Thousands Compete in 44th Annual American Birkebeiner

Alejandra Palacios
Updated: February 24, 2018 10:39 PM

HAYWARD - The largest Nordic ski-marathon in the nation, the 44th Annual Slumberland American Birkebeiner, kicked off Saturday.

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Thousands of workers, volunteers, and spectators were ready to help and cheer on the Birkebeiner skiers that were coming from 49 states and 36 countries.

Eric Pavlovich, a marathon participant, was competing at his ninth Birke.

"I created a good love for it, every year it seems like I've just gotten more in the spirit, racing harder, training harder," Pavlovich said.

The 50 kilometer skate and 55 kilometer classic ski started at Cable and ended on Main Street in downtown Hayward.

It was Margie Nelson's 11th race.

"I think part of it is just pushing yourself to see how you can do individually but then also its just the ski community is so amazing, so to be out here with 10,000 other people that love to ski, couldn't be better," Nelson said.

A large crowd welcomed skiers at the finish line with a huge round of applause.

Duluth native Adam Swank was racing in his 20th Birke.

"Pretty exhausted right now but I feel good. It was a pretty fast race the whole way through but conditions were perfect and they did a real nice job of getting the course in perfect conditions," Swank said.

Although he's been participating at the ski event for a while, he said the nerves never go away.

"There’s almost this intense excitement when you cross that bridge and you can kind of look down on the crowd in Main Street and everybody's ringing cow bells and screaming," Swank said.

The popular marathon has couples competing as well.

Nick Ross, a marathon participant, has someone special to thank for getting him involved in the popular winter sport.

"This is my third, I wasn't really a skier until I met her and was forced to, but I love it though," Ross said.

Ross became involved in skiing thanks to his partner's Birkebiener family. They’re all skiers.

It was Marit Sonnesyn's fifth year racing.

"They're able to make it a family event. I have memories growing up coming to do the Barnebirkie and the Junior Birkie when I was younger, and the fact that there's an event for every age is awesome," Sonnesyn said.

The popular yearly Nordic ski event brings people from all over the world together for a historical and memorable experience.

The four day ski event wraps up Sunday with an On-Snow Ski and Fat Tire Demo and a Fast and Female Champ Chat.



Alejandra Palacios

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