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David G. Nelson, marking trails for the Birkie Ridge Trailhead. (Photo: ABSF)

David G. Nelson, marking trails for the
Birkie Ridge Trailhead. (Photo: ABSF)

(ABSF press release)

HAYWARD, Wis. (Oct. 9) — The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is sad to inform you that Dave Nelson, our long-time friend, supporter, Birchlegger and board member, passed away peacefully yesterday morning after a courageous battle with lung cancer. In addition to skiing 31 Birkies, 1 Korte, and 1 Prince Haakon, Dave served on the ABSF Board for 7 years and chaired the Trail Committee for several of those years.

Dave’s legacy will certainly be tied to the Birkie Classic trail. He worked tirelessly to promote the need for a classic trail, personally designing and laying it out, while being an early adopter of GPS technology. He also mapped out additional sections for classic trail extensions south of the Hwy OO trailhead and frequently expressed his desire to see this happen. While with the Forest Service in Hayward, Dave also designed and mapped out the popular Rock Lake and Mukwanago ski trails. Dave had a strong interest in conservation and forestry and approached all aspects of life with a great sense of humor.

Former ABSF Executive Director Ned Zuelsdorff worked very closely with Dave and had this to say, “Dave worked many hours flagging and reflagging the Birkie Classic trail until he got it right. I consider it ‘Dave’s trail’, and in many ways it skis better than the skate trail. The classic trail has led to higher Birkie participation overall and has brought classic skiers back to the Birkie, increasing the ratio of classic to overall skiers from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3.”

Former ABSF Board President Sue Scheer stated that Dave was “a diplomatic person who worked well with the board, yet also had a focus to make the Birkie trail system technically correct and visually appealing for all skiers.”

Dave Nelson making the "Giant Skis". (Photo: ABSF)

Dave Nelson making the “Giant Skis”. (Photo: ABSF)

While only having a brief time to work with and learn from Dave, ABSF Executive Director Ben Popp fully recognizes the impact Dave had on the organization he now leads. “I really enjoyed my year of work with Dave. His passion and knowledge for the ABSF and the Birkie Trail System was truly unmeasurable. He will be greatly missed.”

Current ABSF Board President John Garrett was asked to chair the trail committee back when Dave first had lung-related health issues. “It was hard for Dave to step down, but he knew his health at the time would limit his involvement. As he battled and overcame those early health issues, he was still very active and supportive of all the trail committee activities. We still needed Dave for any trail additions or modifications. Recently, he even finished up several trail maps and got them to us just days before his passing. I will always remember that level of dedication and commitment. ”

Dave Nelson will be greatly missed by the ABSF Board, staff and entire Birkie family. His spirit will continue to shine on the American Birkebeiner Ski Trail and on all of the other silent sports trails Dave helped to create.

Two services will be held:

  • Rhinelander, WI: Wednesday, October 15, 2014 at Carlson Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 4pm – 7pm.
  • Hayward, WI: Friday, October 17, 2014 at First Lutheran Church. Visitation will be from 10am – 11:30am, and a worship service at11:30am with lunch to follow.
  • See funeral notice here

The Nelson Family has set up two memorial funds to honor the hopes and dreams of Dave Nelson’s life:

  • The Dave Nelson Birkie Classic Trail Memorial: Donations can be mailed to ABSF PO Box 911 Hayward, WI 54843. Please make checks payable to ABSF. With questions, please contact or call 715-634-5025.
  • The Lutheran World Hunger Memorial: Donations can be mailed to First Lutheran Church 10680 Main Street Hayward, WI 54843. With questions, please contact Pastor Scott Ludford at or call 715-634-2141.
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Switzerland’s Valerio Leccardi posted a time of 1:20:03 in Saturday’s Kangaroo Hoppet to win the third Worldloppet race of the year by just over two minutes. The 42 k race is Australia’s premier distance race and is the last race of the Australia New Zealand Continental Cup. 

Leccardi was followed by Phillip Bellingham (+2:46) and Paul Kovacs (+5:57) both of Australia.

Valentina Shevchenko of Ukraine was the first female finisher and 12th overall with a time of 1:31:1. She was followed closely by Slovenian Barbara Jezersek, who placed only one second behind Shevchenko. Australian Esther Bottomly placed third with a time of 1:38:18.

Full Results

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From left to right: Race Director Pablo Valcheff, CAU President Dani Catania, Ma. Constanza Viaña, Carlos Lannes, and Luis Argel with the Challenger Cup held aloft. (Photo: Marchablanca Race Organization)

From left to right: Race Director Pablo Valcheff, CAU President Dani Catania, Ma. Constanza Viaña, Carlos Lannes, and Luis Argel with the Challenger Cup held aloft. (Photo: Marchablanca Race Organization)

(Marchablanca press release)

Translated by Matt Muir

The 28th Marchablanca was won by Carlos Lannes and Constanza Viaña both of whom also became the first winners of the Challenger Cup. The trophy was donated to the Marchablanca by longtime local skier Luis Argel who contributed to the formation of skiing in Tierra del Fuego.

