The Stumptown Birkie

FasterSkierDecember 12, 2008

What is the Stumptown Birkebeiner?

I am so glad you asked.

The Stumptown Birkebeiner is an urban ski adventure in downtown Portland, Oregon. Part race, part parade, the event takes place whenever there is enough snow to ski on the streets of Portland, which is once every few years on average. The last time skiing was possible in Stumptown was 2007, and before that 2004.

Named after its more famous cross country ski race cousins in Norway and Wisconsin, the internationally renowned Stumptown Birkie has never taken place. Yet. Like the two other world class events, the Portland edition is a celebration of all things nordic. Unlike the other two, ours is a brand new tradition in a city where it almost never snows.

2008 will be the first year. If it snows. Or 2009. It might not happen until next year. Or the one after that. But rest assured, one day it will snow again in Portland. And when that happens you need to be ready. So get the skis, costumes, candle wax, viking helmets, one piece lycra suits and skijoring setups ready.

Because this is going to be fun.

How It Works

On any day when there is enough snow to ski, assemble on the corner of Burnside and 10th Ave. at world famous Powell's Books at 9 AM. If it's a week day, you probably don't have to work because the city is thrown into complete chaos when it snows. And frankly this event is not going to help restore order.

Any time it is looking like it might snow, check back here for more info. We'll follow the weather as obsessively as possible, and an announcement will be made (in case there is any question) that the event is on.

How do you take part? Any device used to slide on snow is fair game, from ski to snowboard to snurfer. Pull kids in sleds. Run your dogsled teams. Bring your bike if it's all you have. Just about everything is optional – except a nordic attitude. You need one of those. Costumes are encouraged. A snow day in Portland is an opportunity to take back the streets and go a little nutty. Not that any other day isn't…

When sufficient masses have assembled at Powell's to force the closure of Burnside, a cow bell will sound. And the race – er – parade is on! Proceed on the two mile loop course clockwise around the Pearl and downtown. Here is a map of the route.

Go as fast or slow as you like. Revel in the moment. Stop for coffee. Call your friends and find out why they are not in the first annual Stumptown Birkie. All finishers will receive an impossibly cute and cool – and totally organic – prize. Exactly what you'd expect from a ridiculous Portland happening like this.

The Race – er – Parade

This event is for FUN. However, if you are interested in racing, that will happen on the second lap. Not the first. The second lap is when the race starts. The first lap is for fun. When does the race start? The second lap. Got it? Ok. Major points will be deducted for racing in the first lap. We can't have that.

How You Can Help

Generating interest in a race with no fixed date that may never happen is a challenge. But you get the idea. You just have to know about it and if it looks like snow, you go, “Oh – I wonder if the Birkie is on.” Then come check the site and join in. You can help get the word out by telling your friends and demanding your employer allow people to join the Stumptown Birkie on a snow day.

Think about it. If this tradition had been going the last 50 years or so, it would be a beloved Portland activity. So we need to start a new tradition. And that can only happen if you turn out and join the fun.

Pray for snow!

For updates on this event, visit


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