American Birkebeiner Opens 2013 Warrior-Inga Contest

Alex KochonSeptember 27, 2012
The “Birkie Warriors” of the 2012 American Birkebeiner. (ABSF photo)

(Press release)

Enter for a Chance to Ski the Historic Re-Enactment of the Original Birkebeiner!

This annual contest is now open for entries. The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) is searching for three cross country skiers to depict the two Birkebeiner Warriors and Inga, the mother of baby Prince Haakon, at this year’s 40th annual American Birkebeiner ski race. Each year a trio is selected to ski the 54 kilometer journey from Cable to Hayward, WI, re-enacting–on wooden skis and in full costume–the historic rescue of the Prince more than 800 years ago. This year’s American Birkebeiner ski race takes place on Saturday, February 23, 2013.

* The deadline for submitting entries is November 15, 2012.
Winners will be announced on December 15.

The Role of the Warriors and Inga at Birkie 2013

The group of three skiers selected will dress in authentic period clothing and ski on wooden skis to depict the historic event (see “A Brief History” below). They will also serve as ambassadors on the trail, encouraging skiers along the way. On race day the two Warriors ski the entire 54K Classic Birkie race course. Inga may choose to ski either the same 54K Classic or cut off to ski the 23K Kortelopet course. Either way, she will re-join the Warriors to Ski the final two blocks up Main Street to the finish line.

The group will also make appearances at other events during Birkie race week, like Thursday’s Welcome Ceremony on Main Street and the Barnebirkie children’s event earlier that day.

A Brief History 

Birkie Warriors at the 2012 start line. (ABSF photo)

The two Viking warriors being portrayed, Torstein and Skervald, were called “Birkebeiners” for the protective birch bark leggings they wore. They skied more than 50 kilometers through rugged mountains and forested terrain to smuggle the infant son of King Syverresson and Inga of Vartieg from Lillehammer, Norway, to safety in the town of Trondheim, during the Norwegian Civil War.

The rescued prince became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance, and character in the face of adversity.

This historic rescue inspired the creation of three ski marathons: The Birkebeinerrennet in Lillehammer, Norway, launched in 1932 and skied on the same route as the famous rescue; 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 ski lodge in Cable, Wisconsin; and the Canadian Birkebeiner, launched in 1985 in Alberta, Canada.

“The re-enactment has become a great tradition that our skiers, volunteers, and spectators look forward to every year,” says Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “For our 40th year especially, this re-enactment plays a very special part in the Birkie race and in the festivities during the week leading up to Saturday. The contest itself has become one of the highlights of the Birkie year.”

Special Benefits of Skiing as the Warriors and Inga:

_ A Free Entry the Following Year
Each winner will also receive a free 2014 Birkie or Korte race entry.

_ Race Credit

If you ski as either a Warrior or Inga, you will receive full credit for completing the race.

_ The Experience of a Lifetime!
Our past Warriors and Ingas tell us over and over again that skiing the Birkie in these
historic roles is one of their most cherished experiences. Part of that, they say, is the
feeling on the trail, encouraging other skiers and being part of the Birkie in a whole new
way. Sking on traditional wooden skis and taking on the roles of these characters that
brought the first Birkie into being has added a whole other dimension to their Birkie

Comments from 2012

__ From Darald Bothun, 2012 Warrior “Skervald”:“It was an huge honor to represent the Birkie by carrying out the Norwegian tradition of saving the future king. The spirit of the Birkie was always felt. Spectators and skiers were constantly cheering for us. It was one of the most inspiring days of my life, and to share it with family and friends made it extra special!”

“Also,” he says, “Barry and I are doing the half marathon Nordic Trek at the Birkie Trail Run & Trek on September 22. We want to smell the oaks!”

__ From Barry Knapp, 2012 Warrior “Torstein”: 
“I continue to be humbled and honored for the experience of being a Birkie Warrior for the American Birkebeiner. The enthusiasm and energy that arose from our fellow skiers at each rest stop, along the trails, and those days preceding race day filled us with appreciation for the whole Birkie skiing community. Also, the locating, cleaning, pine taring, and waxing of the old wooden skis in preparation for the Birkie was a labor of love; it renewed my respect for the original Norwegian birch legging warriors. Thanks!”

__ From Kristin Bothun, 2012 Inga:
“I have been blessed with many amazing opportunities in my life. Being given the opportunity to represent Inga at the Birkie has been one of these extraordinary experiences. As Inga, the Birkie journey was not only only fun and exhilarating, but humbling and honoring. I skied the most beautiful (and challenging) Birkie trail dressed in a scarlet red cape, bearing birch-skin leggings and wooden skis.

“Not only was I inspired by the warriers (my father as well as a dear family friend), but I was motivated by all of my fellow skiers, heroes in their own right. The exhilaration on and off the Birkie trail was phenomenal throughout the entire weekend, from the streets of Hayward to the hallways of Telemark Lodge.

“‘Hiya, Hiya, Hiya’! Thank you to the American Birkiebeiner for allowing me to be a Queen for the day!”

.     .     .     .     .


1. Form a group of two Warriors and an Inga
2. Complete the Online Entry Form – Click Here
3. As part of that form, describe why the members of your group are qualified to ski as the Warriors, Torstein (TOR-stine) and Skervald (SHER-vol), and Inga

Entries must first demonstrate your skiing ability then your passion, sense of tradition, and why skiing in these roles is important to each of you.

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation will supply the Warrior and Inga costumes. Each skier must supply his or her own wooden skis. You may but do not need to provide a young child to portray the baby Prince Haakon, to be carried by one of the Warriors or Inga the two blocks up Main Street to the finish.

Click Here to access the online entry form. The deadline for entires is November 15. 

The judges for this year’s contest will be the Warriors and Inga winners from 2011 and 2012 Birkies. The winning group will be announced on December 10, 2012.

A Look Back

Past Five Birkie Warriors:

2012:  Darald Bothun and Barry Knapp, both from Rochester, MN
2011:  Gale Otterholt and Marv Franson, both from Eau Claire, WI
2010:  Brothers David Nelson, Medicine Lake, MN, and Grant Nelson, Duluth, MN, skied
the re-enactment as a family with David’s wife, Josie, as Inga and their son Karl
as the Prince
2009:  Jeff Cummisford, Waukesha, WI, and best friend, Richard Pierce, Verona, WI
2008:  Brothers Thom Gerst, Coon Rapids, MN, and Gary Gerst, Maple Grove, MN

Past Five Birkie Inga and Baby Prince Haakon:

2012:  Kristin Bothun, Mankato, MN, daughter of Warrior Bothun, and Nikolai Fornear 
2011:  Gretchen Lindgren, St. Cloud, MN, and her grandchild Finnley
2010:  Josie Nelson, Medicine Lake, MN, and son Karl
2009:  Lyndsey Lewis, Fort Collins, CO, and son Piercen
2008:  Gail Moede Rogall, Madison, WI, and son Bjorn

For more information, email or call 715-634-5025.

Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon ( is a former FasterSkier editor and roving reporter who never really lost touch with the nordic scene. A freelance writer, editor, and outdoor-loving mom of two, she lives in northeastern New York and enjoys adventuring in the Adirondacks. She shares her passion for sports and recreation as the co-founder of "Ride On! Mountain Bike Trail Guide" and a sales and content contributor at When she's not skiing or chasing her kids around, Alex assists authors as a production and marketing coordinator for iPub Global Connection.

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