Changes Ahead for 2012 Boreal Loppet

Changes are coming for the 2012 Boréal Loppet in Forestville, Québec.

Like many citizens’ races across North America, the Boréal Loppet offers multiple distance and technique options for the  athletes.  Traditionally, the headline event has been the 100 km freestyle race.  The 100 winds through the forest over one long loop in the ZEC Forestville, a 1300 square kilometer provincial preserve studded with lakes and steep hills outside Forestville.  At 103 km, the Boréal Loppet was longer than Sweden’s Vasaloppet and Colorado’s Coureur du Bois.

Because of logging scheduled for part of the race route, the 100 km is no more, at least for the near term.  For 2012, the race distances are recalibrated.  A 63 km freestyle or classic race over a new loop is the longest event.  The seven and 27 km distances are held over from previous years.  The 54 km race, which was two laps of the 27 km loop last year, is no more.  The 14 km event is changed to 12.5 km.

“We were a little disappointed” to end the 100 km, said Eric Maltais, the race’s communications and marketing director.  “Two logging companies are coming in,” he added.  The loggers will harvest both deciduous trees and evergreens on a tract north of kilometer 18 on the 100 km loop.  Loggers are expected to work this stretch of land for 10-15 years.

view of boreal loppet course about 4 km after the start

An early section of the Boreal Loppet course

Maltais explained that it wasn’t possible to reroute that section of the race due to rough terrain.

In addition, Maltais said, “We got a lot of feedback that the race was too hard.  A lot of people told us 100 km was too long, so we decided” to run a 62 km loop.

Organizing support for the 100 km wasn’t easy.  “The big challenge was security,” Maltais continued.  “Every year we need about 25 volunteers on snowmobiles” to cover the vast tract of land.  Another four to six people staff each aid station.  In remote sections of the park, volunteers pitched tents and had propane stoves to provide warm drinks for racers.  The 63 km event will require four fewer aid stations than the 100 km.

Grooming was also tougher than for a shorter loop.  The night before the race, two grooming machines set out.  One groomed the east side of the course on an out-and-back basis.  A second machine went out and back on the west side.  Each machine spent 10 to 12 hours setting up its section of the trail.

Last year, the Boréal Loppet had 208 participants, with 29 signed up for the 100 km skate.  One year saw 45 skiers in the 100 km, but most years, the entries were fewer.

When the loggers are done, would they resume offering the 100 km distance?

“I don’t think so,” Maltais replied.  He estimated that the 100 km race would need 70 entrants to be worthwhile.

As promised by mayor Micheline Anctil last year, the organizers are offering an excursion package for 2012.  There’s a round-trip bus ride east from Montréal, with additional stops at Québec City, Trois Rivières and La Malbaie.  The package also includes two nights’ lodging, meals and registration for your choice of event.

“We don’t expecting to make money,” on the excursion bus, “that’s not the purpose,” said Maltais.  The goal is to make it easier for people to get to the race.