It all started back in 1206. Birkebeiner skiers, named for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway’s Osterdalen valley during the winter of 1206. Sounds pretty normal except that they had a critical mission. The objective: Smuggle the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. Similar to the story of the Marathon, this daring operation was memorialized with a race tradition started in 1932. Even today, Norwegians stay true to the details and carry a pack that symbolizes the weight of an 18-month child in their journey to the finish line. All across Norway, Canada, and the United States, thousands commemorate this historical event with their own annual Birkebeiner races. So, what’s the biggest and best version in our neck of the woods?
The American Birkebeiner – Birkie Fever!
From humbled beginnings, the American Birkebeiner race has transformed over the years into the legend it is today. This spectacle attracts over 13,000 ‘Birkie’ & ‘Korte’ skiers with the excitement of racing in front of 20,000 spectators spanning 50+ km. Racers from around the world will gather in early February to test their mettle in the 31st installment of this race. The event consists of four races:
- Birkebeiner Skate
- Birkebeiner Classic
- Kortelopet Skate
- Kortelopet Classic
Saturday February 25,2017
Cable to Hayward, Wisconsin
Prove It… To get your spot
It’s not about how you think you’ll do. It’s what you’ve actually done! If you’re serious and want to ratchet up your competitive stance, there are certain qualifying events the American Birkebeiner will consider as part of your race history, spanning the last three seasons. Why should you care about the wave you are placed in? Simple. The earlier your wave, the less congestion you’ll encounter. And even more important than that – The better the course conditions you’ll have. If you’re a Nordic skier, you know course conditions matter. Let’s qualify! Here are several interesting options to consider.
Birkebeiner Qualifying Races
Tahoe Rim Tour – Scenery & Fundraiser
The Far West Nordic Ski Education Association in conjunction with Northstar California holds an annual Tahoe Rim Tour & Race. It is a point-to-point 26 km race stretching from North Tahoe High School, Tahoe City to the Cross Country Center at Northstar California Resort. The route interconnects some of the most scenic parts of Tahoe XC and Northstar’s trails, leaving the competitors breathless not just from the race but also the wondrous views. After the finish line, enjoy an end-of-race chili lunch followed by an awards ceremony. Finally, don’t forget this is a fundraiser for the Far West Nordic Ski Education Association’s Junior Ski Programs to get younger people on the trails. Collectively, it is a fun race for qualifying, a good time for everyone and most importantly, for a great cause. All around a winner.
January 24, 2017
Tahoe City, California
Canadian Birkebeiner – One of Three Loppet races in North America
This event is held across two days and celebrates cross-country skiing and the Nordic legends. Skating and sliding their way through the North Saskatchewan River valley, this race is serious about their Viking heritage and the Birkebeiner tradition. In fact, so serious that it’s one of only three Loppet races in North America. So, what makes it a ‘Loppet?‘
- A great gathering of skiers who ski on a specifically groomed trail either classic (diagonal stride) or free (skating technique) of various distances
- Enormous amounts of food and drink consumed during the event
- An after party and celebratory banquet with awards, prizes and usually dancing
One of the more spectacular awards presented at their Vikings’ Feast is the Haakon Haakonsen award. It is awarded to anyone that has skied in the Norwegian, Canadian, AND American long distance races. Since 1992, only 140 skiers have ever received this award. If your looking for an event that is steeped with tradition, Viking feasts, and a good time, this one is for you.
February 10-11, 2017
Edmonton & Strathcona County, Alberta
Are you looking for something a bit different? Something with a bit of flare & kookiness? Look no further – The Alley Loop is right up your alley. It’s Crested Butte’s largest costume party and biggest Nordic event of the season all rolled up into one. The course starts, finishes, and passes through the heart of downtown winding around snow covered streets, narrow alleys, and single lane bridges. At any given time, you may be cheered on by an alley party, find yourself surrounded by Oompa-Loompas, or skiing past a train of people connected by a crazy costume.
Saturday February 4th,2017
Crested Butte, Colorado