Worldloppet inspector and race organiser Epp Paal, of
Estonia, has been skiing the Snow Farm course ahead of
today's Merino Muster. Photo by Catherine Pattison.
Worldloppet Ski Federation inspector and race organiser
Estonian Epp Paal will be able to report back first-hand on how
well the 19th annual Merino Muster, at the Snow Farm, is run
She has entered the 21km race option.
Mrs Paal will spend four days at the Snow Farm inspecting the
course, monitoring preparations for the race and generally
assessing the Merino Muster's suitability to be sanctioned as
an associated Worldloppet member.
Worldloppet is an international sports federation of
cross-country skiing marathons, founded in 1978 in Uppsala,
Only the best race from each country can become a member of
Worldloppet. Mrs Paal told the Otago Daily Times
yesterday she was impressed by the Snow Farm, which she was
visiting for the first time.
Its high alpine setting made for spectacular views and it was
not based on pine forests as many of the European Worldloppet
''I think it's interesting - different from the other race
courses I have seen around the world. That is the main reason
for many international skiers to come here.''
She was also assessing infrastructure external to the race,
such as information available about it, transportation, and
nearby amenities, such as accommodation and restaurants.
''It's good to see here people are very motivated to do a
good race,'' she said.
Many of the 80,000 to 135,000 participants in the Worldloppet
races each year had been to all 16 Worldloppet-sanctioned
events and were looking for fresh pastures, Mrs Paal said.
''Their goal for the trip is the ski race and they stay for
Merino Muster chairman John Burridge said becoming an
associated Worldloppet member was ''hugely important''.
''It is something that Mary [Lee, the former owner of the
Snow Farm] and I have dreamt of since we started the Merino
Worldloppet would change the Merino Muster from a local race,
which a few international competitors attended, to a race
exposed to a global community of cross-country skiers, he
The Merino Muster begins today at 10am with the 42km distance
athletes, including 2010 Winter Olympic gold medallist
Justyna Kowalczyk, of Poland, and New Zealand biathlete Sarah
Five minutes after they leave, the 21km racers head out,
followed five minutes later again by the 7km competitors.