If cross country ski racing is a niche sport, then ski orienteering is a niche within a niche. It involves racing on cross-country skis and finding your way to a series of checkpoints scattered around the woods on trails you have never seen before, using a map you only receive 15 seconds before the race starts. It means getting around the route as fast as you can and still hitting the checkpoints in the right order. You can ski, run or walk and take any route you want. In the week-long International Orienteering Federation races at Craftsbury, VT, Outdoor Center last week, competitors from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Russia, Estonia, Bulgaria, the US and Canada, among other nations, flew down wide XC trails and narrow, bumpy snowshoe paths. Often they just made their own trails, taking off through the trees. It is impressive to watch a skier speeding downhill while reading a map. Above, the eventual middle distance winner, Sweden’s Tove Alexandersson. Below, a checkpoint crash, a Swiss racer reading while driving, and a near crash when two racers arrived at a checkpoint at the same time. It was also the world masters championships, so there were older competitors (bottom). You can see a full gallery by clicking here. Click on a photo and use the arrows to see the images faster than the slide show runs.