Known as the cradle of skiing in Central Europe, the Bloke Plateau in south-central Slovenia looks its old-self this winter. It is cold and the snow is crunching underfoot, and after five years, Bloke was able to host its traditional cross-country skiing event again.
Some 300 competitors took part in the cross-country races on 5 February, along with skiers in traditional costumes and skiing gear typical for this part of the country.
It was around four degrees Celsius below zero at the start of the event, cold enough to make the course hard enough after too mild winters spoiled all the fun in recent years.
Before climate change hit, Bloke was known for its fierce winters and thick snow blanket that would linger well into spring.
Skiing at the Bloke Plateau, located in the centre of former Duchy of Carniola, was first described in 1689 by polymath Janez Vajkard Valvasor. At the time, the people of Bloke are believed to have been the only ones in Central Europe to use skis to move and transport cargo on snow.
“Farmers in some places in Carniola … are familiar with a rare invention, which I have not seen in any other country; namely, they slide down high hills on snow in winter with incredible speed into the valley. For this purpose, they use two wooden planks … the farmer also holds a hard stick in the hands … used for support and steering while leaning the body backwards. They thus slide or, I could also say, ski or fly down the steepest slopes,” Valvasor wrote in his encyclopedia The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola.
In memory of those skiers Bloke has been holding its races since 1975. According to the event’s bulletin, the first event was attended by 867 participants. Due to lack of snow they only took part in running, hiking and sledging that year.
This time around they competed on two courses of seven and 20 kilometres. Competitors on the shorter route were divided into five age groups, including men over 70, Leopold Mišič, a member of the organising committee, told the STA.
There is still half a metre of snow at Bloke, and cross-country courses are ready to welcome runners free of charge.