This year’s National Masters championships will be held in Anchorage, Alaska, the first week of March, according to a recent press release from American Cross Country Skiers.
There will be 10-kilometer classic race on Friday, March 3, then a distance skate marathon, the Tour of Anchorage, on the morning of Sunday, March 5. Best combined finish between the two races wins (for each qualifying age group, age 30–34 and up).
The middle day, March 4, sees the ceremonial start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, starting in a festive atmosphere in downtown Anchorage and covering some of the same trails used for the Tour the following day. Anchorage’s longtime winter carnival, Fur Rendezvous, an event that pre-dates statehood by several decades, will also be happening that weekend.
The flagship Tour of Anchorage is a 50-kilometer, point-to-point race, ranging from the Chugach foothills on the east side of town to Kincaid Park at the west edge of the Anchorage metropolitan area. In between, racers traverse ski trails, city greenbelts, and bike trails until they reach the Coastal Trail multiuse trail, at which point they cover 15km along the shores of the Pacific Ocean before ascending a hill to finish at Kincaid. It is truly a tour through the heart of Anchorage, and, along with races in the Twin Cities, the relatively rare urban ski marathon.
The 40km route spans much of the same area, but drops the largest hills at Hillside at the start of the race. The 25km route starts in Midtown, covers primarily bike trails, and is largely flat.
While equal-distance racing has come to the World Cup and to high-level domestic racing in this country, the official championship distances for National Masters still reflect a gender-based discrepancy.
Friday’s classic race is 10 kilometers for all ages and genders. In Sunday’s skate marathon, while any athlete may enter any race they wish, the official distances for national masters championships scoring are as follows:
50-kilometer skate: men age 30–59
40-kilometer skate: men age 60–74 and women age 30–69
25-kilometer skate: men age 75+ and women age 70+
For perspective, five of the top ten women finishers in last year’s 50km Tour, and 13 of the top 20, were aged 30–59. The top two spots went to Jessica Yeaton, 30, and Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, 32.
The women’s 30–39 age group was by far the deepest division of the 2022 Tour of Anchorage 50km skate, with over half the field hailing from that age group. Participation numbers were relatively equal between the two longer distances, with 61 women completing the 50km and 69 women completing the 40km.
Athletes are free to choose any distance or technique for the Tour of Anchorage that they like. “But as per AXCS National Masters tradition, only skiers completing the ‘official’ designated distance and technique for your age/gender category will count towards honorary AXCS National Masters Championship podium status,” American Cross Country Skiers said in a press release.
“There is no separate registration for the 2023 AXCS National Masters overlaid on the regular Tour of Anchorage events,” the press release advises. “You’ll just sign up for the distance you want to ski online like any other Tour of Anchorage year and away you go. NSAA [Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage] will provide a special sign-up for the 10km classic race.”
— Gavin Kentch