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late February – Hayward/Cable, Wisconsin
An event celebrating health and wellness all in the scope of cross country skiing.
Cross-country skiing is a great way to stay in shape, and the sport is accessible to all ages and fitness levels.
These enthusiasts train all year round skiing, running, bicycling, roller blading and many other healthy pursuits. Many have gone on to participate in the American Birkebeiner, a citizen’s race with something for everyone. From the Barnebirkie kid’s race to the 54 kilometer Birkebeiner Classic, more than 200,000 people have embraced the challenge and skied the adventure.
Why do so many participate year after year? Some come for the tradition, some for the personal challenge, others for the opportunity to ski with Olympic-caliber athletes on one of the most challenging trails in the world. All are rewarded with a well-organized event that gives them the opportunity to get outside and ski with like-minded fitness buffs from around the world.
The American Birkebeiner, also known as the Birkie, was launched in 1973 as a small race calling on skiers to challenge themselves against the Wisconsin Northwoods. The race was patterned after the Birkebeinerrennet Lillehammer, Norway, an event which commemorates an historic event in that nation. During a civil war in the 13th century, an invading force was about to capture an infant prince and heir to the throne. Two Viking warriors, called "birkebeiners" for the birch bark leggings they wore, took the child and skied 55 kilometers to safety. The baby went on to become a great Norwegian king, Haakon Hakonsson.
• The American Birkebeiner is the largest cross-country ski race in North America and part of the Worldloppet circuit of 15 international ski marathons held in Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, France, Estonia, Germany, Austria, Finland, Italy, Canada, Australia, Czech Republic, Poland and the United States.
• The Birkie is also part of the North American Marathon Cup series of 14 races, part of the American Ski Marathon series of 13 races, and part of the lives of citizen skiers from around the world.
• The first Birkie attracted 35 people including 34 men and 1 woman. 19 skiers participated in the shorter 22K women’s and junior’s race.
• Skiers from 48 states and 21 foreign countries gather every February to celebrate and ski the race which has become the most revered tradition in the cross country ski world.
• In 1984 wave placements were initiated to help alleviate bottlenecks and crowding at the start.
• Today there are 10 waves plus three elite wave starts; 11 food stations with support personnel and medical, waxing, and repair stations; more than 2,000 volunteers, 56 chiefs, and a year 'round office staff.
The Birkebeiner Trail, known throughout the cross country skiing world as one of the finest, has hosted the world's finest skiers through the years and makes up the course for America's premier ski marathon. The trail is maintained by the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation and is groomed and tracked on a regular basis throughout the winter season. The Birkie Trail remains open and free to the public through the efforts of the Foundation. Trail pass fees and membership fees to the Birkebeiner Foundation contribute to the preservation and maintenance of one of the most challenging and beautiful trails in the world.
• Two buildings have been constructed at the midpoint at Highway OO to help service the skiers and store equipment.
• Skiers now enjoy several kilometers of a lighted, looped trail at OO.
• State-of-the-art grooming equipment has been purchased to ensure the best possible skiing conditions for weekend skiers as well as race participants.
• The trail has been widened and corners improved without losing sight of the importance of its aesthetic beauty and athletic challenge.
• A 27K Classic Trail has been created to provide classic skiers with their own course for the first half of the event. During the rest of the winter the Classic Trail is groomed for both classic and skate skiing so all can enjoy.
You don't even have to click into skis to join in on the party. More than 20,000 spectators line many portions of the route, and it seems all of Cable/Hayward are there cheering at the finish line. Equipment demos, vendor expo, the Birkie Skiers For Cures, and shorter races and events round out the festivities.
For more information on the American Birkebeiner visit: www.birkie.com
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