Tierra del Fuego’s governor Fabiana Ríos, the mayor of Ushuaia Federico Sciurano, the president of the Club Andino Ushuaia Daniel Catania, Tierra Mayor matriarch “Puichi” Giró, Cerro Castor owner and Salomon representative Juan Carlos Begué, as well as representatives from sponsors Movistar and Powerade were all on hand for the traditional sounding of the bell to mark the start of the Marchablanca.

More than 500 skiers participated in the event which consisted of a 21-kilometer elite freestyle race as well as shorter citizen events. A regional institution, many of the citizen skiers complete the Marchablanca in elaborate costumes in an event that is part of a holiday weekend in Argentina characterized by family oriented festivities.

Race Director Pablo Valcheff recognized Argel just before the start of the elite race. Argel then presented the race organization with a trophy he had commissioned for the winners of the Marchablanca. The Valley of Tierra Mayor where the Marchablanca is held is relatively remote even today and Argel has lived and skied the valley for decades during which time he has come to embody a regional ideal of resilience, strength, and love for the Fuegian landscape.

Beginning in 2015, the Marchablanca will be the accessory race to the Ushuaia Loppet and part of the official Worldloppet calendar. For more information and results, see


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The start of the 2014 Ushuaia Loppet in front of Centro Invernal Tierra Mayor in the Valley of Tierra Mayor outside of Ushuaia, Argentina.

The start of the 2014 Ushuaia Loppet in front of Centro Invernal Tierra Mayor in the Valley of Tierra Mayor outside of Ushuaia, Argentina. (Photo: Marchablanca Race Organization)

Tough Day at The Ushuaia Loppet

Conditions make for slow, hard skiing

By Matthew Muir

Last Friday, the day before the scheduled start of the Ushuaia Loppet 42-kilometer Freestyle Marathon on Aug. 9 in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, the Fueguino provincial government was closing schools and government offices due to high winds and rain.

At the same time, the Marchablanaca/Ushuaia Loppet Organizing Committee decided to postpone the race start by 24 hours, from Saturday to Sunday.  The Loppet went off on Sunday, Aug. 10, but it was still tough skiing.

High winds and steadily falling wet snow made the two 21-kilometer loops into the proverbial death march on skis.  For the entire race, skiers had to effectively break trail as new snow continued to pile up and winds blasted the landscape in the Valley of Tierra Mayor.

Federico Cichero and Carlos Lannes tied for first place in a shared time of 2:30:04.  Cichero and Lannes have both represented Argentina in the Olympics.  Cichero commented, “it was really hard, intense falling snow, lots of suction in the warm snow surface.”  Cichero added, “I am, however, sure that these events are continuing to grow.”

María Constanza Viaña, a Fueguina native, won the women’s race in 3:30:04.  Only twenty six racers managed to finish the course.  About fifty registered and about thirty five started.  Eleven registrants were from countries outside of Argentina.

Race Director Pablo Valcheff voiced a mix of emotions, “it is difficult dealing with conditions like this but now that we are joining the World Loppet there is a lot of support from the Worldloppet Organization.  The Worldloppet gives us a shared protocol for contingencies and skier safety is number one on the list so, in a way, it’s a relief for the Ushuaia Loppet to be part of a larger, professional organization.  There was no way we were going to race on Saturday.”

In 2015, the Ushuaia Loppet will be an official member of the Worldloppet and begin stamping Worldloppet Passports.  Visit or for more information.

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Birkebeinerrennet decided to cancel the race this morning after following the weather throughout the night.

The organisation considered the risk too high having a start at this year edition of Birkebeinerrennet. There is very strong wind over the mountains which forced them to cancel the race.

For more information see Birkebeinerrennet’s webiste:

SOURCE: Swix Ski Classics

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Eric Packer (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) broke a pole about 7 k into Sunday's 42 k Engadin Ski Marathon. (Photo: Eric Packer/

Eric Packer (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) broke a pole about 7 k into Sunday’s 42 k Engadin Ski Marathon and didn’t get a replacement until about 20 k. (Photo: Eric Packer/

According to Eric Packer of the Stratton Mountain School T2 team, “the Engadin was unlike any other race I’ve done.”

One of some 80 Americans in this year’s 42-kilometer freestyle race, the 23-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska,  competed in the world-famous marathon in Switzerland this past Sunday.

“The traffic out of the start was ridiculous with the pack constantly churning as people fought for position,” he wrote in an email. “If you weren’t actively moving forward, you were moving back.”

