James Meier
Lorne Runge  /  AP
In this file photo, James Meier competes in the Canadian Ski Marathon from Lachute, Quebec, to Gatineau, Quebec. If you like looking good and going fast the Canadian Ski Marathon isn't for you. The world's longest ski tour, 100 miles over two days, is all about old-style adventure, camaraderie and finishing, if you can.
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updated 1/10/2011 11:57:16 AM ET 2011-01-10T16:57:16

Skiing 100 miles over two days is hard enough. Try doing it carrying a 30-pound pack and camping out overnight in temperatures that can drop below zero.

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Welcome to the Canadian Ski Marathon, where an emphasis on adventure and camaraderie return cross-country skiing to its origins.

"I really like that it's a classic event," says Mary Peabody, referring to the marathon's traditional kick-and-glide skiing. "So much of skiing nowadays is skating. You go fast and look cool. This kind of brings it down to the roots of skiing."

First run in 1967 as part of Canada's centennial celebration, the world's longest ski tour follows a route just north of the Ottawa River in Quebec's Western Laurentian Mountains. The course is broken into 10 sections, five each day, of approximately 10 miles each.

Though the trail is modified some years because of snow conditions, it traditionally runs between Lachute on the outskirts of Montreal and Gatineau just north of Ottawa. The starting point alternates each year, but the overnight is always in Montebello.

Participation peaked at about 3,500 people in the '80s and organizers expect about 2,000 entries for the 45th edition on Feb. 12-13. Skiers can register the day before, but the cost goes up beginning next Friday.

Those who want to ski all 100 miles enter the Coureur des Bois category, which is named for the woodsmen who skied and snowshoed between the traps they set in the region's streams and forests.

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There is also a general Tourer division and further breakdowns for age and gender, as well as for families and teams.

Tourers do as many or as few segments as they wish each day.

That's what Peabody, from Keene, N.Y., did last year with her daughter Maeve, then 12, and her husband, Michael. It was Maeve's second year and they skied two sections each day, covering about 28 miles the first and 22 the second.

"If you want it to be, it's a very family-oriented thing," Peabody says. "Little kids are out there skiing 10 to 15 kilometers. Parents switch off days, with one skiing on their own while the other skis with the kids. Then the next day they switch places."

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Aid stations at the end of each leg provide food, drinks, restrooms, waxing stands, and shuttle buses to other checkpoints and accommodations.

"It's kind of this huge party on skis," Peabody says. "Three-quarters of the people are out there doing the same thing you are, plodding along and having fun."

The Coureur des Bois, literally "runner of the woods", are the one-quarter who are on a mission. Starting off at 6 a.m., the fastest finish the 50 miles in about eight hours, while the back of the pack will straggle in 12 hours later, finishing as they started, in the dark by headlamp.

The Courer des Bois category is broken into three levels, with skiers needing to achieve one before they can attempt the next.

It starts with the bronze, which requires skiers to cover all 100 miles. The next step is the silver, in which they must cover the entire course carrying an 11-pound pack. Those in the gold level Coureur des Bois carry a pack with sleeping bag, food, cooking utensils and clothing so they can camp out at the end of the first day.

A tent adds too much weight, so John Hardie usually brings a light tarp he can throw over his sleeping bag if it rains or snows.

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"My pack usually ends up weighing 25 pounds," says Hardie, a member of the CSM board who has skied in the event 32 straight years.

"At gold camp, it's actually quite luxurious," he says. "You're given two hay bales, one to sit on and one to break out on the snow to put your sleeping bag on."

A fire, firewood and hot water also are provided for each campsite of six to eight skiers.

The 67-year-old Hardie is among the 269 people who have earned a coveted permanent bib number by completing the gold level five times. "I wanted Wayne Gretzky's number, but someone beat me to it," says Hardie, who missed by two and got No. 101.

Though only 12 of the permanent bibs belong to women, with most being earned in the last 10 years, Sharon Crawford of Frisco, Colo., has racked up 23 gold medals since 1981.

