Ski race without borders

2800 people participated in the Barents Ski Race through Russia, Finland and Norway last Saturday. Photo: Trude Pettersen

RAYAKOSKI: Once a year you can walk around the stone cairn marking the place where Norway, Russia and Finland meet, without breaking the law. This is during the annual Barents Ski Race, which runs on all the three countries’ territories.


The Barents Ski Race, which is called “Ski track of Friendship” in Russian, has been arranged 17 times since 1994. The race starts and ends in the Russian settlement of Rayakoski in the Pasvik Valley. The 300 inhabitants are mostly workers at the local hydropower plant and in FSB’s Border Guard Service. 

Rayakoski is located in the strictly controlled border zone, and all participants of the race, including Russians, need a special permission to enter. The race starts in Russia, continues for a couple of kilometers on Finnish territory towards the Three Borders’ Cairn. There the track continues in Norway for about four kilometers before ending on Russian territory. The complete length is 12 kilometers.

Last Saturday some 2800 people took part in this year’s race, in spite of temperatures reaching -30 below zero the days before the race. By the time the race started, the temperature had reached comfortable -15°C.

Border guards from Russia, Norway and Finland are the first to hit the track. This year a team from the Norwegian Coast Guard vessel “KV Harstad” also took part in the race. First to break the finish line was the team from Russia, with Finland taking second place, Norway third and the Coast Guard fourth.

After the border guards have started, the rest of the participants enter the track – fast skiers first, then families and others who are in no hurry to complete the 12 kilometers.