ABOUT 900 skiers will tackle the Kangaroo Hoppet at Falls Creek today.
The world’s No. 1 cross-country skier, Russian Alexander Legkov, who has returned to defend his title, will face stiff competition from training partner and world No. 6 Ilya Chernousov.
The Russians will also have a say in the women’s race with Marina Chernosova, second last year, keen to atone.
Mount Beauty’s dual Olympian Esther Bottomley and national team member Aimee Watson, with Americans Jessica Yeaton and Lauren Fritz will be tough to beat.
In all, 23 nations will be represented in cross country races, with the highlight the 42 kilometre marathon for the elite.
Snow and wind yesterday had organisers still pondering the course.
Race secretary Allan Marsland said 24 centimetres of snow had fallen in less than 24 hours.
“It is fabulous snow weather but we are hoping for a break to get the race done,” he said.
“We may have to look at a course that keeps people off higher elevations exposed to the wind.
“A high-pressure system is expected overnight and then the snow returns later tomorrow — we just hope that’s right.”
Marsland said the Russians had been training at Falls Creek for a month, in part, to prepare for the Sochi Winter Olympics.
“The conditions here are very similar to Sochi which is at sea level — and the likelihood of wet snow,” he said.
“Not just elite skiers have travelled this year.
“As part of the Worldloppet series (16 races) we are increasingly seeing people from the northern hemisphere at the Hoppet.
“We would have liked to have more than 1000 here but a dry, warm July meant many people who would normally compete didn’t have time to prepare for the race — particularly those out of Melbourne.”
Vision of today’s race will be screened in Europe for the first time.