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Birkie Searches for Two Tough Birkie Skiers

Wed, Sep  19, 2007 - By Leslie Hamp

HAYWARD, Wis., September 18, 2007 – The Board of Directors for the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) is searching for two tough cross country skiers to dress as Birkebeiner warriors and trek 51 kilometers from Cable to Hayward on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2008.

The two skiers will dress in authentic gear, ski on wooden skis, and depict the 800-year-old rescue of Prince Haakon (Hō-ken), the baby who became one of the most popular Kings in Norwegian history.

The Birkebeiner warriors became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity; and the historic rescue inspired the creation of three ski marathons - the Birkebeinerrennet in Lillehammer, Norway, launched in 1932 and skied on the same route as the famous rescue; the American Birkebeiner, launched in 1973 when the late Tony Wise looked to his Norwegian roots to create a high-profile event for Telemark, his ski lodge in Cable, Wisconsin; and the Canadian Birkebeiner, launched in 1985 in Alberta, Canada.

In addition to searching for two Birkie warriors, the ABSF is also looking for a skier to depict Inga, the mother of the baby Prince. “Inga” will wear traditional clothing and ski either the 51-kilometer Birkie or 23-kilometer Kortelopet before meeting up with the Birkie warriors and baby Prince Haakon at the finish line on Main Street in Hayward.

Inga and the Birkie 2008 warriors will serve as “ambassadors on the trail” encouraging both skiers and volunteers. The warriors will carry a baby doll along the course until Main Street where they’ll pick up a real infant “Prince” before skiing the last two blocks to Inga at the finish line.

“Since this is the 35th anniversary of the American Birkebeiner, we felt it important to highlight the historic roots of the race with Inga, Baby Prince Haakon and the two Birkebeiner warriors,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the ABSF. “We are challenging skiers to find a friend, and tell us in 300 words or less why they would be the best Birkie 2008 warriors, Torstein (TOR-stine) and Skervald (SHER-vol).”

Entries must show ability, passion and tradition and demonstrate that the pair is capable of skiing the 51-kilometer trek on wooden skis while wearing the warrior costumes, carrying weapons of the era, and transporting baby Prince Haakon.

“The Inga entries can be part of or separate from the warrior entries,” Zuelsdorff said. “Again, we are looking for a 300-word essay that shows passion, ability and tradition and demonstrates why the entrant should be selected as the cherished mother of the baby Prince.”

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation will supply the Birkebeiner and Inga outfits and Birkebeiner weapons. Selected skiers must supply their own wooden skis.

To enter the competition, email a 300-word essay to birkie@birkie.com (one essay per warrior pair and one for each Inga). The deadline is November 1, and men and women are encouraged to apply.

“Be concise and persuasive,” Zuelsdorff said. “The four most recent warriors will review the essays and select the best pair to ski as the 2008 Birkebeiner warriors as well as the winning Inga. All three winners will be announced on December 1, 2007.”

Bill Pierce, Hayward, Wis., and Johnny Ingdall, Minneapolis, Minn., replicated the rescue in 2003; Jim Vanden Brook, Madison, Wis., and brother Tom, Arlington, Va., simulated the rescue in 2006; and Phillip Schaefer, Tomahawk, Wis., and son Michael, Cleveland, Ohio, re-enacted the historic trek in 2007. All six skiers remarked that skiing as one of the Birkebeiner warriors made that Birkie their most memorable.

More than 7,000 skiers are expected to register for the 35th anniversary American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet. Another 2,000 are expected for shorter races and events. To learn more about North America’s largest and most prestigious cross country ski race and the Birkebeiner/Inga competition, log on to http://www.birkie.com, email birkie@birkie.com or call 715/634-5025.

Birkie 2008 is sponsored by Subaru, State Bank of Drummond, Cable Chamber of Commerce, Johnson Bank, Sawyer County Record and Superior Publishing, and other businesses throughout the region and country.