HAYWARD, Wis., February 6, 2007 – It's the largest cross-country ski marathon in North America. It's been called the “Greatest Show on Snow.” It's the culmination of months of preparations – by organizers and skiers alike.
And in the final days leading up to the race of all races, organizers are pulling out all the stops for the 34th annual American Birkebeiner cross country ski races from February 22-24 in Cable and Hayward, Wis.
More than 9,000 skiers will join the colorful pageantry. While 7,000 skiers set their sights on the 51-kilometer American Birkebeiner and 23-kilometer Kortelopet ski races, another 2,500 are bound for the shorter races and events that dominate the three-day event.
For some, it's serious business. The Birkebeiner is part of the Worldloppet, a circuit of 14 Nordic ski races held on four continents. The Birkebeiner-named after an historic Norwegian ski event- attracts a top cadre of professional racers including Olympians from more than a dozen countries.
For many thousands of others, though, it's an annual celebration of personal endurance and outdoor enthusiasm. Since its inception in 1973, the Birkie has grown into the largest cross-country ski marathon in the nation. While pros may complete the course in about two hours, legions of weekend warriors soldier on for triple that time. Citizen skiers can compete in the full race or sign up for 23- or 12-kilometer options.
Making the 9,000 skiers and 15,000 spectators happy is important to businesses in Hayward, Cable and the surrounding area. A Wisconsin Department of Tourism survey during Birkie 2000 found that skiers spend an average of $145.62 per person, per day. They stay an average of 2.9 nights spending time and money at local restaurants, retail outlets, regional attractions, and hotels, motels, and bed and breakfast inns.
It totals up to an estimated $4 million in five days.
“Obviously these visitors to our area have a huge impact on our economy, but it is also such a privilege to meet and get to know people from all over the United States and the world,” said Holly Henry, Executive Director of the Cable Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Birkie blesses us with a rare opportunity to show our beautiful area to the world. Along with the State Bank of Drummond, the Cable Area Chamber is honored to sponsor the Kortelopet and to welcome thousands of guests to our community.”
Governor Jim Doyle commended organizers, area residents and skiers alike for shaping the event into a vital piece of the northern Wisconsin landscape and lifestyle.
“This event began in 1973 with only 34 competitors,” Doyle said. “Now, 34 years later, thanks to the support of the communities of Hayward, Cable, and Seeley, generous sponsors, many hard-working volunteers, and the pure challenge of the outdoors presented by Wisconsin's Northwoods, it has grown into one of the greatest events of its kind in the world.”
“This race not only receives national and international attention, but is also a major contributor to Wisconsin's tourism industry and a vital part of the social fabric of Northern Wisconsin.”
The Subaru American Birkebeiner and its sister race, the 23-kilometer Kortelopet sponsored by the State Bank of Drummond and Cable Chamber of Commerce, take off from the Cable Union Airport. Birkie freestyle skiers will skate 51 kilometers (about 32 miles) to the finish line on Main Street in Hayward.
Birkie and Kortelopet classic skiers will stride along a new 9-kilometer trail from the start line until it merges back into the Birkie Trail at Timber Trail Road in Bayfield County.
Birkie classic skiers will finish alongside freestyle skiers on Main Street in Hayward., and Kortelopet skiers (both freestyle and classic) will veer off the Birkie trail at the 9-kilometer mark to finish their race at Telemark Resort in Cable.
The challenge of skiing the rolling hills as well as the opportunity to experience the camaraderie and diverse gathering of cultures from around the world lure participants from 19 countries and 45 United States.
“The Birkie brings thousands of people from around the world to Wisconsin to experience our hospitality, our beautiful winter season, and the spirit of competition that embodies the American Birkebeiner,” Gov. Doyle said. “The memories you take from this event will last a lifetime.”
Skiers see a side of the Sawyer and Bayfield County forest that others rarely experience. Even elite athletes regularly comment on the quality of the Birkie trail, which features some of the most scenic and challenging terrain in the Worldloppet ski circuit of 14 international races.
Skiers are cheered on by 15,000 spectators lining the race course and finish lines, ringing cowbells, and shouting words of encouragement. Add music and the banter of the announcers, and you can understand why all the excitement sparks that final adrenalin rush and empowers skiers to cross the finish line feeling an incredible sense of victory and personal accomplishment.
“While truly great skiers, including Olympians, come to the Birkie, most of our skiers are everyday
people who work full-time, raise families, and love the outdoors,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “They ski
because it's a challenge, it's fun, friends are on the trail with
them, it keeps them active, and lots of other reasons which are often personal stories. I recall the year I skied after having heart surgery and having tears run down my face while skiing up Main Street to the finish
Zuelsdorff said skiers have up until Friday, February 23 at 8 p.m. to register for the American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet and Prince Haakon 12K.
“It's quick and easy to log on to www.birkie.com to register for the Birkebeiner or Kortelopet,” he said. “Another option is to download the registration form and fax it to the Birkie office or simply visit us in Hayward to register. And, of course, skiers can call us at 715.634.5025. We're eager to answer questions and get more people out enjoying the weekend.”
In addition to the American Birkebeiner Ski Expo, On-Snow Demos, Welcoming Ceremonies and pasta feeds throughout the region, Birkie 2007 festivities include:
. the Sons of Norway/Swiss Miss Barnebirkie for kids ages 3-13
. the Salomon Elite Sprints for the world's fastest skiers
. CenturyTel Junior Birkie for kids ages 10-18
. Cheqtel 5K/10K for every member of the family
. 12K Johnson Bank Prince Haakon for skiers wanting a shorter distance event
. 23-kilometer Kortelopet sponsored by State Bank of Drummond and the Cable Chamber of Commerce for skiers wanting a half-marathon race
. 51-kilometer Subaru American Birkebeiner for skiers wanting to take the challenge and ski the adventure
. Ski for the Cure II for those wanting to raise money for the fight against breast cancer
“There really is something for everybody,” Zuelsdorff said.
For more information or to register, call 715-634-5025, e-mail email@example.com, or log on to www.birkie.com.