What do you get when over 10,000 cross-country skiers from all over the US and countries as far-flung as Russia descend on the small North Woods burg of Hayward, WI? You guessed right, The American Birkebeiner ski race. What began with a small band of die-hards in woolen knickers and wooden skis has turned into a series of races over three days that draws everyone from world-class European champions screaming to a photo finish to amiable shufflers out for a long day in the woods.
Much like the Marathon, the Birkebeiner traces it’s roots to an historical event — when a few hardy Medieval Norwegian warriors saved their infant prince from abductors and skied him over thirty miles to safety. Though no one is saving babies today, the length of the race has stayed the same, and for most of us it’s more a test against oneself and the elements than a race against others.
For its 40th year, the good folks of Hayward put on yet another incredible race weekend, and a Saskatchewan Screamer helped out with several fresh inches of snow to cover up some thin spots along the trail.
As we say up here, “we love winter!” and it’s easy to see it on the faces of the skiers and friends who show up to cheer them on.
Oh, and if you’re looking for the best Bloody Mary in the Upper Midwest, find yourself a seat at The Angry Minnow. It’s worth the drive alone. Cheers!