American Birkebeiner attracts 11,000 skiers and 20,000 supporters from around the world

Together the towns of Hayward and Cable Wisconsin are home to just over 3,000 people. One weekend every year, the two towns welcome thousands for the American Birkebeiner, a three-day ski marathon. Despite cold temperatures this year, more than 11,000 skiers, 20,000 supporters and 2,000 volunteers participated in the 38th American Birkebeiner. 2011 American Birkebeiner footage

Video Credit: Jennifer Walch

“It was definitely one of the coldest Birkies I’ve ever skied in,” said Spencer Newman, a veteran Birkie skier from Superior, Wis. “I didn’t have much of a beard, but if I did, there would have been a lot of ice frozen to it.”

For Spencer, a senior and civil engineer student at UMD, skiing has been a lifelong passion. The Newman family has skied together in the Birkie for the past four years.

“It’s something that I do every year with my family,” Newman said. “We always have our spaghetti dinner the Friday night before the race. It’s a good family event in that sense.”

This year, Newman placed 1,102 out of 3,702 in the 50K Birkie Skate event with a total race time of 3:08:22.6. The first place skier from Norway finished the race in 2:00:32.8. Newman attributes his race time to the combination of strength and cardio training he put in just two months before the event. His cardio work was done mostly at the Superior Municipal Forest.

“Depending on the day, I try and do a couple long distance skis a week, which is about two to two-and-a-half hours per week,” Newman said. “Then the other two days are maybe a hill workout of a little faster pace for shorter periods of time.”

The American Birkebeiner attracts elite skiers from all corners of the world. Since it started in 1973, it has become the largest cross country ski marathon in North America. The Birkie is part of the Worldloppet, an international sports federation of cross-country skiing marathons held on four continents.

The Birkie, Kortelopet and Prince Haakon are three main ski events that take place over the weekend. They each start at the Cable Union Airport and end at various points, depending on the length of each race.

Citizen diplomats build community between Duluth and Iraq

University of Minnesota Duluth student promotes living on needs through TEDx event