2000 Kangaroo Hoppet
September 19, 2000
The 10th Kangaroo Hoppet was run on August 26,2000 at Falls
Creek, Victoria, Australia, located 4 hours from Melbourne.
About 1500 people participated in the 42k Hoppet, 21k Australian
Birkebeiner, and 7k Joey (name for baby kangaroo) races. I
haven't done other World Loppet races outside the USA, but
this race is quite different than any in the Midwest. The
temperature was always around 32F, snow was good, and the
visibility changed constantly.
The X-C ski area is located at the top of the Bogong Highlands
area, about 7000-ft elevation. As you travel up the mountain,
there is no hint of snow until the final 2k of road climbing,
yet the need to dodge a kangaroo and wombat did add to the
adventure. The tree cover is mostly eucalyptus trees, which
are quite interesting in winter since they do not loose their
The race literature stresses to "ski with a partner". I
took me a while to gain a full understanding of this statement.
The Hoppet is a figure of eight double loop with each loop
heading out into true alpine wilderness. The day before the
race I teamed up with an Australian skier who knew the course
and also wanted to ski the first loop. First thing he said
was, "I usually don't ski alone". Since the cloud cover was
very low and winds were strong, the visibility was at times
almost zero and we couldn't see the terrain at all. Out in
the open areas, the course is marked with orange poles every
30 meters. We skied from pole to pole, at times not even able
to determine up from down.
When we arrived back at the midpoint after 21k, we stopped
to speak to two Scandinavians. I said, "It's good to see people
again!" Their reply was, "We tried to ski the loop but turned
back because of the visibility." That exchange certainly made
that 21k loop worthwhile. I have to admit thinking, "chock
one up the Americans!" although my partner was an Aussie.
Early on race day, the weather looked the same-low clouds,
strong wind, and low visibility. I still hadn't seen the mountain!
As racers entered the starting gate in groups of 100, the
clouds began clearing, the sun peeked out, and the whole area
looked absolutely beautiful!
As was suggested by my Australian friend, I had rilled as
much structure into my skis as possible and it paid off. The
snow was fast and the course was groomed to perfection. Now,
all I had to remember was to ski on the left and pass on the
right! It's not just driving on the left in Australia, it's
a whole different mentality, including sidewalks, and even
The first 21k loop starts by circling through a wide open
bowl called "Sun Valley". At about 10k, you climb the famous
"Paralyser", a steady 2k climb through a eucalyptus grove,
then back out into the open highlands, followed by a great
1.5k downhill runout called "Blade Runner". The skiing was
exceptional, especially now with visibility!
The second 21k loop sends you through beautiful "Sun Valley"
again before heading out in the opposite direction into the
wilderness. The loop is well known for two difficult climbs.
"Wallace's Wall" at 28k is followed shortly with "Riley's
Revenge" at 30k. Before you recover from the "Wall", you are
faced with the "Revenge", steeper and longer than any hill
in the American Birkebeiner. The last 10k gives up the elevation
gained from the two climbs and crosses through wide-open valleys.
This would have been a great way to finish had it not been
for winds that literally "stood you up" and then "stopped
you in your tracks."
At the finish you are treated to warm food and drink and
the chance to mix it up with people from 23 different countries.
I ran into a German skier at the airport who happened to
be in my age group. He was eager to show me his World Loppet
passport, and also wanted to know my finish time. It was nice
to see that I had finished well before him. Chock another
one up for the Americans!
After this, I certainly will pursue more World Loppet events.
I strongly recommend the Hoppet to the avid skier/adventurer.
But, get out and roller ski as much as possible before you