Ready to Race: Hayward Prepares for 46th Annual Birkebeiner

Emily Ness
Updated: February 19, 2020 06:38 PM

Skiers both new and seasoned from around the world are heading to Hayward for another year of the American Birkebeiner this weekend. As excitement builds for the largest cross-country ski race in North America, final preparations took place Wednesday to accommodate nearly 40,000 skiers and spectators.


“It doesn’t take just a day or a week. It’s actually many weeks of preparation to get ready to host the world right here in Hayward Wisconsin,” Ben Popp, Executive Director of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation said.

One of the biggest tasks on the town’s to-do list is completing the race track that will take skiers from Cable to Hayward. Additional snow was hauled into town Wednesday to construct the final stretch of the race track on Main Street.

“It’s a cold day today, but we were out setting up the course for the Junior Birkie and the sunshine was just beautiful and the fresh snow—it’s going to be a little harder on the groomers to get it all groomed, but it’ll be perfect,” Bruce Manske, Race Chief for the Junior Birkie said.

On the day of the race, Main Street will be flooded with spectators watching skiers race towards the finish line.

“This year, I actually expect one of the fastest races ever,” Popp said. “The snow is a bit older right now and really hard and that means really, really fast.”

In addition to the race track, setting up infrastructure including signs to direct traffic and tents and gates for spectators takes time and effort. Popp said that 3800 volunteers make all of this possible.

“You can ski 50 kilometers in a lot of places, but why is it that the Birkie has grown to the largest ski race in Northern America, the 3rd largest in the world? It’s because the community loves hosting the world. We’re really good at it,” Popp said.

According to Popp, this year’s race will include 24 countries and 48 states.

“It’s interesting already as preparations are underway to hear a lot of different foreign languages being spoken in the grocery store, people coming in and asking where is the Birkebeiner trail, what is it, how do we say it so it's really fun,” Popp said.

Local businesses, restaurants and shops are also preparing for the crowd.

Races begin Thursday. A full schedule of events can be found here.


Emily Ness

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