american birkebeiner.

Hayward Wisconsin hosts the American Birkebeiner Ski Race every year. This small town in the big woods is overrun by thousands of avid silent sports enthusiasts from all corners of the globe. For me personally, no skis. Cameras are my choice of gear!  It is one of the best times for street (trail) photography.

Birkie 2011-15

The following excerpt is from the American Birkebeiner website

It started in 1206. Birkebeiner skiers, so called for their protective birch bark leggings, skied through the treacherous mountains and rugged forests of Norway’s Osterdalen valley during the winter of 1206, smuggling the son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg to safety. The flight taken during the Norwegian Civil War took the Birkebeiners and prince from Lillehammer to safety in the town of Trondheim. Inga of Vartieg never became queen as the prince’s father was killed before he could return for her in Vartieg. Norwegian history credits the Birkebeiners’ bravery with preserving the life of the boy who later became King Haakon Haakonsson IV and forever changed Northern Europes’ history by his reign.

The story and painting of the flight were the inspiration for the first Birkebeinger ski race held in Norway in 1932. To this day, Norwegian skiers still carry a pack, symbolizing the weight of an 18-month child, in the Worldloppet’s Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet race from Rena – Lillehammer. Thousands of skiers commemorate the journey with annual Birkebeiner races in Norway, Canada, and the United States.

The race known today as the American Birkebeiner began in 1973 as the dream of the late Tony Wise. Thirty-four men and one lone woman were on the starting line clad in woolen sweaters and knickers for the 50-kilometer race from the Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward to Telemark Lodge in Cable, Wisconsin. Nineteen more women and juniors would ski a shorter race from “OO” to Telemark. Few knew they were going to make history. There were no U.S. Ski Team members or foreign skiers, just a handful of enthusiasts from a couple of midwestern states, out to try something new. Many of the entrants were on cross-country skis for the first season – some for the first time.

Today, over 11,000 skiers of all ages and abilites and 20,000 spectators from around the world gather every February in the Cable-Hayward, Wisconsin area to celebrate “The Birkie”, a race which has become a legend in the cross-country ski world.

Here are some of my favorite images from years past:

Birkie 2011-8 Birkie 2011-9 Birkie 2011-10

I’m throwing this one in from the Fat Tire Festival so we can warm up…

Fat Tire 2012

Back to the frigid…

Birkie 2011-22

I should mention that most of these photos are from 2011. It was 4 degrees. My  location for these images is at the end of the race just before they cross Lake Hayward onto Main Street. So, they are cold and tired…

Birkie 2011-23

The elite skiers always are so close…

Birkie 2011-11


Birkie 2011-3

Birkie 2011-4

I don’t think he likes me…

Birkie 2011-21

Still, there are always some who still have a smile left in them for me…

Birkie 2011-24

Birkie 2011-20

Birkie 2011-18

One of my office mates!! Dig his shades.

Birkie 2011

Now that is a frosty beard.

Birkie 2011-16

Birkie 2011-7

Birkie 2011-17

Nearly to Lake Hayward and the home stretch.

Birkie 2011-26

He is wearing the #1 bib for the place of honor in the 2011 race. This is Manfred Nagl. He is a three-time winner of this grueling race! He had a big smile and wave for me. Which, of course, I didn’t photograph because I was warming my frozen limbs…

Birkie 2011-12

Birkie 2011-13

Okay, time to warm up again. As I type this post, it is 5 degrees where I live.

Fat Tire 2012-6

There is a special camaraderie among these skiers.

Birkie 2012-2

This explains what it feels like to cross the FINISH line…

Birkie 2012-7

Always lots of fun on Hayward’s historic Main Street…

Birkie 2012-6

Birkie 2012-29

Birkie 2012-23

Got to refuel….

Birkie 2012-22

Bet he is feeling sooo good…

Birkie 2012-14

This guy sure is.

Birkie 2012-4

Birkie 2012-16

This image represents to me what it means when people say “they are consumed with skiing…

Birkie 2012-25

On the home stretch up Main Street, sometimes the skiers do some neat things. In the 2012 race, this guy put his little guy on his shoulders to finish. I don’t know how he had the strength but KUDOS to him!

Birkie 2012-26

The prize…

Birkie 2012-27

Stop back for a post of the images of the 2013 race after March 2013.


6 responses to “american birkebeiner.

    • Thank you very much! This is really an experience and I encourage you to give it a go. I was honored this year to be the Transport Photographer. My job was to photograph the top 3 skiers in each category next to their sponsored vehicle. It was such fun to be part of the “up close and personal” aspect of the race and to meet the people from around the world. If you need any information on the race itself or anything in NW Wisconsin, I can help so just send me an email back. Thanks again and I will be checking out your blog further!

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Beyond Birkie Fever « The Ranting Papizilla·

    • Thank you for the mention in your blog. I was honored this year to be the Transport Photographer. My job was to photograph the top 3 skiers in each category next to their sponsored vehicle. It was such fun to be part of the “up close and personal” aspect of the race and to meet the people from around the world.

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