Had the inaugural Yukon Ski Marathon taken place when it was originally scheduled, there wouldn’t have been a World Cup medalist to take part — and win it.
With the event postponed a month due to cold temperatures, Whitehorse’s Knute Johnsgaard had a 50-kilometre homecoming on April 2 after a season of FIS World Cup racing.
“Thanks to the cold weather here this season, I actually got to take part in this,” said Johnsgaard. “It’s an awesome event and I hope it catches on even more.”
The national team skier took first in the open men’s 50-kilometre with a time of two hours, 14 minutes and 22.7 seconds.
It was his first time racing in the territory since Whitehorse hosted last year’s nationals.
“That was super fun. I think it was the first time I’ve ever done a point-to-point race like this,” said Johnsgaard. “It was super well organized and conditions were great, really fast, so it was over really quick. It’s hard to believe we just got dropped off at Mount Lorne and it’s lunch time and we’re eating pizza.”
Johnsgaard won a bronze with the Canadian men’s team in the 4×7.5-kilometre relay at an FIS World Cup this past January in Sweden. With the medal Johnsgaard has met criteria to represent Canada at the next Winter Olympics. He’s the first Yukon-born skier ever to make the podium at a World Cup event.
Race organizer Colin Abbott finished just 0.6 seconds behind his former his former Yukon Elite Squad teammate.
“This race was inspired by a lot of other distance races in North America and in Europe where they celebrate routes that connect communities,” said Abbott. “Most big, popular ski races are point-to-point, 50 kilometres or longer, and we thought that was something we should have here. And there are no skate-ski races in the Yukon that are popular, so we looked at this route and it fit this criteria. There are little segments of trail all the way up the Whitehorse valley and we found a route to connect them all.”
Over 180 skiers registered for the event and over 150 participated.
With temperatures around freezing, a warm sun making the snow fast, and a 20-kilometre an hour tailwind for sections of the course, there were a lot of fast times.
Whitehorse’s Kendra Murray took first in the open women’s 50-kilometre race, completing the course from Mount Lorne to the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club in 2:31:28.7.
“That’s so fast,” said Murray. “The part from Sima until we get back on the Mount McIntyre trails was so fast. It was slightly downhill and the snow was so fast and we had a tailwind. We were just flying.”
To put things in perspective, Murray won women’s 50-kilometre title the previous weekend at the Buckwheat Ski Classic in Fraser, B.C. with a time 44 minutes longer. Though it’s worth noting she skate-skied the Yukon race while the Buckwheat is a classic technique event.
“It was super fast, a great course, such a great vibe too — everybody was so great on the trail,” said Murray, 23. “It was a great race. I hope it takes place next year.”
The Yukon Ski Marathon also included 20-kilometre divisions that began in the Mount Sima area.
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Open male 50-kilometre
1st Knute Johnsgaard 2:14:22.7
2nd Colin Abbott 2:14:23.3
3rd Matthias Purdon 2:14:28.5
4th David Greer 2:15:07.2
5th Stephen Waterreus 2:20:03.6
Open female 50-kilometre
1st Kendra Murray 2:31:28.7
2nd Verena Koenig 2:57:42.4
3rd Sara Nielsen 2:58:16.2
4th Jody Eikelboom 3:04:32.5
5th Jane Vincent 3:06:02.7
Open male 20-kilometre
1st Sasha Masson 54:36.9
1st Derek Deuling 54:36.9
1st Nichollis Schmidt 54:36.9
1st Victor Thibeault 54:36.9
5th Romeo Champagne 54:57.3
Open female 20-kilometre
1st Julie McVicar 56:15.3
2nd Amanda Thomson 57:43.8
3rd Hannah Jirousek 57:44.3
4th Vesta Mather 57:54.1
5th Pippa Lawson 59:19.5
Junior male 20-kilometre
1st Felix Masson 1:02:28.3
2nd Isidore Champagne 1:04:02.8
3rd Noah Connell 1:04:25.3
4th Simon Connell 1:04:45.7
5th Louis Mouchet 1:10:47.4
Junior female 20-kilometre
1st Bella Mouchet 1:17:16.6
1st Maude Molgat 1:17:16.6
3rd Lisa Freeman 1:30:50.6