Written by Leandro Lutz
Picture by Bob Pearl
The most anticipated time of the winter season has arrived in the USA and the preparation of the athletes and the tracks continues in full steam. We are talking about the 2019 edition of the largest long distance race in the Americas, the famous American Birkebeiner.
American Birkie takes place from the 21st to the 24th of February, and there is no shortage of events for this great Nordic party. On Thursday 21, several activities are planned, among them the Barkie Birkie Skjor, Barnebirkie, Junior Birkie and Giant Ski. On Friday 22nd, Korte Skate and Classic take place at the distance of 29km and Prince Haakon with 15km.
Then, Saturday, the 23rd, is the big day of competitions with the traditional Birkie, 50km Skate and 55km Classic, both starting in the city of Cable and ending in the central area of the city of Hayward, Wisconsin. The week of events ends on Sunday, the 24th, with demo skiing and other family events.
To get a sense of the size of the event, in 2018, skiers from 49 American states and 36 countries participated in the Birkie, which is part of the world circuit and is one of 13 races of the American long distance ski circuit.
And how did it all begin? According to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, the founder of American Birkie, Tony Wise, looked at his Norwegian heritage and patterned the ski marathon after the Birkebeinerrennet, which had been held in Norway since 1932, and founded the American Birkebeiner in 1973.
Both the events recreated a historic Norwegian passage when in 1206, two soldiers, called "Birkebeiners" because of the birch-bark leggings they wore, skied with the baby Prince Haakon to a safe place during the Norwegian civil war. Later Prince Haakon became the King of Norway, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a symbol of courage, perseverance and character before adversities.
So, it all began in 1973 with Tony Wise, when 35 skiers had lined up at the start of the first edition of the American Birkebeiner, but few imagined they were about to change the history of American Nordic skiing. Nowadays, American Birkebeiner is governed by a non-governmental organization called The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation and its mission is:
- To promote and conduct the international cross country skiing competition
- To serve as good stewards of the American Birkebeiner Trail
- To support healthy and active lifestyles among people of all ages and abilities.
But Birkie is not only Nordic skiing, but a lifelong, year-round lifestyle that includes skiing, running and biking, including competitions, training, fitness and recreation, all in the famous trails of the American Birkie.
It offers fun for everyone and an experience that will stick in your mind forever! And who knows, this great event could some day belong to the greatest long distance ski tour in the world; Visma Ski Classics. Only time will tell!