American Birkebeiner to make huge economic impact

By KBJR News 1

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 10:50 AM CDT

Hayward, WI (NNCNOW.com) --- The 41st annual American Birkebeiner will draw a huge number of people to the Hayward and Cable area this weekend... and they'll bring with them a significant financial impact.

More than 11-thousand skiers and 20-thousand spectators will make their way to the world's largest cross-country ski race this weekend.
The American Birkebeiner means big business for much of Northwestern Wisconsin, but especially for Cable and Hayward.
Those two communities have a combined population of just over three thousand. That number will swell to more than 30-thousand when you add skiers and spectators.
Shops, restaurants and hotels will be jam packed.
Hotel owners are saying that their rooms are completely filled for this weekend with people coming from all over the world.
For example, Oliv Hiugen came from Norway to ski the race. He found love at first ski when he met his wife at the Birkie 32 years ago.

"I met her at the lodge and we kind of clicked together." Said Hiugen.

Hotels are booked well in advance and some even take the chance to book for the following year as they head home from the race.

"Most of our guests have locked in their rooms months in advance. Sunday night a lot of folks, probably half of our hotel will book for the upcoming year as they depart, a year in advance." Said Owner of the Americinn in Hayward, Jim MIller.

Millions of dollars are expected to be spent during the Birkie with an economic ripple effect being felt throughout Northwestern Wisconsin.

"The economic impact is in the millions of dollars and really reaches out all the way to Superior and Eau Claire and Park Falls and Rice Lake. We know from a lodging standpoint that we've got people staying up to an hour, hour and a half away from here." Said Cable Area Chamber Of Commerce spokesperson, James Bolen.

The financial impact is not limited to the Birkie weekend either. Race organizers say the race introduces people to the area and keeps them coming back for years.

"When we do our surveys, we see those people come back four to five times a year. So they're building cabins, they're visiting friends and making multiple trips to the area." Said Executive Director of the Birkebeiner, Ben Popp.

And each trip brings a nice boost to the local economy.

This year's snowstorm threatens travel to the race and even course conditions, but race organizers have said some people are coming in early to beat the worst of the storm and organizers remain optimistic about the big race on Saturday.

Bryce Henry