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Slumberland American Birkebeiner 2024 Birkie Events

February 24 @ 8:00 am 6:00 pm CST

Birkie Changes

Are you ready for the greatest show on snow? The Slumberland American Birkebeiner, or “the Birkie,” is the largest and best regarded cross-country ski race in North America.

And this year marks it’s 50th anniversary!

The Birkie attracts thousands of skiers from all over the world who want to challenge themselves on the legendary Birkie Trail.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, a classic or a skate skier, a teenage skier or senior citizen, there is a Birkie event for you.

Here’s everything you need to know about the American Birkebeiner events in 2024.

What is the Slumberland American Birkebeiner?

The Slumberland American Birkebeiner is an annual ski marathon that covers 50 kilometers for skate skiers and 53 kilometers for classic skiers. It’s part of the Worldloppet circuit of over 20 international ski marathons.

And it’s the final, main event of the Birkie Week, which features a number of ski events for different ages and abilities (see below).

The Slumberland American Birkebeiner is known for its exciting atmosphere – with live music, cheering spectators, and a celebration zone (with ringing cowbells) at the finish line!

2022 American Birkebeiner Cross Country Ski Race

Where does the American Birkebeiner take place?

The American Birkebeiner takes place in the beautiful Northwoods of Wisconsin, starting at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead in Cable and ending on Hayward’s snow-covered main street.

The trail is known for its challenging terrain and is recognized as one of the more difficult cross country ski marathon courses in the world. Along the way, skiers cross over the frozen Lake Hayward and the American Birkebeiner International Bridge, which is a spectacular sight to see or experience!

The Birkie Trail is groomed and maintained by the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, a non-profit organization that promotes healthy and active lifestyles through year-round events and programs.

What is the 2024 Birkie events schedule?

Birkie week is jam packed with exciting races and events for five busy days. Some attend one event only and some stay for them all.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

  • Open Track: The same races, trails and finish – but more relaxed and low-key – and limited to 1,000 people. (Registration closed 11/7/23)
    • Open Track American Birkebeiner: 8:00am-5:00pm
    • Open Track Kortelopet: 11:00am-5:00pm
    • Open Track Prince Haakon: 11:00am-5:00pm

Thursday, February 22, 2024

  • Barkie Birkie: 5K, 3K, or 1K “Skijor” Dog/Owner Races. Each 25 minutes or less, limited to 150 dog/person teams. Races begin at 9:00am, 9:45am and 10:15am, respectively.
  • Barnebirkie: Non-Competitive Youth Ski Tour (ages 3-13). Three waves start between 11:30-11:40am, depending on age and ability.
  • Junior Birkie: Competitive Individual and Relay Races for Youths. Races begin between 1:00-2:15pm, depending on age and gender. Relay races begin at 3:30 after individual races.
  • Giant Ski: Six People on One Pair of Skis! This hilarious race down Haywards’s Main Street begins at 5:00pm. Limited to 30 teams, age 13 and older. Giant skis provided.
  • Birkie Bash: Annual Pasta Fundraiser with special guest Jessie Diggins, Olympic Gold Medalist and World Cup Champion. Tickets are $200 and must be bought in advance. Dinner is 6:00-8:00pm, with a 5:30 gathering at the Hayward Steakhouse & Lodge. Also enjoy music by Molly and the Danger Band. Bash goes through 8:30pm and benefits Mt. Telemark Village.
  • Birkie Expo: Fuel Your Active Lifestyle: 10:00am-8:00pm at the Hayward High School. Gear, swag and everything supporting your active outdoor lifestyle.

Friday, February 23, 2024

  • Kortelopet: Classic and Skate 29K: Competitive waves begin 10:15-11:25am, with finish cut-off at 5:00pm.
  • Prince Haakon: Classic and Skate 15K: Competitive waves begin 1:15-1:35pm, with finish cut-off at 5:00pm.
  • ParaBirkie: Birkie Adaptive Events: Competitive race begins at 9:00, with a finish cut-off at 10:30am.
  • Birkie Expo: Fuel Your Active Lifestyle: 9:00am-8:00pm at the Hayward High School. Gear, swag and everything supporting your active outdoor lifestyle.
  • Camp Birkie: Child Care for Ages 3-12: Northern Lights Christian Center in Hayward. Full Day: 7:30 am – 5:00 pm; Half Day Options: 7:30 am – 1:00pm or 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm. $50/child for a full day, $30/child for a half day. (Park cars at Birkie Ridge.) Kids enjoy a full day of scheduled activities!
  • Breakfast & Coffee: Everyone Welcome! $18 at the door for buffet, European-style informal breakfast. Coffee social at 7:30am; breakfast at 8:00am. Flat Creek Lodge in Hayward.
  • Park at the Start: Limited Passes SOLD OUT

