The American Birkebeiner is the largest cross-country ski race in the United States. The event has been called the Boston Marathon of cross-country skiing and generates a huge amount of revenue for the state of Wisconsin.
Registration opened on May 1st for events that are scheduled to be held from February 23-27, 2022. This year the Birkebeiner is offering an open track race on Wednesday which is limited to 1,000 entrants. The concept is to allow athletes a Birkie experience, without requiring them to endure the massive congestion of a typical race day.
Electing the open track race disqualifies finishers from age class awards, but for many it is worth it to complete another Birkie under more manageable conditions. The open track also assists the athletes who compete in the main race on Saturday by reducing the number of participants.
Fewer skiers keep the trail from breaking down which ensures a faster and more enjoyable race.
It may seem early to register for an event 10 months before it is scheduled to occur, but the popularity of the American Birkebeiner has athletes clamoring to sign up. The Birkie routinely reaches its maximum capacity and closes registration months before race day.
The event has four registration tiers with the price rising the longer you wait to register. Tier one is limited to the first 2,500 people who register and costs $155. Tier two is $165, tier 3 is $175, and tier 4 is $185. Therefore, skiers who wait to register will pay more and risk missing out on a spot altogether.
Athletes may sign up for either the skate or classic technique version of the race. Classic is the traditional diagonal stride form of cross-country skiing that most people associate with the sport. Skate is a skiing motion that resembles ice skating or rollerblading but with poles.
The classic race is 55 kilometers and the skate race is 50 kilometers. The difference in length is because there are separate trails at the beginning of the course which merge at about the halfway point.
Other events that take place during Birkie week are the 29k skate and classic Kortelopet on Friday, February 25th, and the Prince Haakon 15k which takes place on the same day. There are also various races for children and even a race that combines skiing and dogs called the Barkie Birkie.
For many people in the area, the American Birkebeiner represents a lifestyle choice. Athletes circle the race day on their calendar and dedicate their year to preparing for the event. The Birkie is a grueling race that serves as a wonderful motivation to stay fit, healthy, and active.
The 50 kilometer distance is over 31 miles. The course winds through very hilly terrain from Cable, Wisconsin to finish on the Main Street of Hayward Wisconsin.
Athletes come from all over the world to compete, and it’s common to see Olympic athletes and cross-country skiing world champions crossing the finish line. The atmosphere in Hayward is highly festive, and the American Birkebeiner is a fun race to spectate.
For more information, or to register for the 2022 event, visit the official web page of the American Birkebeiner.