"She was the pioneer," Hardie says. "One tough cookie."

Kjell Dahlen is hoping to join their ranks this year.

The 64-year-old eye surgeon from Plattsburgh, N.Y., first skied in the CSM about eight years ago when he was looking for motivation to train after learning he had high cholesterol.

"The camaraderie is one of the reasons that I keep coming back," Dahlen says. "Also, I need some kind of incentive to keep working out. I tell myself, 'I need to work out or I'm going to kill myself in the Canadian Ski Marathon.'"

Dahlen, who skied growing up in Norway, completed all 100 miles in his first attempt, though he wasn't sure he was going to make it.

Even though it's not a timed event, "you may be racing to reach that last section," Dahlen says of the 3:15 p.m. cutoff each day after which skiers aren't allowed to begin the fifth section.

Skiing with a pack, Dahlen's weighs about 30 pounds, adds a significant challenge.

"When you're carrying that much on your back it affects your balance," he says.

Not only do you have to work harder going up, but the extra weight throws you off going downhill and makes the tricky descents for which the CSM is known even more challenging.

While Peabody, Hardie and Dahlen all live in places where they can do most of their training on skis, James Meier doesn't have that luxury. "It is murder trying to get in shape for this living in New York City," the 66-year-old management consultant says.

If there's snow, he'll ski in Manhattan's Riverside Park. Another training staple is strapping on a pack and hiking the stairs in his apartment building. He augments that with swimming and skiing in state parks north of the city on weekends.

"It's really putting it together in different ways to make it work," he says of his training.

He's doing something right. Meier has skied as a Coureur des Bois for 26 years, succeeding about two-thirds of the time.

"With the changing weather and snow conditions, you just never know what to expect," he says. "In a sense it's a different race every year."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explainer: Cheers! Eight great après ski cocktails

  • Crème brulee martini, anyone? We've looked to some of our favorite restaurants in ski country to find out what they're serving. Here's how to mix up your own.

  • Crème Brulee Martini

    Image: Creme brulee martini
    Skiing Magazine
    Take Frangelico and Cointreau, add a crushed-graham-cracker rim, and you've got a creme brulee martini.

    Vanilla vodka is mixed with Frangelico and Cointreau, shaken and served in a chilled cocktail glass with a crushed-graham-cracker rim.

    Find it at: Plato’s, Aspen Meadows Resort in Aspen, Colo.

  • Brandy Avondale

    Image:
    Skiing Magazine

    Baileys, Tuaca, rich Godiva chocolate liqueur and cream are added to brandy, shaken and strained into a snifter. It’s garnished with ground nutmeg, cinnamon and cocoa.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Spruce's High West Toddy

    Image: High West Toddy
    Skiing Magazine

    The bartender at Spruce Restaurant creates this warm specialty with local High West Rendezvous Rye combined with Chamomile tea, honey water, lemon juice, cloves and a cinnamon stick. It’s garnished with a lemon peel for a bit of tang.

    Find it at: Dakota Mountain Lodge, The Canyons, Utah.

  • The Hot Teddy

    Image: Hot Teddy
    Skiing Magazine

    A delicious mix of Baileys, Grand Marnier, Frangelico and Goldschlager steamed with vanilla soymilk and topped with chocolate sprinkles.

    Find it at: The Westin Riverfront, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Pumpkin Pie

    Image: Pumpkin Pie
    Skiing Magazine

    Pumpkin puree, Wild Turkey or Kentucky bourbon, maple syrup and house make chai syrup are shaken with ice and topped with sparkling wine, then strained into a chilled martini glass with a cinnamon sugar rim.

    Find it at: Kelly Liken, Beaver Creek, Colo.

  • Old Saint Nick

    Image: Old Saint Nick
    Skiing Magazine
    Containing Jim Beam, Dark Rum and White Cr?me de Cacao, the Old Saint Nick is sure to make you jolly.

