Cardrona Snow Farm benefits from international exposure

Imenerd Boem and Sverre Haeve are perfect examples of the benefits already flowing from a change in status for the Merino Muster cross-country ski race at the Snow Farm.

They flew from Norway to take part in the annual event on the Pisa Range above Cardrona - Ms Boem racing in the 7km ''straggle muster'' and Mr Haeve in the 21km ''snow rake''.

And the way they found the event was through it having become, earlier this year, an associate member of Worldloppet, the federation of long distance cross-country skiing events.

The couple have taken part in about 10 such events around the world, including one in Norway with a field of 16,000.

Merino Muster race director and Snow Farm founder Mary Lee is not sure she is ready for that many competitors, but is expecting a rapid rise in entries from this year's 161.

''It's taking the Merino Muster to a completely new level,'' she said while farewelling the 13-strong Norwegian team, leaving for Melbourne and their next event, the Australian Kangaroo ''Hoppet''.

The federation was founded in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1978, and now there are 16 such events around the world with 120,000 people taking part.

Mrs Lee said she would like to see the Merino Muster field double in size and the event stretch to become a week-long festival.

On Saturday, the snow was fresh, the skies were blue and the temperatures were somewhere between warm and hot.

Winner Maciej Kreczmer of Poland, described conditions as ''very good'' after completing the 42km main race in 1hr 52min 2sec.

The winner of the women's event was Justyna Kowalczyk, also from Poland.

Joanna Williamson, of Wanaka, was the only New Zealander to finish in the top three places of the men's or women's events.

Those completing shorter distances included a mother pulling along her sleeping 20-month-old son in a sled. And at the end, everyone got a medal.