Eric Packer competed in a sprint the eve of the 2014 Engadin Ski Marathon in Switzerland. (Photo: Holly Brooks)

Eric Packer competed in a sprint the eve of the 2014 Engadin Ski Marathon in Switzerland. (Photo: Holly Brooks)

Packer shared lodging with a few U.S. men the weekend of the race, including Matt Gelso (Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation), Pete Kling (Alaska Pacific University) and Matt Briggs of Bend, Ore., and took part in a night sprint race the evening before.

“All the U.S. guys in the elite wave did a good job staying near the front of the pack early on across the lake,” Packer wrote. “Gelso was able to recover from a fall right at the start in order to make his way back to the front.”

At 7 k, Packer’s pole snapped — unexpectedly.

“Everyone I asked refused to give me a replacement —(I can’t blame them – how would they ever get it back?) — so I ended up waving the broken stub above my head for the next 13k or so.”

Somehow, he missed the pole-service station, but “finally got a replacement entering Pontresina at the 20k mark.”

One kilometer later, Packer found Clarke Sullivan, the U.S. group’s wax tech for the event, along the course and was able to switch out his pole yet again, this time retrieving his own.

Did this incident ruin in for Packer? Not so much. “Even with the broken pole it was an awesome race.  I can’t wait to go back next year!”

Packer ended up 126th out of nearly 13,400 racers, about eight minutes back from the winner.

– Rosalie Lipfert

The start of the 2014 Engadin (Photo:

The start of the 2014 Engadin (Photo:

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By Fast Big Dog

For the 2014 Engadin, a diverse array of 80 U.S. skiers made the trip to sunny Switzerland to compete in one of the premier Worldloppets, the Engadin Ski Marathon last Sunday. With a field of 13,395 skiers, the race featured a number of highlights, including Holly Brooks recovering from a nasty fall to place fourth, Matt Gelso also getting tangled up in the pack to ski his way back up into the lead group for a very solid 15th place and in the most colorful racer of the day, long-time U.S. Skiing supporter and Seattle Seahawks uber-fan Tony Weiderkehr ski the race in a full football uniform, including pads, as a celebration of the Seahawks Super Bowl victory.

WIthout a doubt though, some of the best work was done after the race in the official Engadin Beer Garden, where a nice mix of up and coming stars and aging master blasters, Matti Briggs, Eric Packer, Peter Kling, Matt Gelso, Holly Brooks, Clark Sullivan, Walter McCormack, Quique Nagle and of course the FBD, showed the world how to post-game USA style.

In short, this is a must-do event for anyone who likes skiing, sun, stunning alpine views, beer, bratwurst and just generally being awesome. Should any doubts still remain, here is a slideshow highlighting some of the beauty of this incredible event:

And the race results:

Trouble viewing video? Click here

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By Peter Minde

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Two-time Olympic biathlete (’92, ’94) Robert Duncan Douglas, the “Jacked Up Old Man,” won the Lake Placid Loppet 50-kilometer freestyle mass start on Saturday, March 8, in 2:24:36.7.

Douglas, 48, of Honeoye Falls, N.Y., beat Paul Allison, a 27-year-old Essex High School Nordic Coach from Jericho, Vt., by 0.7 seconds after gapping him in the last kilometer. Jack Cowan Steele of Middlebury, Vt., placed third in 2:33:34.

Alia Johnson of Bristol, Vt., won the women’s 50 k freestyle race in 2:51:47, followed by Abbey Alexiades of Etna, N.Y., in 3:18:56. Alicia Marie Cruz-Uribe was third in 4:12:22.

In the 50 k classic event, Nathan Underwood of Chelsea, Quebec, won in 2:58:40.  Montreal’s William Goodfellow was second, nearly 10 minutes later in 3:08:15.  Lake Placid’s Dave Steckler placed third in 3:09:23.

Annie Jean, of Chelsea, Quebec, was the first and only female in the the 50 k classic 3:26:41.

Throughout the day, the sky was overcast with a few flurries in the early afternoon. The temperature dropped a couple of degrees from freezing during the race. Conditions were fast, however, with glazing in the tracks, classic skiers had difficulty finding the best balance of adequate grip and good glide. Skiers used various combinations of hard wax and klister, with mixed success.

Full results: (scroll to the bottom of the page)

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HAYWARD, WI—Caitlin Gregg (Team Gregg) and Tom Reichelt of Germany came out on top today in the American Birkebeiner. Gregg won the 50 k skate race in 2:40:57 after skiing away from the women’s field in the first half of the race. She made her break as the elite men’s wave, who started after the elite women’s wave, began catching the women. She hung on to the passing men and ended up skiing much of the race by herself before catching another ride with Matt Liebsch (Team StrongHeart) in the last few kilometers of the race. Antonella Confortola Wyatt of Italy placed second, 1:16 behind Gregg, while Rosie Brennan of Alaska Pacific University (APU) placed third, 2:05 back.