    A frothy combination of eggnog, Jim Beam, Myers Dark Rum, White Crème de Cacao and nutmeg to warm you from the inside out.

    Find it at: The Vail Cascade, Vail, Colo.

  • The Snowball

    Image:
    Skiing Magazine
    Y ou'll be climbing every mountain when you down one of the Snowball cocktails served at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt.

    Grey Goose Vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream are combined in a shaker and strained over crushed ice into a martini glass. Topped with a scoop of foamed milk and garnished with a cinnamon stick

    Find it at: Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, Vt.

  • The Falcon Burner

    Image: Falcon Burner
    Skiing Magazine

    This tall, hot double-shot cappuccino with Grand Marnier is topped with fresh Vermont whipped cream and drizzled with local maple syrup.

    Find it at: The Equinox, Manchester, Vt.

Photos: Popular ski and snowboard playgrounds in America

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  1. Heavenly run

    Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif., offers skiers 91 trails and 4,800 acres of terrain. (Corey Rich courtesy of Heavenly Ski Resort ) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Busy at Beaver Creek

    Colorado's Beaver Creek Snow Resort averages 311 inches of snow per year, gets 300 days of sun and offers more than 1,800 acres of skiable terrain. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Beaver Creek Snow Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Oh boy, Alberta

    Whiskey Jack Lodge is pictured at the foot of the ski hills in Lake Louise, Alberta, Canada. Lake Louise Ski Resort is one of the larger ski areas in North America with 4,200 acres of terrain. (Andy Clark / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. 2-mile-high club

    Looking for a high-elevation rush? The base center at Utah's Snowbird Ski Resort sits at 8,100 feet. The resort's highest point, Hidden Peak, climbs to 11,000 feet. (Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Va-va-va-Vail

    Vail, Colo., located west of Denver, is one North America's better-known ski towns. Vail Ski Resort features more than 5,200 acres of skiable terrain over 193 trails. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Après ski

    Skiers and snowboarders can do more than hit the slopes in Vail, Colo. Visitors can visit spas, go shopping and enjoy nightlife, festivals and family-friendly activities. (Jack Affleck courtesy of Vail Ski Resorts) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Take a Telluride

    Also located in Colorado, Telluride Ski Resort has 18 lifts, 120 trails, more than 2,000 acres of terrain, and features "Galloping Goose," the resort's longest run (4.6 miles). (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Road trip!

    Ski and snowboard enthusiasts can easily drive to Telluride from the Four-Corner states. Located in Southwestern Colorado, the drive time is seven hours from Denver and Phoenix, 2 1/2 hours from Grand Junction, Colo., and 2 1/4 hours from Moab, Utah and Durango, Colo. (Telluride Ski & Golf) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Stowe away

    Stowe Ski Resort is smaller when compared to competition west of the Mississippi, but it is a hot spot in the Northeast. The area offers 485 acres of terrain, but an average trail length of 3,600 feet -- longer than any other New England resort, its Web site boasts. (Stowe Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Great spot for beginners

    Buttermilk Ski Resort is small compared to some of its Colorado neighbors. Located just outside Aspen, Buttermilk has carved out its niche by focusing on snowboarders and beginners. Buttermilk offers 435 acres of terrian over 44 runs. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Experience required

    Aspen Mountain is the backdrop for a horse and carriage ride in downtown Aspen, Colo. Aspen Mountain features 76 trails -- 48 percent considered "more difficult," 26 percent "most difficult" and 26 percent "expert." If you're a beginner, you probably want to get your feet wet some place less daunting. (Hal Williams Photography Inc.) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Take a hike

    Members of Aspen Center for Enviromental Studies (ACES) take a snowshoe tour in Ashcroft, Colo.Ashcroft Ski Touring/Cross-Country Area offers about 22 miles of groomed trails, and is located 11 miles from Aspen. (Courtesy of ACES) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Lock and Keystone

    Another popular ski option in Colorado is Keystone Ski Area, located about 90 minutes from Denver International Airport. The area features 20 ski lifts, two gondolas and more than 3,100 acres of terrain. (Bob Winsett courtesy of Keystone Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Grab a six-peak

