Skiers from 23 countries and 49 states participated in the 45th Annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner festivities commencing Feb. 21 and ending with a joyous celebration for volunteers Sunday, Feb. 24. The only state not represented was Oklahoma.
Main Street Hayward is the center of the celebration with events for young and old alike, drawing over 13,000 participants for all races. The competitions start at 9 a.m. Thursday with the Barkie Birkie skijor races, involving skiers and their dogs racing in tandem. The Barnebirke, the children's race, but billed as the "youth ski tour," has participants from babies in child carriers to energetic middle schoolers, who course down Main Street to receive a beautiful medal and home baked cookies with hot chocolate. The Junior Birkie brings together participants from under 8 to under 12, starting at the Hayward Elementary School and finishing at the Birkie Finish. There is also a Junior Birkie Team Sprint event following the same course. The day closed with the Giant Ski race, involving teams on giant skis covering a one block course.
New this year was a Friday event, the Birkie Adaptive Ski Race, starting on Duffy's Field north of Lake Hayward. The route takes the skiers and their tenders on to Lake Hayward and over the Birkie International Bridge, on to the Main Street finish line, a distance of approximately 3.75 kilometers. The participants are awarded medals and afforded the opportunity to have pictures on the "Champions Stage" adjacent to the finish line. Steven Litzkow of St.
Croix Falls won the event with a time of 20:15.00.
The skiers and spectators were greeted Friday morning with temperatures in the 20's, a brilliant blue ski and little wind. Because of the recent snow falls the pine trees were picturesque. This is the second year the Kortelopet was held on Friday, rather than a joint start dating back to 1973, with the American Birkebeiner. In excess of 3,000 participants lined up under bright sunshine in 14 separate waves, over 65 minutes, starting at 10:30 a.m. Skiers were skiing both skate style and the classic diagonal stride. There were separate classes or waves for participants under 20 (U20) and "Wave 70" for more mature skiers, 70 and above.
The start is at the recently dedicated start area, just south of County OO in the Seeley Hills, and follows the American Birkebeiner Trail to downtown Hayward, a distance of 18 miles. The skiers are truly indebted to the groomers who had the course in pristine condition.
According the American Birkebeiner office, "the Kortelopet has a long legacy of elite skiers winning the race including Olympic gold medalist Jessie Diggins who won the Kortelopet twice in the earlier days of her skiing career."
- Mcewan Rodefeld, Blaine, Minn., won the Men's Skate in 1:18:03.
- Olivia Dreger, Marathon, Wis., won the Women's Classic in 1:27:12.
- Daniel Huhtala, Green Bay, won the Men's in 1:26:06.
- Johanna Craig, Tomahawk, took the Women's Classic in 1:38:19.
The Prince Haakon is a 12-kilometer race that starts near the Mosquito Brook trailhead, joins the Kortelopet course and finishes on Main Street. The race is named for the infant Prince Haakon, who was rescued by Birkebeiner warriors, Torstein and Skjervald, with mother
Inga in 1206, who skied 55 kilometers through the Norwegian mountains to safety. This race provides a great opportunity to skiers who would like to participate, but may not wish to engage the grueling hills of the Birkie course.
Mother Nature let everyone know who was in charge on Saturday morning. Skiers, spectators and organizers awoke to a fresh coat of 3 inches of wet snow and temperatures near 30. The 45th American Birkebeiner sent the initial skiers off from the start area near the Cable Union Airport and the closed Telemark Lodge with great fanfare at 8:15 a.m., followed by 18 more waves in a 90-minute period. The initial wave includes three "re-enactors" dressed in 1206-style clothing on wooden skis, representing the Birkebeiner warriors and mother Inga. A baby is present at the start for pictures, but does not make the journey to Hayward. Mother and child are reunited at the International Bridge and they ski together, with the warriors down Main Street. The skiers were subjected to another inch of snow during the Birkie start.
Also in the first wave was Ernie St. Germain, the sole participating "founder" who has skied every one of the 45 Birkies, commencing with 35 participants in 1973.