Saturday, February 24, 2024

  • American Birkebeiner: Skate 50K, Classic 53K: Waves begin at 8:00, with a finish cut-off at 6:00pm.
  • Camp Birkie: Child Care for Ages 3-12: Northern Lights Christian Center in Hayward. Full Day: 6:00 am – 5:00 pm; Half Day Options: 6:00 am – 1:00 pm or 12:00 pm -5:00 pm. $50/child for a full day, $30/child for a half day. (Park cars at Birkie Ridge.) Kids enjoy a full day of scheduled activities!
  • Park at the Start: Limited Passes SOLD OUT
  • Park at the Finish: Limited Passes SOLD OUT

Sunday, February 25, 2024

  • Sunday Ski Demo: Try the Latest Equipment at the Birkie Trailhead: 9:00am – 12:00pm.
  • Birchleggings Club: Awards Breakfast at the Hayward Steakhouse & Lodge: 9:00-11:00am.

Reserve Your Stay Now!

 

What is the story of the Birkebeiner?

In 1206, Norway was torn by civil war. Amidst this chaos, a secret journey unfolded. Birkebeiner warriors, known for their birch bark leggings, forged a daring mission through Norway’s rugged Osterdalen valley. Their precious cargo? Infant Prince Haakon, son of King Sverresson and Inga of Vartieg.

Braving treacherous mountains and dense forests, they traveled from Lillehammer to Trondheim, bringing the prince to safety. This bold act preserved the future King Haakon Haakonsson IV, who profoundly impacted Northern Europe’s history.

This tale inspired Norway’s first Birkebeiner ski race in 1932. Even now, Norwegian skiers honor this tradition, carrying packs representing an 18-month-old child in the Worldloppet’s Norwegian Birkebeiner Rennet race.

Here in northwest Wisconsin, the American Birkebeiner began in 1973, envisioned by Tony Wise. Starting small with just 35 determined skiers in Hayward, Wisconsin, it’s grown tremendously.

Now it’s North America’s largest ski race and third worldwide. Over 250,000 skiers have participated to date, and the number continues to grow. Today nearly 45,000 spectators and participants gathering each February in Wisconsin for this Nordic sports celebration.

Each year, the race pays homage to its roots. Participants dressed as Birkebeiner warriors and Inga ski the full course on traditional wooden skis. They carry a baby doll throughout, symbolizing young Prince Haakon.

In a touching finale, they pick up a real infant, playing the prince, and ski the last stretch to Hayward’s main street. This gesture celebrates the race’s heritage and the enduring spirit of the original Birkebeiners – the “Birkies.”

The Birkebeiner symbolizes courage, perseverance, and loyalty.

What does the word Birkebeiner mean?

The word Birkebeiner literally means “birch legger” in Norwegian. It was originally a derogatory term used by the enemies of the Birkebeiner warriors, who wore birch bark as protection against the cold and wet.

But the Birkebeiners embraced the name and made it a badge of honor. Today, the word Birkebeiner is used to refer to the participants of the ski marathon, as well as the supporters and fans of the event.

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How many miles is the American Birkebeiner?

The American Birkebeiner is about 31 miles for skate skiers and 33 miles for classic skiers. But the exact distance may vary a little, depending on the weather and trail conditions.

The Birkie Trail is marked with kilometer signs along the way, so skiers can keep track of their progress and pace.

How long does it take to ski the Birkie?

The time it takes to ski the Birkie depends on many things – like the skier’s ability, technique, fitness, equipment, and weather.

The average time for the Birkie skate is around 3 hours and 15 minutes, while the average time for the Birkie classic is around 4 hours and 15 minutes. The fastest skiers can finish the Birkie in under 2 hours, while the slowest skiers can take up to 8 hours.

The official cut-off time for the Birkie is 6:00 pm on race day.

