Birkie 2007 Warriors Named: Father-Son Team Will Re-Enact 801-Year-Old Legend

FasterSkierDecember 1, 2006

HAWYARD, Wis., November 2006 – The search for two tough cross-country skiers to re-enact the 801-year-old legend that inspired the creation of the American Birkebeiner 51-kilometer cross-country ski race from Cable to Hayward, Wis. is over. A father-son team has been selected to re-enact the legend on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2007.

Phillip Schaefer and son Michael will dress in authentic gear, ski on wooden skis, and depict the rescue of Prince Haakon (Hō-ken), the baby prince who became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history.

The “Birkebeiners,” named for the birch-bark leggings they wore, became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity, and the historic flight inspired the creation of two ski marathons – the Birkebeiner Rennet in Lillehammer, Norway, launched in 1932 and skied on the same route as the famous rescue, and the American Birkebeiner, launched in 1973 when the late Tony Wise looked to his Norwegian roots to create a high-profile event for Telemark, his new ski lodge in Cable, Wisconsin.

Bill Pierce, Johnny Ingdall and Jim and Tom Vanden Brook, skiers who have also re-enacted the escape and rescue, selected the Schaefers based on their ability to represent the historic race roots, ski 51 kilometers dressed in character, and serve as ambassadors supporting and encouraging fellow skiers on the trail.

It was a difficult decision.

“We didn't expect so many high-quality entries,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Exectuive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF). “Thirteen pairs of skiers, men and women, submitted creative, inspiring and persuasive essays pitching their skills, passion and background as the perfect candidates to serve as the 2007 Birkebeiner warriors. I know it was a tough decision for the former warriors.”

The Schaefers said they decided to enter the warrior competition because of the positve influence the Birkebeiner race has had on their lives.

“2007 marks my dad's 30th Birkie and my 10th,” said Michael, a sports medicine physician in Cleveland, Ohio. “This is a good way to make our contribution to the event that we love so much.”

Phil, a project manager for Siemens Water Technology in Rothschild, Wis., agrees.

“My son came up with the idea because he thought it was significant that it was my 30th race and his 10th,” Phil said. “We're crazy and love this kind of challenge.”

Phil says his wife introduced him to cross-country skiing in the early '70s.

“I was hooked,” he admits. “We introduced Michael, and he skied a 20-kilometer loop at age three. I guess it's true the nut doesn't fall far from the tree.”

Phil says he'll ski on a pair of wooden skis he's owned since the '70s, and Michael will ski on a pair he recently bought on e-Bay.

Both father and son are anticipating an inspiring day on the trail with 7,000 other skiers from all walks of life and from around the world. Some will be skating their way to the finish line while others will stride their way along the new classic ski trail to the finish line in Hayward.

In addition to ski events for all ages and fitness levels, Birkie 2007 features welcoming ceremonies; health, nutrition, fitness, equipment and training seminars; ski expo and on-snow demonstrations; pasta feeds; awards ceremonies; and post-race parties and music.

For more information about North America's largest cross country ski race or to register for the Subaru American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet sponsored by the State Bank of Drummond and Cable Chamber of Commerce, 12K Johnson Bank Prince Haakon, CenturyTel Junior Birkie, Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie, Cheqtel 5K/10K Race for Families, Salomon Elite Sprints, and the Ski for the Cure II, log on to, email or call 715/634-5025.

About the Birkie: Celebrating its 34th year, the American Birkebeiner (1-800-USA-BRKE;, February 22-24, 2007, is North America's largest and most prestigious cross-country ski marathon. Spanning 51 kilometers from Cable to Hayward, the Birkie is one of 14 races in the Worldloppet international circuit, part of the American Ski Marathon series of 14 races, and part of the lives of citizen skiers from all walks of life and from around the world. Sponsors of Birkie 2007 include Subaru, State Bank of Drummond, Cable Chamber of Commerce, Johnson Bank, Superior Publishing and other businesses throughout the region and country. Find out more at or call 715/634-5025.

Pull-Out Box: The Winning Essay

Birkie Warrior Nomination
“You can see it in our eyes.”

My Dad and I would make great Birkie Warriors! This would be very special for us as
this year marks his 30th Birkie and my 10th. We both represent determination, endurance
and a great love for the Birkie; my Dad just by virtue of skiing that many in a row, and
me by living in Ohio and training frequently without snow. Currently I am in Wave 1 and
he has finished as high as 3rd in his age group.

Our “Top 10” qualifications to be the Warriors are:

10. We are strong, tall, handsome and almost Norwegian looking (we think!).

9. We would look great in the outfits.

8. When we started skiing we only had wooden skis and some of the outfits looked like
they were from the Middle Ages.

7. We still have the old wooden skis and cans of pine tar, so we are prepared.

6. Dad completed a Birkie with one ski tip “repaired” with duct tape.

5. I can provide my own Norwegian looking “baby” whose 3rd birthday is Birkie
Saturday (I almost missed her birth, but skiing the Birkie that year was worth the risk).

4. It wouldn't hurt to have another medical Dr. on the trail (I practice sports medicine).

3. We love to talk with people and spread our enthusiasm for the Birkie. I say that Dad
practices “skivangelism.”

2. Our friends and relatives know that if they happen to die right before Birkie
weekend, the funeral will have to wait.


What better Warriors could there be than the two of us?

Michael Schaefer, M.D.
Phillip Schaefer, Birchlegger

Source: American Birkebeiner press release


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