HAYWARD, WI, January 21, 2012 – A frosty -18 degrees below zero [Saturday] morning may have slowed the start of the third-annual BirkieTour, but did not deter more than 645 cross country skiers from enjoying a day on the Birkie Trail with friends and family. The BirkieTour, hosted by the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, is an untimed “open-field” cross country ski event.
Originally scheduled to start from 8:30 – 9:30 a.m., the time was moved to 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. when temps inched up above zero and even the sun came out for a while. The event was also shortened from a choice to two distances—25 or 45 kilometers—to just the shorter distance.
Skiers took off with smiles and plenty of warm layers from the OO Trailhead Cabin in Seeley, WI, and skied north to Telemark Lodge in Cable, WI. There were aid stations and volunteers with sport drink, hot chocolate, and bars and cookies about every 5 kilometers along the trail, even a couple of warming cabins with a fireplace or wood stove. At the finish, skiers were treated to a sit-down lunch of brats and chili at Telemark.
“Skiers remained very positive, despite the cold. It was a great group,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF). “After not much snow in many places, we found people were every enthused about finally getting out for a long ski, especially through a supported event like this.”
The BirkieTour is an untimed, “open field” event where skiers start, ski, and finish in a more leisurely way. It is a great to get in a long ski on a supported course for those getting ready for the American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet races on February 25. It’s also a way for many skiers to try a longer distance for the first time or just check out various sections of the Birkie Trail. All BirkieTour participants received a long-sleeve T-shirt, 2012 Birkie pin and Worldloppet credit.
As usually happens at Birkie events, there were a lot of stories. One pair came all the way from Australia so one of them could get his Worldloppet credit for a U.S. event. Another woman, Jeanine Hurley, completed the event to get Worldloppet credit and in doing so became the first woman from Ireland, and the third person from Ireland, to become a Worldloppet Master. To achieve this international recognition, skiers must complete 10 of the 15 Worldloppet events or races worldwide.
Other skiers came from as far away as Estonia and Canada. Stateside, skiers came from California, Texas, New York, and Ohio. But, the majority drove in right from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan for the groomed, snow-covered trails that are in short supply elsewhere this winter, given the minimal snowfall in the region so far this ski season. A young couple from Denmark who live and study in Minneapolis said they had a great time and will also be here for the Birkie in February.
New this year, the BirkieTour is now part of the first annual Birkie Warrior Series, where year-round athletes and fitness enthusiasts can get credit just for participating in some aspect of all three of the American Birkebeiner’s signature events—the BirkieTour in January, the American Birkebeiner ski races in February, and the Birkie Trail Run & Trek events in September. Participants receive a range of recognition and awards.
The BirkieTour is sponsored by Becker Law, Hammer Nutrition, Olympia Granola, GU Energy Gel, Marketplace Foods, New Moon Ski & Bike Shop, ActivEdge, and FITS Sock.
To learn more about the North America’s largest and most prestigious cross country ski race, please visit birkie.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-634-5025.
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Alex Kochon (email@example.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.