Thousands Prepare for 44th American Birkebeiner

The Main Race Starts Saturday Morning in Cable with Skiers Finishing in Hayward

HAYWARD, Wisc. – After months of planning and preparation, over 11,000 skiers and more than 30,000 spectators are arriving in Hayward, Wisconsin for the 44th running of the American Birkebeiner.

The race was first ran in Hayward back in 1973 and excitement continues to grow worldwide every year.

It doesn’t happen everyday, but once a year tens of thousands of people come down with a case of Birkie fever.

“I have friends who come in from all over the country and it’s just so good to see everybody,” said skier Ryan Urban. “There’s just a special kind of energy to the Birkie that you won’t find anywhere else.”

Urban is skiing the Birkie for the third time in his life. His Friday started with a stop at the American Birkebeiner Expo to pick up his bib and other gear.

“I’ve done ski races in Europe and there’s just nothing like the Birkie,” said Urban.

“It’s not just the race, it’s also the atmosphere,” said skier Anna Demers.

Demers is competing for her twelfth time in the American Birkebeiner. She started skiing back in high school.

“I do the Birkie because it’s a bit of an addiction,” said Demers.

From the indoor expo to the outdoor entertainment, crews are welcoming a fresh blanket of snow. In 2017, weather forced the race to be canceled.

“I’m in charge of making sure that everything on Main Street is good, the finish line is good,” said Finish Line Chief Ben Welnak.

Welnak has a tough task, making sure over 40,000 people are safe and taken care of when they near the finish line. He and his crew spent Friday morning shoveling out, preparing to make an impact on visitors over the weekend.

“I think it’s great because the city, it gives us a really good opportunity to show off the city and leaves people with a good winter feeling so they want to come back,” said Welnak.

This year racers will have the opportunity to cross over the famed American Birkebeiner International Bridge.

“It’s pretty cool and it’s great watching the skiers because they get on top of the bridge and they’re like, yeah!”
The bridge now spans over four lanes of traffic compared to two in previous years.

After making an appearance at Super Bowl Live in Minneapolis, it took a crew of 20 workers eight hours to construct over the busy highway.

“Thursday is a really busy night here with the traffic coming in and the traffic just flowed through town,” said Birkie Bridge Chief Terry Penman.

The iconic structure is creating simplicity as the 44th American Birkebeiner skis through town once again.

The American Birkebeiner 50K Skate and 55K Classic will start Saturday at 8:15am.

Sunday On-Snow Ski & Fat Bike Demo – 9:00am to 2:00pm

Everyone from newbie skiers to elites can try out the latest in new equipment–skis, poles, boots, bindings, and fat bikes at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead in Cable, WI – vendors galore!

Fast & Female Champ Chat – 9:30am to 12:00pm

Join elite athletes for a morning of games, fitness, inspiration, and more! • Designed to encourage young female athletes. Elite athletes will mentor younger female skiers through training tips, inspirational encouragement and the importance of embracing a healthy active lifestyle. • Great Hall, American Birkebeiner Trailhead • Advance registration is required and tickets available at

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