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This season's Masters World Championships - Vuokatti, Finland

Why?

 

Vuokatti, in the centre of Finland, is perhaps best known for its ski tunnel, a misnomer, in fact, because it isn’t a tunnel at all but is, instead, built entirely above ground. It’s also the venue of a successful MWC back in 2016, where GBR had a large team, as well as being one of the ‘homes’ of cross-country skiing in Finland. So they certainly know how to put on a successful event.

 

Vuokatti is also known for its huge pile of snow, 70 000 m3 to be precise, stored from one year to the next under sawdust and laid out early in the season, allowing on-snow skiing from October and, consequently, makes Vuokatti popular with top National Ski Teams. For 2024, the tracks have been changed and improved, as has the start and finish area, but everything is within easy walking distance of the accommodation, of which there is now a lot more.

                                       Superb conditions is what we can look forward to! This was the Masters in 2016.

So if you’ve already warmed up by racing in the World Winter Masters Games in Italy (see elsewhere), or if this is your main racing trip of the season, please sign up and get in contact with me, aapinney@ntlworld.com. If you want more information, go to the MWC2024 website, where you can also sign up for the event newsletter, https://mwc2024.com.

 

Travel

 

There are many ways to get to Vuokatti (see the map below) and all of them are very easy, although flying is most probably the best way.

 

By plane: fly, in preference, to Helsinki and, from Helsinki, there are several flights per day to Kajaani, the nearest airport. Flights are currently a bit on the expensive side if using British Airways or Finnair, but there is a cheaper Ryannair flight from Stansted. I might suggest that it’s better to look at flights outside of peak times, likely to be Wednesday/Thursday/Friday immediately before the event, and Saturday/Sunday after it.

 

If you arrive at Kajaani airport, situated 40 km from Vuokatti, there is a bus connection from the airport to the resort (which takes about 30 minutes). You will need to pay for this and, from memory, it’s about €15 each way. Flights from Helsinki to Kajaani take around 1 hour 20 minutes.

 

The next two closest airports are Oulu and Kuopio, Oulu to the north and Kuopio to the south, and both about 200 km from Vuokatti. These might be viable alternatives if flights to Kajaani are full or expensive. If you are thinking of either of these other airports, you should reckon on 2-2 ½ hours to reach Vuokatti, most likely by bus.

 

By rail: The nearest train station is in Kajaani and there are several trains per day from Helsinki or different destinations (I’m not sure, though, of direct trains from either Oulu or Kuopio). These trains tie up with the local buses which go directly to Voukatti. It takes about 6 hours to get to Kajaani from Helsinki by train.

 

It used to be the case that getting a train having arrived at Helsinki airport involved an expensive bus trip into the centre of the city. This is now no longer the case, though, because there is the new Tikkurila railway interchange. The Ring Rail line is a new rail line that links long distance rail travel with air transport. So, arriving at Helsinki airport, you take Ring Rail to Tikkurila Travel Centre (8 minutes) and, from there, you can get trains heading north.

 

By bus: There are long-distance buses to bring passengers straight to Vuokatti, and buses in Finland are generally reliable, comfortable, on time and cheap. Travelling by road is safe and easy as the roads in Finland are well maintained and the traffic volumes are low. If you do go by road, you will see a lot of snow, a lot of trees, quite a few rocks and the occasional puunainen tuupaa (little red cottage).

 

Where?

 

As the map below shows, Vuokatti is pretty much bang in the middle of Finland, 570 km from Helsinki.

The tracks

 

Everyone who attended the autumn WMA meeting in Vuokatti (myself included) last year were impressed with the tracks and these, as I said above, have been changed and improved. By way of example, below is the 10 km track map and profile:

You will see that the profile is mainly rolling, which is true of all tracks. The long uphill and fast downhill of the 2016 tracks has gone, and the whole track is a lot more ‘compact’ than previously. These are by no means easy tracks, they are withing Master specification and there will be a ‘normal’ amount of climbing. But the climbs are predominantly short and sharp, rather then long drags. I believe that these courses should be excellent.

 

Accommodation

 

I’ve already booked two 5-person self-catering apartments within a short walking distance of the Sports Institute and the stadium, from Wednesday 7th to Saturday 17th February, but this can probably be extended at either end. These apartments are €200 per night, so just €40 per person if full. If you wish to add meals, full board costs €32 per day, or you can buy individual meals in the restaurant. To reserve a bed, just let me know, giving your estimated arrival and departure dates.

 

Of course, there are plenty of other accommodation places and types (but not many hotels) elsewhere in Voukatti, if you want to be a solitary, miserable b*****d.

 

The usual principles will apply as regards payment. If you come after the 7th or leave before the 17th, the cost of the empty bed will be shared by some indefinable formula devised by myself among everyone, including the person absent. In addition, if you land up inadvertently occupying a twin room on your own, because there’s an odd number of us, then again the cost of the empty bed is shared among everyone. If you opt for a twin room on your own, though, then you pay for both beds! The same principle applies if you arrive before or leave after these dates, but it avoids one or two people having to pay the full daily rate on their own.

 

When

 

The event takes place formally from Friday 9th until Friday 16th February (leaving Saturday if you want to attend the banquet). I’m anticipating, though, that most people will arrive on Wednesday 7th and leave on Saturday but, if you want to stay until Sunday (to avoid the crush of people wanting to fly home on Saturday), I’m pretty sure that this could be arranged. The tracks will officially be open for training on Saturday but it is also possible to train on the race tracks before that. With the change in schedule for MWCs, both classic and free middle and short distance races take place on Sunday and Monday respectively, while the classic is on Thursday and free on Friday.

 

Average temperature in Vuokatti in February is -11.2 oC. So there should be plenty of snow, and cold temperatures should mean none of that messing around with warm stick waxes or klister. But packing those extra layers of thermal underway might need to be uppermost on your to-do list!

 

Further information

 

Entry is not yet open; this will come soon when, as always, it will be on the general website, www.mwc2024.com. All you need to do is complete the entry form, pay the entry fee and you’re good to go. Note that entry is cheaper before the end of December, €220, after which it rises to €250.

 

I can also provide more information about accommodation.

 

And finally, I hope that this is the year when we put forward a very large team, so if I start hassling you to join us, then you should not be surprised. The way to avoid any hassling, of course, is to volunteer yourself!

                                                              Finland can be outstanding in winter – will you join us?

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