Edit ModuleShow Tags

Across the Border: The American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin


Published:

For my family, the American Birkebeiner is a beloved tradition. My parents, aunts, and uncles have all participated in this annual cross-country ski race in Hayward, Wis., and have watched it evolve. My dad did the "Birkie" six times between 1982 and 1987 and did the Kortelopet in 1988. When he first participated, my dad was outfitted in knickers and wooden skis with tar but for the last two races he had carbon skis and skated the race without kick wax. Finally, my dad decided he'd rather ski the trail without crowds and stopped racing. These days, we cheer on my cousin (who I must proudly note is in the elite wave). The Birkie is a highly regarded event in the ski world (it’s North America’s largest cross-country ski marathon), but we have a fondness for it because our family cabin also is in the Hayward area.

American Birkebeiner in Hayward, Wisconsin

American birkebeiner Photo by Darlene Prois

The 39th annual Birkie takes place next weekend (with events Feb. 23-25). The ski race was founded 1973, inspired by the Birkebeiner Rennet ski marathon in Norway. Fun fact: Both events honor an old Norwegian story from 1206, when two warrior soldiers (called Birkebeiners for their birch bark leggings) skied infant Prince Hakkon to safety during the country’s civil war.

The course for the Birkie takes skiers from Telemark Ski Resort in Cable to Main Street in downtown Hayward, on either a 50K (skate) or 54K (classic) trail. The abridged Kortelopet, a 23K race, finishes back at Telemark. The Birkie and Kortelopet races start at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 25 (in waves). The race draws in more than 6,000 Birkie skiers and 11,000 skiers overall. The Birkie is one of the 15 international ski marathons that comprise the Worldloppet and one of the 13 that comprise the American Ski Marathon series.

Lucky for the skiers, Hayward has seen more snow than the Twin Cities and it looks like the weekend’s events will be able to run as planned. Besides the main races, Birkie weekend includes a torch lighting and fun ski, the Cable Natural History Museum family snowshoe hike, the Prince Hakkon 12K ski, a sit-ski for adaptive athletes, and much more.

When I wrote about Hayward in June 2010, I recommended a few must-see stops in the city. I would still suggest a stop at Tremblay’s Sweet Shop for fudge (but it’s closed through March, bummer) and at the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame (to at least look at the huge muskie sculpture). The Hayward area is located about 3 1/2 hours northeast of the Twin Cities. You can get more tips for exploring the area from the Hayward Lakes Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Whether you come to race or watch, it's quite the experience. I know my family will be there to cheer (Go Mike!).

Edit ModuleShow Tags

About This Blog

Whether you are a seasoned Twin Cities traveler or planning your first trip to Minnesota, this blog will introduce you to many new adventures to add to your itinerary. From day trips and scenic discoveries to luxurious girls weekends, travel tips, and insider scoops, our editors will give you all the information you need to enjoy your stay Up North.

Learn about the contributing writers.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Travel Blog

Journeys: How to Love Baseball While Knowing Little to Nothing about It

Whether you’re a fan for life or an ultra casual like me, baseball is a sport for the summer

A Gala Befitting Glensheen

At the Glensheen Gala, you can explore the gardens, see normally closed-off spots, and relish in the after party along Lake Superior

Seven Days of California Adventure

New adventures await in California, even for Travel Club guide and travel editor Todd Walker

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Traditional Powwow This Weekend

The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe welcomes the public to enjoy traditional dancing, drum ceremonies, and contests

A Day Trip to the North Loop

Just north and west of Target Field, North Loop has some of the best restaurants and shops in Minneapolis

The Museum of Pizza Has Minnesota Ties

Todd about Town: New York's new museum dedicated to pizza came from a U of M alum

Spa Central

When it comes to relaxation and rejuvenation, the Twin Cities do it right

A Bay Area Break

Go on a worry-free, weeklong vacation to San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, and Napa Valley, with the Minnesota Monthly Travel Club

This Week’s Top Artist Picks

Sam Smith, Reba McEntire, and Rod Stewart come to Minnesota

3 Fairs This Weekend

Celebrate Minnesota’s heritage—by raising a glass at the country’s biggest free Irish fair, by marveling at fierce lumberjack competitions, or by slipping into Civil War re-enactments

Ramsey Falls: A Photo Essay

Picturesque bridges, four miles of hiking trails, a gorgeous waterfall, and more await at Ramsey Park in Redwood Falls

Journeys: A Civil War Woman

Pipestone Civil War Days reenactor Kate Heller talks about what the festival is like, how she began reenacting, and how her Civil War Days wedding went

Destination: Pipestone

Civil War Days and Pipestone National Monument make Pipestone a rich historical destination

Irish Fair of Minnesota

Pure bagpipin' bliss
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags