Thousands Bunking in Hayward for Annual American Birkebeiner

Hotels are Filling Up Across Many Parts of Wisconsin and Minnesota in Preparation for the Annual Ski Race

HAYWARD, Wisc. – The annual American Birkebeiner calls for a lot of booking when it comes to travel reservations.

Officials say the average commute from from hotel to the trail for a race participant can be up to two-and-a-half hours long.

It’s why local hotels receive calls nearly one year in advance before the big weekend.

“It is very important for the Hayward community,” said Dianne Carlson, General Manager of Hayward AmericInn. “We love to have our skiers come every year.”

Folks from across the world are coming down with the “BirkieFever.”

It’s a big weekend for the community of 2,300 residents. Event organizers are expecting the town of Hayward to grow by 40,000 people.

“We are booked up, way ahead of time,” said Carlson.

The Hayward AmericInn has been booked for the 2017 Birkie for over a year.

“It’s just kind of like a Birkie family every year,” said Carlson.

The decades-old tradition keeps General Manager across the area looking forward to hosting all their weekend guests.

“We’ve had a lot of good response. We’ve had maybe a half dozen cancellations by the people who aren’t coming to the event,” said Carol Tilleman, General Manager of Flat Creek Inn and Suites.

Typically over 22,000 people will gather in downtown Hayward to watch the finish line. This year, that won’t be the case.

“People are going to come up, and they’re going to have a good time no matter what, no snow or if we do get some snow,” said Tilleman.

Skiers, fans, and followers are continuing to make the trip, even though the melting course has been shortened and downtown will no longer host this year’s finish line.

“Everything’s a go and everybody’s just going to make the best of a bad situation, and that’s all you can do!”

Race participant Ralph Thornton, boarded a train from Montana to make it to the annual experience.

“This is my 38th Birkie. If we can ski on Saturday, that’ll be fine,” said Thornton.

Thornton says he couldn’t imagine a winter without a Birkie.

“The trail is very hilly, very challenging; it’s a lot of fun,” said Thornton.

He started participating back in 1979, coming to Northwestern Wisconsin with a close friend.

“He did 23 races before retiring, and I’m trying to get to at least 40 before I retire!”

For Thornton, race retirement is lingering on the horizon, just as the chance for snow pushes toward the brown ground in Hayward.

“I usually have a goal of finishing with a brat and a beer at Angler’s and if that all goes down well then it was a good day,” said Thornton.

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