour operator, Lumi Experiences.  As an official tour operator for the marathon, Lumi was guaranteed starting spots in what turned out to be the 50th edition of the race.  In hindsight, this was an absolutely brilliant way to go.

Lumi leaders ski with guests.
Lumi trip leader Anna shares insights before heading out for a ski with the group.

Lumi Experiences is owned and operated by a former US XC Ski Teamer, Garrott Kuzzy, who lives and works from Innsbruck, Austria.  I have to say that Garrot has got this ski marathon tour thing dialed in.  Garrott, along with our guides, Anna and Matija, made the experience effortless and fun.  Every transportation, lodging, eating, and skiing-related detail was thought through by Garrott and his team.  This allowed us to focus on what we came to do; knock off a couple of ski marathons.  Our hotels for both races were within walking distance of the finish line and were solid 3-4 star lodging.  We were escorted to every shuttle, accompanied to the start line, and met at the finish line by Garrott, Anna or Matija (with celebratory libations in hand).  If you have a food preference, it was already communicated to the hotel staff.  If you didn’t feel like skiing, that was okay as well.  They always had suggestions for other things to do in the towns we stayed at.  For my wife, Cissy, who did not plan to race, this was a welcome option.  Perhaps best of all, Garrott arranged for wax technicians who have waxed on the WC circuit to prep our skis before each race.  We had great skis!

Lumi guests visit Austria
A city walk through the Olympic host city of Innsbruck is a highlight of the trip.

Our fellow tour companions also made this trip remarkable.  There were 16 of us from all over the US (and one great female skier from Canada), and each and every one of them were interesting, fun, and generally nice people.  Sharing a week of skiing with these people made the trip even more memorable.  I’m even plotting to do another Lumi trip for the Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet with a fellow skier from this trip.  

Garrott and company made sure that we had fun.  Our post-Marcialonga recovery day ski at Passo Lavezé, and our midweek stay in Seefeld, Austria gave us the opportunity to take relaxed tours in some of the most beautiful cross-country terrain that you can imagine.  Lumi also made sure that we had other non-skiing, fun stuff to do.  We learned how to make apple strudel at our hotel in Cavalese.  We noshed on appetizers and drank Prosecco from our hotel’s deck as the fireworks show celebrated the last finisher of the Marcialonga (yes, it’s a very long day).  We had a brush-by encounter with Johannes Klaebo at Passo Lavazé while sipping trailside schnapps.  We tried our hand at eisstockschießen (Austrian curling) in the middle of a snowstorm in Seefeld, but mostly laughed at our incompetence.  We tried to learn how to yodel with the help of an Austrian yodeling champion. Cissy and I won a gold medal (chocolate filled) for trying hard.  We careened down the slopes of a small Austrian ski resort on very cool wooden sleds in what is called rodeling.  Yes, we did try to yodel while we rodeled.

In other words; we had a ball.  I have never been so relaxed before a big marathon than I was on this trip.  And my times for these marathons probably reflect that relaxed attitude.  However, as one of the members of our tour put it; “To finish is to win!”.  I took those words to heart.

This was essential for the Marcialonga where nearly 8000 skiers toed the line that day..  After working my way up to the 2nd wave in my last Birkie, I was disappointed to find out that I was placed in the very last wave for the Marcialonga.  Evidently, based on my having no Loppet times for the last three years (damned COVID), and my advanced age (just turned 70) I was deemed a slowpoke.  I refer to it the “Geezers and Duffers” wave.  This meant literally stopping on the course while novice skiers contemplated the hill they were about to descend.  It meant trudging in place in a herringbone stance while waiting for your fellow skiers to make their way up even the most minor climbs.  I quickly adjusted my mindset to just go with it.  There was no point in getting frustrated, and all of that slow going gave me time to take in my surroundings.  Passing through villages where bands played, the local folk rang cowbells, and shouted encouragement from second floor windows are things that makes the Marcialonga unique.  It was a long but glorious day, capped off by hearing the sound of Cissy’s voice encouraging me up the last, nasty climb and then meeting me at the finish.  That was a moment I won’t soon forget.

Anna, a guide at Lumi, leads guests along the trails in Cavalese, Italy.
Skiing along the trails in Cavalese, Italy.

The König Ludwig Lauf was a much mellower affair.  There may have been a couple of thousand racers total between the Saturday skate race and the Sunday classic race.  I was still slotted into the last wave, but with so few skiers, there was no standing and waiting that day.  The day before had warmed well above freezing and we had a hard freeze overnight.  That temperature swing coupled with a very shallow snowpack created a very icy course.  This made for screaming downhills, sketchy corners, but very fast tracks.  I doubt that I have ever double-poled that much in a race.  It was fast and fun!  As always, Garrott and crew were at the finish with beer and schnapps, but they had even skied out onto the course to offer their encouragement as we made our way through the Ammergau Valley.  It was a perfect end to a perfect trip.

If you have ever considered doing a Worldloppet race, I would absolutely encourage you to do so.  Check out for a calendar of all of the Loppet races.  It does require a lot of skiing to properly prepare for a ski marathon, but if you are willing to commit the time to do that training it is readily in reach for the most average skier (me).  Where it’s possible to pull off such an adventure on your own, I must say that paying a bit more to have Lumi Experiences handle those myriad trip details is well worth the added cost.  Regardless of how you choose to do it; DO IT!