Skiers Make their Mark at 46th Annual Birkebeiner

Emily Ness
Updated: February 22, 2020 10:31 PM

Ski tracks—like footprints in the snow—are evidence of one’s impact. Over time, countless skiers have made their mark at the American Birkebeiner.


On Saturday, the race that began in 1973 with 35 skiers, welcomed its biggest crowd yet.

Here, skiers from all over the globe raced in the men and women’s 50K Birkie.

The top three for men were:

1. Niklas Dyrhaug of Trondheim, Norway

2. Ian Torchia of Rochester, Minnesota

3. Robin Duvillard of Chapelle-En-vercors, France

And the top three for women were:

1. Jessica Yeaton of Albuquerque, New Mexico

2. Riitta-Liisa Roponen of Haukipudas, Finland

3. Erika Flowers of Bozeman, Montana

All expressed excitement will their victories and most said that they would like to participate in the race again.

“It was a great day for me and I’m really happy that I took the trip over from Norway,” Niklas Dyrhaug, first place winner in the men’s 50k Birkie said.

"This means more than any victory in my career for sure. It was just so special,” Jessica Yeaton, first place winner in the women’s 50K Birkie said.

The roots of the cross country ski race in which many have seen victories lies in Norway.

“The king was of Birkebeiner decent. He knew he wasn’t long for the thrown and he had some death threats and so he sent his two best warriors Torstine and Scarevalt out through the Norwegian mountains to secure his son,” Nancy Knutson, Marketing & Communications Director for the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation said. “That prince became Norway’s longest seated king.”

Throughout the day, skiers worked to demonstrate courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity like the Birkebeiner soldiers before them.

“When I came to the lake and of course that last 100 meters, it was so amazing. I almost started to cry because people cheer for you. It was very emotional,” Riitta-Liisa Roponen, second place winner in the women’s 50K Birkie said.

"Just to cross that finish line whether you're first or 500th, I think the cheering and the energy from everyone out there lining Mainstreet is just unrivaled," Erika Flowers, third place winner in the women's 50K Birkie said.

The triumph of the finish line is shared by family, friends and fans.

“I have a lot of people from my hometown and they supported me at the start of the season financially with a fundraiser and it was just great to see them. My future father and mother in law are here. They were crying afterwards,” Ian Torchia, second place winner in the men’s 50K Birkie said.

And beyond the race, community serves as an important part of the Birkebeiner.

Skiers and spectators Zach Via and Emily Ranta said that they loved seeing everyone come out for the event.

“It’s a great skiing community here. Really healthy, good family atmosphere,” Zach Via, third time skier of the American Birkebeiner said.

“The atmosphere is awesome and it’s a great way to see so many people,” Emily Ranta, fifth time skier of Birkebeiner races said.

The couple would like to teach their own daughter Ingrid to ski someday.

At large, the Birkebeiner inspires thousands from all over the world to participate and look on. Additionally, it inspires future generations to leave footprints of their own in the snow.


Emily Ness

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved


USW members call for stop to Essentia layoffs

Duluth police thank community for cooperation Sunday night; no curfew Monday

Dining out now means dining outside in Minnesota

Family autopsy: Floyd asphyxiated by sustained pressure

Michigan governor lifts stay at home order

MDH reports new COVID-19 deaths; 361 new cases