    Vermont's Killington Ski Resort stretches across six peaks. Skiers and snowboarders can reach the area's 752 acres of terrain with 22 lifts. (Killington Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Beautiful Breckenridge

    Big crowds may descend on Colorado's ski resorts, but that shouldn't be a problem at Breckenridge. The resort has two high-speed SuperChairs, seven high-speed quad lifts, a triple lift, six double lifts, and others, giving it the ability to move nearly 38,000 people per hour. (Carl Scofieldd courtesy of Breckenridge) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Bring the family

    Smuggler's Notch in Vermont bills itself as "America's Family Resort," and offers services, activities and education aimed at making sure everyone in your clan has fun. (Smuggler's Notch Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. 63 years and going strong

    Colorado's Arapahoe Basin has been operating since 1946. "The inaugural season opened with a single rope tow and $1.25 daily lift tickets," its Web site reads. Prices and equipment surely have changed, but "A-Basin" offers the skiers and snowboarders 900 acres of terrain -- more than half above the timberline. (Arapahoe Basin) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Long way down

    Utah's Alta Ski Area is scheduled to remain open through April 18, 2010. It features 2,200 acres of terrain, more than 100 runs and an average snowfall of 500 inches per season. It does not, however, allow snowboards. (Alta Ski Area) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Not for the faint of heart

    Of the 116 runs at Jackson Hole Ski Resort in Wyoming, 50 percent are "expert" and 40 percent are "intermediate." That's great news if you pass up the bunny slopes for some challenging skiing and snowboarding. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. On -- or off -- the beaten path

    Jackson Hole Ski Resort offers 2,500 acres of terrain, plus an open backcountry gate system that offers access to an additional 3,000 acres. (Jackson Hole Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Sun Valley -- how original

    Seriously. Idaho's Sun Valley, started in 1936, claims it is the original ski resort. "Born out of a desire to bring the magic of the European ski resorts to America, Sun Valley quickly became a phenomenon without peer on this continent or any other," its Web site boasts. (Sun Valley Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Do you believe in miracles?

    American Shaun White is pictured competing during the Nokia Halfpipe Snowboard FIS World Cup on March 4, 2005 at Whiteface Mountain in Lake Placid, N.Y. Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympics twice -- in 1932 and 1980 -- and offers a variety of activities, including downhill skiing, cross-country skiing, ski jumping, ice skating and more. (Ezra Shaw / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Old West reminder

    Seven thousand feet up in the Colorado Rockies, nestled quietly below one of the largest ski mountains in North America, sits a small ranching community that serves as a constant reminder that the Old West is alive and well. Never far from its ranching roots, Steamboat remains firmly linked to a Western tradition that sets it apart from every other ski resort in the world. (Larry Pierce courtesy of Steamboat) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Big skiing in Big Sky Country

    Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Mont., collects 300 inches of snow each year and features 3,000 acres of terrain, 94 marked trails and a 3.3-mile run called Hellfire. (Donnie Clapp courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Sweet on Sugarloaf

    Sugarloaf Ski Resort features 1,400 acres of skiable terrain, including Tote Road, a 3.5-mile-long stretch running from summit to base. Sugarloaf's redesigned terrain park features the 400 foot long Superpipe, a magnet for snowboarders throughtout the region. Portland and Bangor offer airport service to Sugarloaf, and Boston and Montreal are four short hours away. (Grant Klene courtesy of Sugarloaf Ski Resort) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Crossing borders

    With more than 400 inches of snow per year, nearly 8,200 acres of skiable terrain and 200 trails, Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in British Columbia, Canada, is an outdoor enthusiast's paradise. (Randy Lincks courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Carrying the torch

    Some athletes will become world champions of their sport on the slopes of Whistler Blackcomb when the Winter Olympics roll into British Columbia early next year. (Paul Morrison courtesy of Whistler Blackcomb ) Back to slideshow navigation
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