Date: March 19, 2022
Distance: 54 km Classic technique
Active years: 83
Record number of participants: 17,163
Number of VSC sprints/climbing points: Two climbs at 20 km in Raudfjellet and Midtfjellet 34 km
Start times: Women 8:00 CET, Men 7:45 CET
Highest peak: 900 m
Total climb: 1044 m
Birkebeinerrennet is one the most legendary cross-country ski events in the world. Its legacy is based on a heroic tale of courage and adventure. The saga dates back to the harsh times of the 13th century when two fearless soldiers, birkebeiners, rescued a young prince and skied over the mountain fighting against the wild nature around them. This young prince, Haakon, later became the king. To honor him and his rescuers all participants at Birkebeinerrennet must carry a 3.5 kg backpack symbolizing the weight of the prince.
The race is not the longest in the Pro Tour, but it has one of the most demanding courses. It starts with a 20-kilometer uphill section to the mountaintop at Raudfjellet with only one relatively short downhill section at 13 km. Then, the participants get to enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery around them before they reach the second climb at 28 km.
When the course gets to Sjusjøen, the skiers can finally enjoy the wonder of speed as they start their descent to Lillehammer. During the last 14 km, there is a 400-meter drop in elevation, and the finish is at the Olympic stadium that is located a few kilometers from the downtown of Lillehammer.
The starting point of “Birken” is a small town called Rena. It has a nice and cozy atmosphere while Lillehammer is more city-like with its 28,000 inhabitants. Both places can easily be accessed by train from the Oslo airport. Just northeast of Rena is the Rena Military Camp, Norway's largest military camp.
Lillehammer’s center is a late nineteenth-century concentration of wooden houses, which enjoys a picturesque location overlooking the northern part of lake Mjøsa and the river Lågen, surrounded by mountains. Lillehammer is also an Olympic town as it has hosted the 1994 Winter Games and the 2016 Youth Winter Olympics.
In addition to Birkebeinerrennet and other sport activities, Lillehammer and its surrounding areas have a number of other tourist attractions such as Garmo Stave Church built around 1150, the PS Skibladner, the world’s oldest paddle steamer in scheduled service, rock carvings at Drotten, Fåberg, and the sculpture Mothership with Standing Matter designed by Antony Gormley. There are also many museums to visit like the Norwegian Olympic Museum, Lillehammer Art Museum and Maihaugen, the largest open-air museum in Norway.
A fun fact is that the Norwegian-American Netflix Original series Lilyhammer was shot in Lillehammer, and it stars Steven Van Zandt, the guitar player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
Season IX (2019) top three:
- Petter Eliassen, Team BN Bank, 2:23:47.7
- Andreas Nygaard, Team Ragde Eiendom, 2:25:51.5
- Simen Østensen, Team BN Bank, 2:25:53.5
- Justyna Kowalczyk, Team Trentino Robinson Trainer, 2:51:31.6
- Britta Johansson Norgren, Lager 157 Ski Team, 2:54:12.9
- Astrid Øyre Slind, Team Koteng, 2:55:54.9