Updated: 02/22/2014 6:27 PM
Created: 02/22/2014 6:19 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
Thousands of skiers fought wicked winds and chilly temperatures at the American Birkebeiner on Saturday. The event was huge again this year, but recent the recent snowstorm made a dent in the number of skiers. Still, fans said the Birkie is like a family gathering they can't miss.
The worlds elite skiers faced single digit temperatures and winds gusting over 15 mph on the Birkie starting line. So some found it easier to watch than skate.
“I prefer spectator. Why wouldn't I? It's really fun to chear everybody on,” Kris Tjornehoj said.
She came all the way from Hudson, but over a foot of snow made it a treacherous trek.
“We actually had to get towed in because 15 inches didn't clear my car. So talk about destination,” Tjornehoj said.
Others said the roads weren't bad once you got out on them.
“My biggest challenge was at home keeping my half-mile driveway open before we could sneak out with the car,” Mike McGibbon said.
Crowds looked a little slim trailside because of the weather.
“I think so definitely. I think there are fewer fans for sure,” Jim Lutiger said.
It took a toll on the racers too. Over 5,000 skiers completed the 30 mile marathon, but over 7,000 actually registered. Still, fans said the Birkie is a spectacle they couldn't miss.
“I absolutely thrive on seeing these people do their personal best because it's just an individual competition where people put their heart and soul into it,” Tjornehoj said.
It took a lot of heart to make it to Hayward this year, but thousands couldn't resist Birkie Fever.
Groomers worked around the clock to pack and clear excess snow from the trail. A few tents even collapsed on Friday under the weight of the snowfall.
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