39th Annual American Birkebeiner Attracts Crowds From Across the World

By KBJR News 1

February 26, 2011 Updated Feb 26, 2011 at 7:47 PM CDT

HAYWARD, WI---(Northland's Newscenter)---Thousands of cross country skiers lined up for the 38th Annual American Birkebeiner.

The race from Cable to Hayward Wisconsin attracts some of the best cross country skiers across the country.

"It was awesome, best thing I've ever done in my life, said skier Levi Illick. "Going in it felt great, took it not to hard. But right now, right now I'm feeling awesome, there's nothing better!"

Those who completed any of the races at the 38th annual American Birkebeiner had several things in common besides frozen facial features, the euphoric feeling after a good workout, and sense of accomplishment.

"It was pretty good, it was kind of boggled up at the beginning," said Benny Smith. "I started in wave two and I got there a little late so I was towards the back. But then when the split for the Kordie and the Berkie, it really opened up and was just beautiful from there on out.

The cold weather and snowy conditions on Saturday may have been ideal for the skiers, and with over 20,000 spectators throughout the duration of the event, the fans didn't seem to mind the cold either.

"Skiers I think because they are moving all the time, they stay warm, but you gotta be an active cheerleader on the side lines just to say warm," said Leisha Ingdal, a supporter.

"Fans are out there all over, so, at the oddest places you'll hear it, and it makes you go faster and it gets you up that hill," said skier Chandra Shoeberg.

"I remember coming here when I was really young and ringing a cow bell, so its always been the thing to do," said Jaime Qualls.

"And skiers need the motivation on the last little leg here, they appreciate it," said Lisa Mitchell.

The Berkie, Kortelopet and Prince Haakon events start at the Cable Union Airport. At the beginning of each event, racers are given micro chip bracelets to record the start and finish time. Once a racer crosses the finish line, they must return the bracelets to avoid heavy fines.

For most skiers, physical training in preparation of the event was crucial, but others prepared differently.

I've been growing out this beard now for the last two months for the Berkie, and I'm so glad its frozen on my face! Wooo!

Written and posted to the web: Jennifer Walch