Snow falling on spruces ahead of southeast Estonia ski championship round

Snow blowers in action in Otepää.
Snow blowers in action in Otepää. Source: Estonian ski federation.

While Tallinn remains gray, wet and windy, southeastern Estonia has been transformed more into something from a Pieter Bruegel painting – albeit with fewer people – after several centimeters of snow fall overnight Sunday to Monday. The arrival of the snow is timely, since Otepää, Estonia's winter capital no less, hosts a cross country skiing championship round next month.

Ago Markvardt, organizer of the Otepää round, said that: "We are watching certain weather forecast data. The weather forecast can be believed for a maximum of three days."

The Otepää MK stage is not for another month, and runs December 10-12.

Snowfall on Monday in Haanja, Võru County, and some 60km south of Otepää, lasted until four in the afternoon, while the 200-meter ski track there was opened for the first time this winter, on Tuesday.

At the same time, snow machines can also complement the naturally-falling variant where needed.

"It is a matter of how long the cold snap lasts, but if the temperature goes below three minus degrees, we will get more snow. We store container snow until the last minute," Markvardt said of the Otepää ski route, adding that the snow cannon are now in operation thanks to the low temperatures.

This year will be the second time Otepää has hosted a world championship round, and the first time the women's event will also be run.

Teams from 14 different countries comprising over 100 people are expected over the course of the competition, with the finalized list of competing athletes due on December 2.

The International Ski Association (FIS) has drawn up its own coronavirus guidelines, while Estonia's own Health Board's (Terviseamet) rules are also being followed.

"All accredited people - athletes, support staff and the management committee - enter a 'bubble', with the prerequisite being a vaccine certificate and a negative PCR test result taken on site," Markvardt added.

Anti Saarepuu, director of the sports center back in Haanja, said Monday that: "When I woke up this morning, I could feel the cold already starting to creep into my bones. It brought a smile to my face, so I drove to Haanja," adding that he made the drive on summer tires – winter tires are not mandatory until December 1 – which turned out quite precarious in itself and involved a few near misses with culverts, he said.

"Taking a look at social media, it seems that noone can quite believe the snow has fallen in Haanja. Taking your walk in the woods, you feel as if you are in a fairytale land. The spruces are covered with snow, and Haanja is pleasantly white," Saarepuu went on, adding around 6 cm had fallen.

Haanja is currently the number one place in Estonia for amateurs to ski as well, he added.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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