Famous Wisconsin Ski Race Has Origins in Norwegian History

More than 800 years ago, Norway was caught in a civil war. Two groups fought over who should rule the country. The ruling party made fun of the rebels by calling them Birkebeiner (“Birchbarkleggers”), because they wrapped bark around their legs to stay warm and protect them in battle.

In the winter of 1206, the 18-month-old prince who the Birkebeiner supported as the real ruler was in danger. Prince Haakon Haakonsson and his mother, Inga, hid in Lillehammer. They were about to be captured. Two birkebeiner warriors carried Prince Haakon as they skied 34 miles (55 kilometers) through forests and over two mountain ranges to safety. Prince Haakon was later crowned king of Norway, which ended the civil war.

Read the rest at Chippewa Valley Family Magazine.

This one was inspired by a couple trips I’ve taken to watch the Birkie, which I can only describe as cold, Norwegian-Midwestern Mardi Gras. Spectators lined the wooden downtown of Hayward, rang cow bells and cheered politely, and drank a lot of beer. I love watching the skiers cross the finish line after their long journey. After the event, my brother-in-law Justin, who has skied the Birkie many times, was happy to oblige me with the true (probably) tale behind the event.