What is the difference between classic skiing and skate skiing?

Classic skiing and skate skiing are two different techniques of cross-country skiing.

Classic skiing involves moving the skis parallel to each other in a gliding motion, similar to walking or running. Skate skiing involves pushing the skis at an angle, similar to ice skating or rollerblading.

Both techniques require different types of skis, boots, poles, and wax.

Classic skiing is generally easier to learn and more suitable for beginners, while skate skiing is faster and more efficient, but requires more strength and balance.

Cross country Birkie skier.

How many people ski the American Birkebeiner?

The American Birkebeiner is the largest cross-country ski race in North America, with over 10,000 participants every year. In 2023, skiers from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 20 countries took part in the event.

The Birkie is also one of the most diverse ski races in the world, with skiers of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and abilities. The youngest skier in 2023 was 18 years old, while the oldest skier was 88 years old.

The Birkie also has a strong female presence, with women making up 45% of the participants in 2023.

How do you qualify for the Birkie?

To qualify for the Birkie, skiers must meet the age and ability requirements for their chosen event. All participants must be 18 years of age or older on race day to register for the American Birkebeiner. (13 years old for the Kortelopet and Prince Haakon.)

Skiers must also have a valid Worldloppet passport or a U.S. Ski membership to enter the “elite wave,” which is reserved for the top skiers in the world. Skiers who want to enter a specific wave based on their previous performance must provide proof of their best result from the past three years.

Skiers who don’t have a qualifying time or who want to ski for fun can enter the open track events, which are open to all skiers regardless of their ability.

How do you register for the Birkie?

To register for the Birkie, skiers fill out an online entry form on the official website of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation.

Registration for the 2025 Slumberland American Birkebeiner, Kortelopet, Prince Haakon, and Open Track events opens to ABSF members in April and to the public in May. Registration is on a first-come basis and close when events reach capacity.

Skiers are encouraged to register early to secure their spot and to avoid higher entry fees. Skiers can also purchase wave insurance, which allows them to change their wave or event for a small fee.

How much money do you win for the American Birkebeiner?

The American Birkebeiner offers a generous prize purse for the top finishers in the elite wave. In 2024, the total prize money for the skate races is $39,000, with $10,000 going to the first place winners in both the men’s and women’s skate races.

The prize money is distributed among the top finishers in each race, with the second place winners receiving $4,500, the third place winners receiving $3,000, and so on.

The prize purse for the classic races is $5,000, with $1,000 going to the first place winners in both the men’s and women’s races. The prize money for the classic races is distributed among the top 3 finishers in each race, with the second place winners receiving $500, and the third place winners receiving $250.

Are the American Birkebeiner trails open to the public?

The American Birkebeiner trails are open to the public year-round, except during the Birkie Week and other special events.

From April through November, the trails are free to use for cross country skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, and running.

But from December-March, a trail pass is required to help support the maintenance and grooming of the trails. Trail passes can be purchased online, at the Birkie office, or at various trailheads and local businesses.

A “regular” trail pass currently runs $50 for natural, groomed snow areas. Or you can buy an “all access” pass for $100, to include the snow-making loop and the greater Birkie trail system.

The trails are divided into sections, with different difficulty levels and distances. Skiers can find a complete list of maps and trail conditions on the Birkie website.

CLICK HERE for a Detailed PDF of the Birkebeiner Trail

Where can I watch the Birkebeiner?

The Birkebeiner is a spectator-friendly event, with many opportunities to watch and cheer for the skiers. The best places to watch the Birkebeiner are:

  • The start line at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead in Cable, where skiers begin their journey in waves.
  • On the big screen from the Frandsen Bank & Trust Celebration Plaza on Main Street between 3rd and 4th Streets
  • The finish line on the snow-covered main street of Hayward, where skiers receive their medals and celebrate their achievement.
  • The celebration zone, which features live music, food, drinks, vendors, and awards ceremonies.

Skiers can also be watched online, as the Birkie provides live streaming and video coverage of the event on its website and social media platforms.

Skiers can also track their friends and family members using the Birkie app, which provides real-time updates and official results.

How can I be part of the American Birkebeiner?

The Birkie offers endless ways to be involved, whether as a participant, a spectator, a member or a volunteer. Click here to learn more and become part of the Birkie week excitement!

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