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Birkie Launches 5-Year Fundraising Campaign to Ensure Race’s Future

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

Entering its 42nd year, the American Birkebeiner is doing everything it can to ensure Birkie fever continues, recently launching its first capital fundraising campaign to do so.

According to Tom Held of SilentSports.net, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ASBF) is seeking $2.3 million to buy land for a permanent start area — securing some 75 acres of Telemark property — improve its 107 k trail system, and build an outdoor recreation center.

Start of the American Birkebeiner around the 1980s.

Start of the American Birkebeiner around the 1980s.

Annually, the Birkie makes slightly more than $1 million, according to ABSF Executive Director Ben Popp. That goes toward covering event expenses and annual trail maintenance, but is not enough to fund large-scale improvements.

“Over the past 12 months, in collaboration with the board of directors, I completed a 5-year strategic plan for the A.B.S.F., Popp wrote in a press release. “We have acknowledged the greatest risks to the foundation, as well as identified key opportunities that will create stability and increase our reach.”

The Birkie’s five-year campaign, “Honoring the Legacy – Ensuring the Future,” began Nov. 1 at the Rivers Eatery in Cable, Wis., a few miles away from the race’s historic start at Telemark Resort. At the kickoff fundraiser, more than 100 supporters jumpstarted the campaign, bringing its total up to more than $192,000, Held reported.

By the 2015 Birkie on Feb. 21, the ABSF aims to have raised $650,000 to complete phase one: securing a start area “built to last for next 100+ years – with permanent access,” according to Birkie.com, including a “large warm area/building,” additional pre-race facilities for water, bathrooms, etc., more convenient bus drop-offs, and year-round trail access to the Birkie course.

Phase one also includes finish-line improvements, such as “indoor changing facilities and food, easier gear bag layout, increased medical facilities,” and better traffic flow for spectators.

Held reported that, the ABSF planned to spend about $115,000 on buying roughly 75 acres of the Telemark Resort property, which would serve as a new start line for the 50 k Birkebeiner and 26 k Kortelopet.

The races attract more than 10,000 skiers annually, and traditionally starts on the runway at the Cable Municipal Airport, crossing Telemark property for the first few kilometers.

“Working with the current ownership group at Telemark, we have been given the opportunity to purchase a section of land to build out a permanent start line at Telemark,” Popp stated in the release.

According to Held, the ABSF reached a tentative deal with Clifton Lewis, who bought the Telemark property at a foreclosure sale a year ago. The foundation also plans to build a storage building that doubles as a warming hut.

“Additionally, in cooperation with the DOT, County, City and other interest groups, we will be able to re-construct the ‘International Bridge’ made famous by Tony Wise, this time in downtown Hayward, reducing traffic congestion, creating an improved flow for safety vehicles (and spectators), as well as providing access to services and infrastructure that improve safety and experience for all participants,” Popp wrote.

Popp estimated the start-line renovations would be completed by 2016 or 2017, but the finish-line improvements — with a skier bridge over Highway 63 and indoor food and changing areas in Hayward — were should be complete by the 2015 Birkie.

Phase two — which calls for $950,000 to improve the 107 k of Birkie Trail the ABSF maintains — is on the horizon for 2017. In addition to protecting the trail from erosion, the budget would also allow for installing water and potentially electricity at aide stations.

Phase three is the year-round outdoor recreation center for skiers, hikers and mountain bikers, set to cost about $650,000 and be complete by 2019.

The ABSF is holding its next fundraiser Nov. 20 at Borton Volvo in Golden Valley, Minn., with a live auction, prize giveaway, food, beer, and wine. Tickets are $50 each and the event is limited to 125 guests.

A second event will take place Dec. 4 at Stella Blues in Eau Claire, Wis., with $50 tickets limited to the first 90 guests.

Birkie Birchlegger and Board Member, Dave Nelson Passes Away

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
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 amy.rowley@birkie.com 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 sludford@msn.com or call 715-634-2141.

Lannes, Viaña Win 28th Marchablanca, 1st Challenger Cup

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
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 www.marchablanca.com.

Video

Delayed Ushuaia Loppet Marked by High Winds, Wet Snow

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
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 http://www.worldloppet.com/ or http://www.ushuaialoppet.com/ for more information.

Norwegian Birkebeiner Canceled Due to Strong Wind

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

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: www.birkebeiner.no

SOURCE: Swix Ski Classics

Packer Describes Engadin Experience, Broken Pole for 13 k and All

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Eric Packer (Stratton Mountain School T2 Team) broke a pole about 7 k into Sunday's 42 k Engadin Ski Marathon. (Photo: Eric Packer/Alphafoto.com)

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/Alphafoto.com)

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: http://www.engadin-skimarathon.ch/)

The start of the 2014 Engadin (Photo: http://www.engadin-skimarathon.ch/)

Caitlin Gregg and Tom Reichelt win American Birkebeiner

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

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.

