Birkebeiner

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

Many Northwoods skiers are headed to the American Birkebeiner in Hayward this weekend.  As WXPR’s Natalie Jablonski reports, racers carefully wax their skis in preparation for the more than 30 mile race. 

Ben Koenig, Ski Manager at Mel’s Trading Post Rhinelander, is polishing a coat of glide wax with a brush of horsehair bristles.  As any seasoned cross country skier will tell you, a lot goes into applying and choosing the fastest wax. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

The American Birkebeiner is well known for its difficulty and impressive distance: a course more than 30 miles long that takes hours to complete. 

But Birkie weekend hosts other events, including one that celebrates the Nordic roots of cross country skiing: the second annual Nikkerbeiner race on wooden skis.

On the streets of downtown Hayward, it’s easy to spot the Nikkerbeiner skiers among the fray.  They’re the ones wearing woolen knickers, knee socks, and an occasional Vikingish helmet. 

Natalie Jablonski / WXPR News

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.

Northwoods travelers to this weekend’s American Birkebeiner ski race may face a snowy trip.  

More than ten thousand skiers from 21 countries are flocking to Hayward, many braving significant snow and ice.

Rhinelander resident Joel Knutson delayed his travel plans until Friday morning in hopes of letting the storm pass.  He says the weather just adds another layer of logistics. 

“And then you add that to the already-neurotic pre-race preparation of wax, and lodging and food – it makes for a pretty interesting mental cocktail!”