Great big Birkie Week opens with an event for the wee small skiers in the family. The Barnebirkie, the nation’s largest ski event for children, kicks off race week on Thursday, Feb. 19.
Last year, nearly 1,200 kids participated in this beloved tradition. An additional few thousand spectators – along with 200 volunteers - lined Hayward’s Main street to watch the little darlings.
The kids traditionally celebrate their big ski by consuming hundreds of dozens of homemade cookies (supplied by Sons of Norway District 5 volunteers) and countless cups of steaming Swiss Miss hot chocolate.
The 23rd annual event sponsored by Salomon and Swiss Miss, will once again begin at 12:30 p.m. on Lake Hayward, has two new features this year: the Barnie Ski Games and a $5 registration fee.
After receiving their medals and refreshments, children will have the opportunity to play games and test their ski skills on a special course set up in the park between People’s Bank and the post office. The Ski Games are the brainchild of Central Cross Country Ski Association (CXC) Youth Director Everett Myers.
“My hope is that introducing parents and kids to ski games will give parents some ideas to get started on their own,” said Myers. “Kids can put on their skis and play games in their own yards at home. You don’t need groomed trails to have fun on skis – a little snow and a patch of land is all it takes.”
Elite skiers, including members of the CXC Ski Team, will be on hand to assist the kids, sign race bibs and offer skiing tips. After the games, kids and adults alike are invited to watch these same experts in action during the Elite Sprints. This exciting competition, held between many of the world’s fastest skiers, will also be held on Main, within an hour of the Barnie’s finish.
Myers pitched the idea of the Barnie Ski Games to ABSF Executive Director Ned Zuelsdorff, after seeing how much his own young children enjoyed watching the sprints last year. Zuelsdorff enthusiastically embraced the idea.
“We’re trying to make the Barnebirkie even more fun,” said Zuelsdorff. “The games are all oriented towards getting kids to enjoy playing outdoors, and it will also give them an opportunity to mingle with these very fast skiers.”
Ski Game activities will be offered for a variety of age and skill levels. At the Chariot Pull, kids on skis will be pulled along with old bicycle inner tubes, as if water skiing. An obstacle course of small hills will challenge climbing and descending skills, and a radar gun will read how fast the kids can ski. Scooter ski relays and games will test agility, balance and coordination, and a Simon Says game will challenge young skiers to try such feats as balancing on one ski or doing a 360-degree jump turn.
To ensure safety, no ski poles will be allowed in the Games.
Registration Fee is New
Another Barnie first is a $5 registration fee. In the past, the race has been free. Although two of the events most cherished traditions are donated – hot chocolate from Swiss Miss and cookies from Sons of Norway District 5 – other items, including race bibs, medals, trail grooming, tent rental, busing and dozens of other incidentals – must be covered with ABSF funds.
“The cost of the event keeps going up,” said Zuelsdorff. “We need to cover some of the costs and we feel $5 is a nominal fee.”
The Barnebirkie bibs and medals alone cost far in excess of the $5 fee, according to ABSF Director of Race Operations Shellie Milford.
Although the ABSF was reluctant to charge for the event, Zuelsdorff strongly feels the event continues to be a terrific value for participants, particularly with addition of the new Ski Games.
Barnebirkie: Children aged 3 to 13 ski 1K, 2.5K or 5K loops
Registration and bib pickup: 8:30 a.m. to noon at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 10586 Dakota Ave.
Start: 12:30 p.m. near the City Beach on Lake Hayward. Simultaneous start for all distances.
Finish: Main street and Third Ave.
Parking: Marked lots near the race start and downtown Hayward.
Transportation: Free buses for children and spectators run from Second St. and Dakota Ave. to the race start from 10:30 a.m. until 12:30. Spectators may walk or take the bus back to the finish.
Refreshments: Swiss Miss hot chocolate and cookies from the Sons of Norway District 5 are at the Celebration Tent on Third St, between Main and Dakota.
Ski Games: In the park between Peoples Bank and the post office on Main street.
Elite Sprints: follow at 2:30 p.m.