The BirkieFest new start line with (L-R) Robert Polking, Andy Johnson, Joel Yunek, Jay Friday & Evan Peterson (formerly of Mason City).

Courtesy photo

HAYWARD, Wis. | Tensions ran high Feb. 24 as rumors of a winter storm waxed and waned. The predicted snowfall was critical to cover the Birkie Trail for the American Biekebeiner Cross Country Ski race to be held Feb. 25.

After days of record-breaking, unseasonable weather, over 1.5 inches of rain, and a predicted snow storm front that missed the Hayward and Cable areas, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation regretfully announced the cancellation of the 2017 American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet, and Prince Haakon cross-country ski races.

Instead, in true Birkie Fever style, they hosted BirkieFest 2017 — the inaugural celebration of the American Birkebeiner Trailhead & start area!

Seven North Iowans and their friends trained hundreds of hours over the past 12 months in preparation for the 52-kilometer (32-mile) Birkie race and 22K Kortelopet (Korte).

Jay Friday, Mason City, was disappointed at the cancellation but smiled and said, “Well, it’s time to start training for another Birkie.”

Other North Iowa Birkie hopefuls were Andy Johnson, Robert Polking, Joel Yunek, all from Mason City; and Korte contenders Casey Martin, Clear Lake, Scott Moorman, Mason City, and Evan Peterson, formerly of Mason City.

“It is so important to have a goal like the Birkie,” said Polking. “It makes a huge difference in motivation and commitment regardless if it’s skiing, running, biking or any sport.”

Everyone agreed that the training goal of completing the Birkie and improving their personal finish times contributed to what many call the Birkie lifestyle. The website is full of activities and tips for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities.

Birkie is a year-round lifestyle choice for thousands of outdoor fitness enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. From its signature Nordic ski race–the legendary Swix American Birkebeiner, established in 1973 and going strong for over four decades — the Birkie has grown to include an array of racing, training, fitness and recreational events and resources, all on the remarkable Birkie Trail.

The Wisconsin event pays homage to a true story. The year was 1206 and Norway was in the midst of a civil war when Birkebeiner skiers, so called for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway, smuggling Prince Haakon, the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg, to safety. The prince later became Norway’s King Haakon Haakonsson IV and forever changed Northern Europes’ history by his reign.

The American Birkebeiner began in 1973 as the dream of the late Tony Wise. A new Tony Wise museum depicts its history and a model of the trail elevations. Each year, in homage to the races roots, two Birkebeiner warriors and Inga, ski the entire Birkie course on traditional wooden skis and in full period costume inspiring fellow racers along the way.


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