The American Birkebeiner: 40 Years of Tradition
Posted at: 02/23/2013 6:19 PM
| Updated at: 02/23/2013 10:33 PM
By: Travis Dill
Over 10,000 people slapped on their cross country skies and another 20,000 lined up to watch the 40th American Birkebeiner in Hayward on Saturday.
Wave upon wave of skiers streaked across the snow pushing themselves for over two hours. They like to call the condition Birkie Fever.
“It's just in our blood. Like everyone today as I finish I'm gonna say the same thing, 'I'll do better next year,'” Skier Pete Darienzo said.
He explained why the event draws so many people from all over the world.
“The course, the Birkie, the tradition. It's kinda the Boston Marathon of skiing,” Darienzo said.
Including Saturday, he has skied the trail from Cable to Hayward 33 times, but he's not done yet.
“Oh I wanna get 50 like everybody else you know,” Darienzo said. The 31-mile trek is grueling for the hobbyists and elite skiers alike. Thankfully the fans come prepared with cowbells.
The clanging they make spurs skiers on, and racers appreciate everything the fans do.
“The fans are amazing. Ski along the course and there's drums, there's music, there's fires, there's food and they're hooting and hollering at you and they keep you going,” Skier Nick Hess said.
The traditions are unique, and every year tens of thousands of people keep them alive. Skier Allen Hanson crossed the finish line for the 35th time this year.
“I forgot to quit that's my problem, but it's a good thing not to quit so it's a lot of fun,” Hanson said.
Most simply said that the race is fun, but that is because words cannot describe an experience like the Birkebeiner.
Northlanders made up a sizable part of the field on Saturday, but the Birkebeiner drew a diverse crowd. Racers from 21 countries and 48 states were expected to attend the event.