The Merino Muster ski race is back to full strength with the return of international skiers.
The annual cross country ski race held at Snow Farm in the Cardrona Valley is part of international marathon series Worldloppet, which includes races in more than 20 countries.
Saturday’s event was the first time international racers had been on the course since 2019 with more than 200 participants competing across five distances — the 1km Mini Muster, 7km Straggle Muster, 14km Double Fleece, 21km Snow Rake and 42km Merino Muster.
Snow Farm general manager Sam Lee it was great to see the internationals back on course.
‘‘It’s just added the flavour back —we’ve enjoyed having the Kiwis but it’s been a little bit disrupted, but it’s really great to have the whole race, the full course, and of course we’ve had a great weather day.’’
The event started in near white›out conditions but cleared throughout the morning, bringing blue skies and ‘‘fantastic’’ racing.
New Zealand biathlete and Wanaka local Campbell Wright pulled out a seemingly effortless performance, finishing in just under two hours with no sign of puffing to win the Merino Muster.
The 20-year-old Olympian completed the 42km cross country ski race in a time of 1:59:25, 19 minutes ahead of Australian Ross Hamilton.
It felt good totake out the win on his home course, he said.
‘‘This is my home race so I wanted to do well.’’
‘‘There was a bit of fresh snow so it was abit slow to start, especially for the front guys ’cause they were grooming it almost, and at the end it was awesome,’’ he said.