Europejskie Ugrupowanie Współpracy Terytorialnej
Project partners:
miasto Nowy Targ miasto Kezmarok

In the footsteps of the Olympians

We love sports. Especially the disciplines in which our national representatives win medals. Well, maybe with the exception of football, because we love it unconditionally (too often, unfortunately, completely misunderstood). But this is not about football, this is about winter sports. There are not many inhabitants of the Polish-Slovak border region who have never had skis on their feet or tried skiing. Skiing is the most popular winter sport, but different skis have different functions. Since Adam Małysz's Olympic medals, we have watched ski jumping with bated breath, cheering on our jumpers – although we are aware that it is a sport we would never even try ourselves. However, thanks to our Olympian Justyna Kowalczyk, cross-country skiing has become more and more popular. While preparing for the competition, Justyna  repeatedly crossed the Obidowa – Turbacz route. In turn, Slovak Olympian Ivan Batory worked on his fitness, among others, in the picturesque area of Zavazna Poruba. No wonder that they took under their personal patronage the project "In the footsteps of the Olympians" and setting out the cross-country skiing route, which is a real gem. There is no other such track in Europe that leads directly to a mountain shelter. 

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The whole circular route is 22 kilometres of breath-taking views. The route from Obidowa to Turbacz is intended for intermediate and advanced skiers.



The idea of the project, apart from marking out the route, was also to popularise cross-country skiing both on the Polish and Slovak sides of the border. There were trainings, joint competitions and prizes with Olympic athletes' autographs.  It was an encouragement to give up computers and TV in favour of healthy and active spending of free time. It was a real success. The kids who joined the competitions organised under the project a few years later, started winning medals in major competitions. So there is a Polish championship female medallist and a skier, now eighteen-year-old, who competed in the world cup. We made it a twofold success. Hundreds of cross-country skiing enthusiasts started to appear on the Obidowa-Turbacz route. Not only professionals practising for competitions but also more and more amateur skiers, because whilst ski jumping is a sport for professionals, practically anybody can do cross-country skiing. For people who love nature, hiking and a feeling of mild fatigue, cross-country skiing is an optimal solution.

This growing popularity of the trail “In the Footsteps of the Olympians” gave a powerful impulse for another project. In Klikuszowa, the Gorce Klikuszowa Cross-Country Skiing Centre has just been built. It is the biggest centre of this kind in Małopolska, which has a chance of becoming a mecca for lovers of this sport. It is a place where professionals can practise, where amateurs of cross-country skiing could indulge their passion, and where even the Polish sprint championship  can be organised. As Dawid Szeliga, headteacher of the Sports Championship School in Zakopane, one of the initiators and organisers of the whole project, says, the route is less than two kilometres, but very diverse – from steep hills, through flattened sections to challenging descents – it is enough to leave you a little breathless.



The route is 780 metres above sea level and even when it gets warmer and there is no snow below, it lingers here. The route is snow-covered, groomed and illuminated. And almost always the camera catches silhouettes of skiers – those who put on cross-country skis and catch a moment of active relaxation.


“This is a route for ordinary people. We want them to have a nice time and do something for themselves, for their health, because cross-country skiing is one of the best sports for fitness, has a global effect on our body, on all of our muscles,” Dawid Szeliga emphasises, and mentions the Norwegian example. The Norwegians are one of the healthiest nations, and cross-country skiing is their national sport, practised from childhood. He also dispels any doubts, “cross-country skiing is a sport for everyone. You can strap on cross-country skis regardless of your age. And our role as instructors at the Centre is to inspire rather than discourage". Furthermore, everything for beginners, including equipment rental, is on site. “With cross-country skiing it's like  learning to walk. After a few repetitions, it's impossible to forget”, David Szeliga says.



The Centre could also become a breeding ground for future Olympians – kids from the nearby elementary school have caught the bug - about fifty of them come three times a week to run on skis, polish their style and form. The Centre itself, professionally prepared tracks, and good accessibility also tempt lovers of the sport from more distant villages, towns and cities. In the summer, there is no shortage of them either – when there is no snow, on the more than a kilometre long asphalted section you can ride on trailskates, in-line skates and roller skates. 



“Something great is going on. It was worth waiting for, it was worth spending some time and experiencing some stress,” says Dawid Szeliga and admits that he has one more dream. To connect the route of the Centre with the Trail of the Olympians. At the moment, it turns back at the trail marked black to Turbacz. If various obstacles and difficulties could be overcome and  it could be extended to Turbacz, then, combined with the Olympic Trail, it would be a genuine paradise for cross-country skiers. In a nutshell, there is no sport like cross-country skiing.

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Blog prepared in the project entitled: "Cooperation that enhances and develops as a key to a positive image of Poland on the international arena", co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland as part of the competition "Public Diplomacy 2020 - a new dimension".

Project co-financed by the European Union from the European Regional Development
Fund under the Republic of Poland - Slovak Republic Cross-border Co-operation Operational
Programme 2007-2013 and from the funds of the Malopolskie Voivodship