In addition to world class athletes, 2018 Olympic Gold medalist Kikkan Randall skied in the Elite Women's Skate, finishing 12th overall. This is a remarkable accomplishment, considering weeks following her Olympic win with Jessie Diggins, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and treatment over the last 10 months. She not only skied but worked tirelessly over the three-day celebration hosting gatherings to inspire girls to pursue participation in sports in general. She was quoted on Saturday in a post-race interview that the reception on Main Street by the crowd rivalled the Olympics.
As noted in a press release from the Birkie office, Alayna Sonnesyn, of South Londonderry, Vermont, and Akeo Maifeld-Carucci, of Craftsbury Common, Vermont, were the first elite skiers to cross the finish line on Hayward's snow-covered Main Street, in the men's and women's skate race.
It was a race to the finish as a trio of male skiers topped the American Birkebeiner International Bridge and made their way down Main Street toward the finish line. With only a fraction of a second between the finishers, Maifeld-Carucci took the top spot with a time of 2:12:34. Brian Gregg, Minneapolis, was right behind with a time of 2:12:35. Matt Liebsch, Orono, Minn., skied across the finish line with a time of 2:12:43.
In the women's skate race, Alayna Sonnesyn crossed the line nearly a minute before her nearest competitor with a time of 2:34:00, followed by Anja Gruber, Bozeman, Mont., with a time of 2:34:54, followed by Katie Feldman, Ketchum, Idaho, with a time of 2:35:08. Feldman's finish clinched the race as an entirely American podium for the Birkie skate race.
According to the American Birkebeiner Ski foundation, over 250,000 skiers have completed ABSF cross-country ski races since its founding in 1973.
Registration for the 2020 event opens May 1, 2019. The ABSF must now get ready for the 45NRTH Fat Bike Birkie on March 8-9, consisting of three bike races on the Birkie Trail (47, 21 and 10 kilometers).
50km Birkebeiner Skate
Brian Bell, 3:54:11.1; Erin Berglund, 7:01:29.9; Bob Branson, 4:25:54.7; Thomas Field, 6:25:35.9; Jeff Hommes, 4:34:26.3; Jeffrey Johnson, 4:09:17.0; Jason Klabon, 4:21:35.4; Mark Kubler, 5:50:33.8; Helen Leemkuil, 4:32:45.1; Brock Lundberg, 4:05:10.1; David Mataya, 4:36:17.8; Brent Mitchell, 4:46:22.5; Robert Moser, 3:45:41.6; David Ousdigian, 6:06:51.3; Mark Pilney, 5:18:32.2; Jerad Poling, 4:34:53.7; Einar Sandom, 5:49:15.4; John Stamm, 4:03:07.7; Andrew Taverna, 5:22:49.7; John Tjornehoj, 2:50:14.6; Thomas Weber, 4:37:43.6; Craig Woodley, 5:54:41.8; Brian Zeuli, 5:25:08.9.
55km Birkebeiner Classic
Katherine Alberg, 5:36:46.6; Greg Dulon, 8:09:02.7, Todd Elliott, 4:23:27.7; Sarah Hartung, 5:40:36.1; Joseph Lowery, 7:07:44.5; Jeff Roberts, 5:11:01.4; Warren Schneider, 7:12:33.6
29km Kortelopet Skate
Scott Everson, 2:26:14.6; Mark Gherty, 2:56:28.8; William Gorham, 2:45:48.9; Darren Grover, 3:44:49.2; Rubyann Mitchell, 2:03:26.5; Alice Moser, 2:25:14.5; Jeffrey Mutschler, 3:21:02.7; Cody Nelson, 2:49:03.6; Scott Nilsen, 2:20:27.1; Allen Omernik, 2:30:35.7; Nicholas Schneider, 2:25:33.6; Ronald Weiler, 2:35:43.9; Aaron Zeuli, 2:18:18.5
29km Kortelopet Classic
Kurt Nilsen, 3:07:35.8; Luke Owens, 3:09:36.4; William Roberts, 4:52:22.4; Tom Zeuli, 2:18:32.8
15km Prince Haakon
Jeff Anderson, 2:18:07.0; Annette Cook, 2:07:57.3