Famed Birkie cross-country race adds new trail


North America’s largest cross-country ski race, the American Birkebeiner, is renewing its commitment to classical skiers by adding a new 9-kilometer trail for next year’s race, scheduled for Feb. 22-24 in Wisconsin.
NORTH AMERICA'S LARGEST CROSS-COUNTRY SKI RACE, the American Birkebeiner, is renewing its commitment to classical skiers by adding a new 9-kilometer trail for the 2007 race, scheduled for Feb. 22-24 in Wisconsin.
    The race’s board of directors unanimously approved the use of the new classic ski trail for the 2007 race. The new trail begins at the Cable Union Airport, takes a different route through the Birkie terrain and merges back into the Birkie Trail at Timber Trail Road in Bayfield County.
    "This is a win-win for both classic and skate skiers," said Ned Zuelsdorff, executive director of the Birkie. "Classic skiers will get better tracks throughout the season and on race day, and skate skiers will experience less congestion and more space. We think it will entice more skiers and participants."
    Birkie founder, board member and classic skier John Kotar agrees.
    "This new trail shows our commitment to classical skiers," he said. "There are many out there who feel left out because the freestyle race does not suit them. I think this new trail will go a long way to bringing in some of those skiers who have never taken up skating but would otherwise partake in the race."   
    Zuelsdorff said the board made the decision to use the new classic trail segment, in part, based on feedback from a 2006 survey of classic skiers. Of the 770 surveyed:
    • 42 percent favored an early start wave for classic skiers (departing before skaters)
    • 29 percent favored a separate classic only race on a different day
    • 32 percent favored a separate classic course
    • 48 percent favored seeding classic skiers in waves based solely on other classic skier times
    • 57 percent favored the creation of two tracks set on one side of the trail all the way to the finish line
    Zuelsdorff said the feedback is critical information that will be taken into account during future planning. Many suggestions, he said, are already in the works.
    "The new 9-kilometer trail is the start of a separate classic course that could be expanded upon in upcoming years," he said. "During the 2007 race we will add two tracks set on one side of the trail all the way to the finish line, and we will likely seed classic skiers in waves based solely on other classic skier times beginning in 2008."
    Board president Bill Pierce said the board is striving to attract more classic skiers, not just skiers changing from the skating technique to the classic technique.
    "Our long-term goal is to draw new skiers," he said. "The classic technique is dominant in Worldloppet races in Norway, Sweden and Italy. We want to increase classic skiing here too."
    Zuelsdorff said the cost of building the new trail was reduced when donors stepped forward with more than $10,000 in contributions, and volunteers spent many hours making the trail a reality.
    Maintenance of the new trail will cost $4,000 per year. In addition to using a portion of the existing trail budget to cover costs, the race board will be seeking kilometer-marker sponsors to help offset costs.
    More than 7,000 skiers are expected to register for the Subaru American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet. Another 2,000 are expected in other races and events including a 12 km race, the Junior Birkie for skiers between ages 10 and18, the Barnebirkie for kids ages 3 to 13, 5 km and 10 km family races, an elite sprint competition between the world’s fastest skiers and the Ski for the Cure II for skiers raising funds in the fight against breast cancer.
    For more information or to register for one of the races held during Birkie 2007, log on to www.birkie.com , e-mail birkie@birkie.com or call 715-634-5025.

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