This is an article that was written by Paddy Field, for the LRNSC Club magazine about a trip we made to the Jizera Mountains in March this year.
A recommended read for anyone thinking of joining us on the Poland Cross Country Ski tour in 2019.
Most skiers know the Scandinavian countries and the Alps reasonably well, but there is a huge swathe of less well-known hills running across Germany, from the Black Forest (and arguably from the French Vosges mountains) eastwards into the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia which present some of the best cross-country skiing in Central Europe. In the Jizera Mountains (Isergebirge) the country is very Scandinavian in its character. There are few hotels or even rest stops along the route: once you have set out, there are few chances to turn back.
In mid-March, four of us, set out – initially to check the snow conditions so late in the season – up the hill from Bedrichov. The Nova Louka (New Meadow) restaurant provided a welcome rest stop after around 4 km, but the track then veered off to the east and the desirability of having a vehicle at the other end soon gave me the chance to turn around and leave the long 4 km climb up past Kristianov to the ‘youngsters’.
Only a few years ago, this was quite a depressing ski, as acid rain had denuded the forest of its vegetation, and the land was populated with stunted and bare pines but, with the input of money and effort from the European Union and the local government, the recovery has been remarkable and the route bisects the pine forests with frequent views out over the rolling hills. It is as close as you will come to Scandinavia.
There was an end-of-season feeling to the snow, which in places was dirty and full of other people’s klister, but in good conditions, which obtained along much of the course, this is a beautiful track and, because of the popularity of cross-country skiing in the Czech Republic, there are plenty of other skiers out on the course. It is perhaps not generally realised that the Czech Republic is one of the oldest of all cross-country ski nations, the Czech Ski Federation being the oldest in the World and having been a founder member, with Norway and Sweden, of the International Ski Council, forerunner of the International Ski Federation. No less a person than the President of the Czech Republic recently stated that he did not think there was a family in his country that did not own a pair of skis. I have never been anywhere outside Norway where the practice of cross-country skiing is so widespread, carried out by people of all ages and all abilities.
As we drove up the road to our arranged meeting point at Jizerka, the cloud came down and it was soon impossible to see more than a few yards in front of one’s face. Suddenly the Pyramida Hotel loomed out of the fog and we went in and sat down. For possibly the first time in my life I realised that the ubiquitous mobile phone has its uses and after a short break (two large beers) we were re-united with the younger half of the group. By now the cloud had lifted and visibility was restored. It was only about 4 km to Orle, albeit with a difficult descent to the river to negotiate, and then a further 5 km to Jakuszyce, so the two ‘boys’ decided to plough on, while Hilary and I drove up to the stadium and then skied back to meet them.
A welcome addition to the facilities at Jakuszyce has been the building of two new hotels on the road directly opposite the stadium. They are modern, comfortable and affordable and only a few yards from the terminus of the tracks at the stadium – perfect at the end of a long day’s ski. The young lady in reception explained that she did not work in the hotel, but was only a guest using the hotel’s printer. She looked vaguely familiar, but it took me a few minutes to realise that we were talking to Justyna Kowalczyk, world and Olympic champion and a national heroine in Poland.
We had chosen a bad day for our trip, with dirty snow, a fair bit of debris mixed with other people’s klister, and very slow skiing, more akin to touring than to track skiing. But in better conditions this would have been a super ski. Antony and Malcolm loved it and felt justifiably proud of their achievement in completing the traverse. That night -inevitably? – the snow came again and the following day we were able to see the Jakuszyce tracks at their best. We were given a personal waxing and changing room (it’s not what you know……) and finished our trip off in style.
This corner of Poland has a reputation for holding its snow well into April – and even into May – and we have all decided to repeat the trip again next year and to tie the traverse of the mountains in with the Bieg Piastow Worldloppet races, thus offering something to everybody, regardless of their tastes.
The Cross-country ski trip in Poland is scheduled for the 24th February 2019. This article has generated a lot of interest and there are just a few places left. Click on the on the link below for more information:
Poland XC Skiing – 8 days