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Skiing through the Engadine

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Thousands of cross-country skiers from around the world are descending on the Upper Engadine Valley for this weekend's ski marathon.

This content was published on March 6, 2002 - 11:39

Sunday's race is the largest cross-country marathon in the world, normally attracting about 12,000 participants each year. Thousands of spectators line the route.

The organisers say the race can be held on the original course despite a lack of snow this winter. The scenic route begins in Maloja before crossing the valley's frozen lakes and finishing 42 kilometres later in the village of S-chanf.

New snow

Between 30 and 60 centimetres of snow has fallen in the Engadine over the past few days, sufficient for preparing the track.

A shorter, alternate route had been made ready.

Many entrants are serious competitors - last year's winner finished in 1:24:22, others simply take part because of the unique atmosphere. And some would swear that cross-country skiing is the secret to a long and healthy life.

The oldest entrant this year is in his 90s, and he will be joined by a dozen octogenarians at the starting blocks.

Visitors from afar

There are entrants from nearly 40 countries and from such unlikely places as Hong Kong, Brazil and Tanzania.

There will be refreshment stands along the course for participants and spectators alike, and alphorn musicians will play once again for the skiers as they race down the final stretch.

When the first race was held in 1969, cross-country skiing was a relatively new sport. There were about 900 entrants that first year.

Gone are the days of the spectacular mass start. Since 1993, competitors are allocated to 10 - 15 minute blocks.

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