Snowshoe races have been added to this year's Gatineau Loppet cross-country ski event for the first time in the event's 36-year history.

The annual series of cross-country ski races in February draw more than 2,000 racers to Gatineau Park in western Quebec, including about 500 from outside Canada.

Snowshoe racing has been growing from a niche sport to one gaining wider acceptance.

Yan Michaud, president of the Gatineau Loppet, said he hopes the added races will attract new people to the event.

"We think we're going to get three to five hundred participants this year and we're also going to get people who don't cross-country ski," said Michaud.

The Loppet runs from Feb. 14 to 16 in 2014, with the snowshoe races happening the afternoon of the last day. The 2.5 km, 5 km and 10 km race will happen on trails separate from the ski trails.

The Loppet also announced it had shortened the lengths of some of the ski races this year after getting feedback that some of last year's races were too long.

Classic cross-country skiers will be able to participate in races of 5 km, 15 km, 27 km and 51 km at the park on Saturday, Feb. 15.

Freestyle cross-country skiers will take to the trails the following day in races of 2 km, 10 km, 27 km and 51 km.