More than ten thousand skiers competed last weekend in the American Birkebeiner ski race. A foot of snow leading up to race day made for challenging conditions.
Single digit temperatures and fierce winds made for a cold start line early Saturday morning. Cross country skiers in brightly-colored spandex stretched their limbs and sprinted to make their start time.
Pam Fashingbauer of Minocqua prepared for her first ever 54 kilometer classic race, after overcoming a shoulder injury from last summer.
“Last year I just kept thinking about it, should I do it, should I not. And I’m thinking, well I’m not getting any younger – if I’m gonna do it I should do it! So I signed up.”
Another first time Birkie racer Dale Kicker says he’s in it for the challenge.
“Well the sheer volume of it – the size. It’s the granddaddy of all races – known for its difficulty, and then the distance, the hills. This year the cold.”
As a result many racers finished with ice-encrusted beards and clothing.
And despite the hard work of trail groomers, racers like Canadian skater Zoe Roy say trail conditions were soft and difficult.
“It was pretty cold and pretty slow. Actually coming across the lake was super windy, wicked!”
Roy says her favorite part about skiing the Birkie is the enthusiasm of the bell-ringing crowds.