Gregg, Brennan, and Laura McCabe of Winthrop, WA were the top three Americans, in that order, with McCabe finishing in fifth overall. Gregg took home $10,000 for the day: $7,500 for the win and $2,500 for the top American finish in the race.

In the men’s race, Tom Reichelt narrowly edged out Italians Simone Paredi and Sergio Bonaldi to take home the win in 2:14:29. Paredi and Bonaldi finished in second and third place, respectively, and both were within one second of the win.

Matt Gelso of the Sun Valley Gold Team was the top male American finisher in seventh overall. Lex Treinen (APU) and Matt Liebsch were the next Americans, in 10th and 12th place.

Santi Ocariz, formerly of CXC, and Russian Natalja Naryshkina (CXC) were the male and female winners in the 54 k classic race.

Times were slow on the day—copious amounts of new snow and cold conditions made for a challenging race for much of the field.


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The polar sun swept in for this second day of competition of the 36th edition of the Gatineau Loppet. Despite the freezing weather, the mood was upbeat both indoors and out at the starting line just outside École secondaire Mont-Bleu. All of the participants, elite as well as recreational skiers, were eager to hit the trails of Gatineau Park for the freestyle races and the very first edition of snowshoe races.

Here is a summary of the day’s results, followed by a round-up of the event.

1st Place Marc-André Bédard (2:22:26.1) from Quebec City
2nd Place Steffan Lloyd (2:22:28:7)
3rd Place Vincent Blais (2:25:10.8)


1st Place Claude Godbout (2:51:01.7) from Quebec City
2nd Place Sheila Kealey (2:51:23.3)
3rd Place Sabra Davison (2:54:25.7)


1st Place Nicholas Pigeon (1:17:14.1) from Gatineau
2nd Place Maxime Leboeuf (1:20:30.2)
3rd Place Daniel Murray (1:22:07.5)

We would like to mention that Pierre Lavoie, the Honorary President of the Gatineau Loppet, finished the 27 km freestyle in 5th place.


1st Place Véronique Fortin (1:28:09.8) from Gatineau
2nd Place Karine Labonté (1:41:19.2)
3rd Place Louise Martineau (1:43:26.3)


1st Place Evan Carr (28:37.3) from Manlius, USA
2nd Place Graham Perry (28:49.3)
3rd Place Bryce Hartman (28:54.1)


1st Place Tove Halvorsen (33:08.0) from Chelsea
2nd Place Talia Hennessy (33:09.1)
3rd Place Alia Sanger (33:10.9)



1st Place Men: Julien Pensonneault (26:54.7)

1st Place Women: Véronique Fortin (26:03.5)



1st Place Men: David Le Porho (49:21.8)

1st Place Women: Claire Doule (1:01:55.5)


We would also like to mention the hundreds of children who, accompanied by their parents, braved the cold for the 2 km Mini Sport Échange Outaouais. Pierre Lavoie joined in the fun. This untimed race is part of the Carnaval Soleil Polaire, a big party presented by municipal councillors Mireille Apollon from the l’Orée-du-Parc district, and Louise Boudrias from the Parc-de-la-Montagne-Saint-Raymond district. Entertainment for the kids, music, inflatable structures and stiltwalkers helped warm up the families and skiers.



This 36th edition of the Gatineau Loppet served to confirm the fact that this is indeed the biggest cross-country ski event in Canada. More than 2,750 participants, including 170 for the Chelsea Super Sprint Jeunesse, took part in the activities between Friday the 14th and Sunday the 16th. The Sprint jeunesse, classic style races, freestyle races, long-distance Loppet championship, and race for the kids all added up to something for everyone.


Highlights of this 36th edition:

  • A sold-out race for the 51 km linear classic, with 548 skiers registered. 
  • Nicholas Pigeon from gatineau, winner of the 27 km classic and 27 km freestyle.
  • Long-distance Loppet championship wond by Marc-André Bédard for the men and Claude Godbout for the women, both of them biathletes on the national team.
  • First edition of the snowshoe races, with 70 participants.
  • First edition of the Chelsea super Sprint jeunesse, with more than 150 participants. 
  • Pierre Lavoie, honorary president, speaker and participant (51 km classic, 27 km freestyle  and the mini Sport Échange Outaouais)

Gatineau Loppet President Yan Michaud wants to thank “all of the skiers, attendants, spectators, volunteers and organizers who took part in this year’s event.” The next edition of the Gatineau Loppet will take place between February 13 and 15, 2015. We hope to see you there!


For additional information, consult the Gatineau Loppet Web site:

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