The 45th Slumberland American Birkebeiner kicks Off

Brandon Weathers
Created: February 21, 2019 09:43 PM

The 45th Slumberland American Birkebeiner kicked off Thursday with events for the whole family, even the pets.

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American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation marketing director Nancy Knutson said, "we started off with the barker birkie skijor this morning, then the Barnebirkie with the little kids, and the junior birkie relays.”"

They don't only have skiers of all ages, but from all over the world. "We've got skiers from 49 states and 23 countries," Knutson said. "People are so exited to welcome the world to Hayward Wisconsin, and spread their love of Nordic sports."

It takes a lot of hands on deck to turn a small Wisconsin town into the largest cross-country ski race in North America. "There are a little over 2,000 people in the community of Hayward, and we have than 28 hundred volunteers just to make this event happen. And they are really the backbone of the American Birkebeiner, and that's part of the Birkie fever," Knutson said.

American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation executive director Ben Popp said, "It's all about being outside, being active, and really embracing winter. So many people say, 'agh, I hate this snow,' but we actually love it, and so do 40,000 people who are here this weekend."

The 13,500 people participating in this year's Birkebeiner range in skill level from first-timers to world-class skiers. This is Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall's first Birkebeiner. Randall and Jessie Diggins took home the United State's first gold medal in cross-country skiing on February 21st, 2018; one year to the date before the start of the 2019 Birkebeiner events.

After winning the Olympics, Randall was faced with a different challenge. "It was the most amazing end to my career," Randall said. "I did not expect 3 months later to find out that I had breast cancer. I was feeling pretty invincible at the time, but thankfully, I caught it early."

Randall completed her last round of chemotherapy less than a month before the Birkebeiner. "I'm now considered cancer free and just starting to get my energy back, and just really appreciating this wonderful opportunity I have to get outside and enjoy the sport I love with my friends."

Randall will be participating in the 55 kilometer race on Saturday.


Brandon Weathers

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