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"Citizen" races...any cross-country skier can enter. They happen most weekends.

On winter weekends, thousands of avid cross-country skiers match skills and stamina in mass-start "citizen" races in northern California, Colorado, Nevada, and Utah. Anyone can enter.

Now through March, these "fun runs" for skiers offer friendly competition through thick woods, open meadows, up and over snowy ridges. You'll find races for all ages and abilities: 3 to 5 kilometers for children, 10 to 50 kilometers for adults. They typically last 1/2 to 6 hours. You travel mostly on groomed, machine-laid tracks.

Citizen racing has its origin in Scandinavia. Each March, the world's oldest and largest race--Sweden's Vasaloppet--attracts some 10,000 racers. Here in the West, a race can draw anywhere from less than a hundred to more than a thousand.

How to register, tips on training

You can preregister by mail--forms are available at many sports stores--or on race day (it costs less in advance). Fees are $5 to $25, and usually include a T-shirt and finish-lien refreshments. Before racing, you sign in and receive a numbered bib. In one-way races, a shuttle takes your after-race warm-up clothes to the finish.

Wear layers of lightweight but warm clothing; polypropylene, a favorite material for cross-country skiing, is both light and absorbent. Stocking up on food and liquids before the race is also essential.

When the starting gun or horn sounds, you shuffle with the pack until it spreads out. By the time you've established a pace, you'll have few competitors besides yourself and the clock. At way stations where you can get something to drink and wax your skis, monitors cheer you on.

Experts advise training for a race--high altitude and fatigue can limit your performance. Citizen Racing, by John Caldwell and Michael Brady (The Mountaineers, Seattle, 1982; $8.95), offers illustrated training tips and racing techniques. One suggestion: test-race the course to check your conditioning and develop a strategy. You should probably enter several short races before trying a longer, more strenuous one.

Where to write for race schedules

The United States Ski Association (USSA) sanctions many of the races; for a list, write or call the U.S. Olympic Complex, 1750 E. Boulder St., Colorado Springs, Colo. 80909; (303) 578-4600. Other races are held in each state; for schedules, send a self-addressed stamped envelope or call the following:

Northern California and Nevada. Kirkwood Cross Country, Box 77, Kirkwood 95646; (209) 258-8864.

Colorado. Colorado Cross Country Ski Association, Box 4001, Silver Creek 80446; (303) 887-3384.

Utah. Utah Nordic Ski Association, 1451 Moray Court, Park City 84060.
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1985
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