Results

Bradley, Enman Win White Mountain Classic in Jackson

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014
The 10th Annual White Mountain Classic 30 k in Jackson, N.H. (Photo: Peter Minde)

The 10th Annual White Mountain Classic 30 k in Jackson, N.H. (Photo: Peter Minde)

JACKSON, N.H. – In close-fought battles, Elissa Bradley and Eli Enman won the 10th Annual White Mountain Classic 30K on Sunday. The 30-kilometer marathon was also the one-day club championship for the New England Nordic Ski Association’ (NENSA).  Ford Sayre, the Cambridge Sports Union and Stowe Nordic were just a few of the clubs with big turnouts for this race.

An independent skier, Bradley won the women’s race in 1:14:40. Dartmouth’s Molly Siegel placed second, 14 seconds behind, and Cambridge Sports Union’s Kathy Maddock another 1.7 seconds back in third.

Enman, skiing for Stowe Nordic, crossed the line in 1:02:45.  Dartmouth took second and third with Torin Tucker, who was 1.8 seconds back in second, and Sam Merrens, 41.8 seconds behind Enman in third.

Due to the weather, organizers shortened the race to 22 km, cutting out some trail sections with a lot of wind exposure. Overnight, Saturday’s comfortable temperatures plummeted, and two inches of light, dry snow fell.  Race morning dawned sunny and cold. At the start, the temperature was three degrees, with wind gusting to 35 mph.

Blowing snow obscured tracks and slowed skiers down in the fields. In the woods, the tracks were fast, and some downhills were scraped down to ice.

– Peter Minde

Results: WomenMen

Power Off at Telemark, Future of Historic Birkie Building Unclear

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Telemark Resort (Photo: Tom Held)

Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis. (Photo: Tom Held/The Active Pursuit)

With questions swirling about whether Telemark Resort’s new owners would reopen the 40-year-0ld lodge in Cable, Wis. (the historic start of the American Birkebeiner), the community got an answer Tuesday when the power breakers were turned off.

Idle and without power since March, when the former owners stopped paying the bills and left town before the 975-acre property went to foreclosure, the 200-room resort had its power restored about a week ago. The new owners, Mount Telemark Properties, met with the Central Cross Country (CXC) Ski Association to discuss CXC’s interest in leasing and developing it into an Olympic training site, WDIO News reported.

James Bolen of the Cable Area Chamber told WDIO that CXC determined it did not have the expertise needed to run a hotel in conjunction with an Olympic center. Tom Held of The Active Pursuit reported that CXC did not want to take on the “enormous task of renovating and operating it, according to Oyvind Solvang, president of the CXC Board of Directors.” Solvang estimated the long-term renovations would cost between $2 million and $4 million, and it would require at least $500,000 to open the building this season.

“We were looking to keep it heated and perhaps do some events there, trying to accommodate the people who want to stay there for the Birkie, but to get from here to there was too insurmountable,” Solvang said. “It really isn’t feasible for CXC.”

A former Telemark employee who works for the current owners, Rick Carpenter told WDIO that the new owners bought the property (for $926,000 dollars at a sheriff’s sale) for the land, not the lodge. The deal with CXC would have included the lodge by donation and some surrounding land, he added, plus 135 acres of leased land and trails.

Bolen said the new owners are still seeking a hotel group to run the resort, and CXC will look elsewhere in Cable for a potential Olympic training site.

This summer, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) secured rights to their race’s starting area at Telemark for two more years. ABSF executive director Ben Popp told The Active Pursuit that he expected to work out an agreement with the new owners to make a permanent start in roughly six months.

Telemark Resort Sold to Colorado Company, Future Unclear

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
telemark lodge

The historic Telemark Resort (ABSF photo)

Facing foreclosure since April 2013, Telemark Resort in Cable, Wis., the iconic start of the  American Birkebeiner, went to auction on Tuesday and sold to a Colorado-based private company, Newco, LLC.

Newco purchased the property at sheriff’s sale in Bayfield County Courthouse for $926,000 dollars. The only other bidder was the lien holder, Great Southern Bank in Missouri, according to a Birkie press release. The auction came after a Bayfield County judge ruled in favor or Great Southern Bank’s desire to pursue foreclosure of the historic lodge in August.

For fans of the American Birkebeiner, North America’s largest ski marathon entering its 41st year, the hope was that Great Southern Bank would purchase it and resell it to a group with plans of reopening the resort with ties to the U.S. Olympic Committee, WDIO reported.

Executive director of the Cable Chamber of Commerce James Bolen told WDIO Newco’s bid came as a surprise.

“The question is what they intend to do with it, they may not reopen the facility,” he said.

Newco hasn’t announced its intentions for the resort, but Bolen said they’d be meeting this week to discuss possible plans. The decision could be a huge blow or relief to the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation, which recently hired a new executive director in Ben Popp.

“We have a 40 year history with Telemark … and for the past couple years we’ve been trying to secure a permanent start area at Telemark,” ABSF board member John Garrett told WDIO.

“Telemark has been an integral component of the history and legacy of the American Birkebeiner,”  Popp said in a press release. “We look forward to working with the new owners in creating great events for years to come!”

Under the former owners, Ric Ahern and Steve Kaufman with Telemark Properties, Telemark closed for what it called “spring cleaning,” and did not reopen. Court documents showed that the electricity was turned off in late March, and WDIO reported that a sign saying the resort would open in mid-May was still on the door.