Up North: Thousands Look Forward to American Birkebeiner Every Year

Updated: February 27, 2019 11:12 PM

"I think it's just a celebration of health, stamina and being outdoors. I see it as a great way to get through the winter having this to look forward to," said Bob Shaw.

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After skiing in more than 15 Birkebeiner's Shaw traded in his skis for a view from the sidelines. He now stands elbow to elbow alongside thousands who root on their loved ones like, Anne Nischke, who was cheering on her husband racing in his fourth classic Birkebeiner.

"All these people getting excited about a winter sports, especially classic, cross country, and skate skiing is just really fun," she said about the atmosphere.

When you ask the skiers why they enjoy this race so much, it's simple.

"It's all the people, you know that makes it special," said Tim Medlin of Duluth.

Coming from Medlin, who was racing in his 40th Birkebeiner, it's a very credible statement.

"I'm in my 40th. Although I've had people that have been in more than this. I was sitting next to Ernie St. Germaine inside the warming shack," explained Medlin. "That's the guy that's doing his 45th this year, so I'm only five years behind him," he added with a smile.

St. Germaine was honored at this year's Birkie for his dedication to the race. He's skied in every race since it's inception 45 years ago.

"I haven't ever won anything or placed, I just ski," said St. Germaine. "I don't know that I've ever accomplished anything other than ski."

To see skiers like St. Germaine attend every year is what makes this event so special, especially to members of the Andreson family. As descendants of one of the original 35 founding American Birkebeiner skiers, they're joyed to see more than 13,000 take part in what's become their family tradition.

"It's been a family event as long as I can remember. I remember coming up here and just enjoying it and hoping to pass that on as we keep moving forward," said David Andresen.

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