CABLE, Wis. — The annual Birkebeiner is normally a winter wonderland, but this year snow had to be artificially made.

(Spectrum News 1/Geno Perez)

What You Need To Know

  • Fans have shown up in droves to support the 50th anniversary Birkebeiner

  • With the lack of snow, the traditional race from Cable to Hayward was restricted to a circuit in Cable

  • The new course allowed fans to see athletes multiple times at the same location

Early Friday morning, snow flurries finally did fall during the 50th annual event. 

Although the snow was welcomed, the unusually mild winter weather impacted the Brikie, the biggest cross-country skiing competition in North America.

The normally 50-kilometer race was shortened into a circuit with laps instead of a journey through Cable and Hayward.

(Spectrum News 1/Geno Perez)

Chief starter Jim Kreuger said event leaders and volunteers were worried that the 50th anniversary of the historic tradition would be canceled.

“It’s just something where everybody had their concerns, and you have positive people above us that just kept going and doing things,” said Kreuger, who has been a part of the tradition for over 25 years. “If anybody was here to see what all happened over the last three months to make this happen for three, five days, it’s unreal.”

With the help of the 4,000 volunteers and the planning and execution teams, the event went on without a hitch.

Veteran skier Tim Andryk said the event would not have happened if it was not for the extra help donated from around the country.

“The volunteers make it. Without the volunteers, this race wouldn’t happen,” said Andryk. “It’s amazing. These people dedicate a lot of free time to pull off this race.”

(Spectrum News 1/Geno Perez)

Athletes of all skills and ages participated in the newly reconstructed track. Over 13,000 skiers and a few thousand more fans were in attendance. 

Second-place finisher, cross-country skier Caroline Greeson, said she had been working hard at a similar track in Minnesota. Despite that, she said the course had its challenges.

“Well, it’s interesting and definitely it got a little bit more crowded in some spots, but there’s still a lot of people out here,” said Greeson. “I think there’s still the spirit of the Birkie out in the area, which is very exciting.”

With the changes to the course, the fans had the opportunity to be more interactive. 

Instead of only seeing their family member, friend or favorite athlete at either the start or finish line of a race, they were able to see them compete during multiple laps.

(Spectrum News 1/Geno Perez)

“On the other side, coming around the home corner, in front of the fans, that was a fun little change to do,” skier Dave Niday said. “It really gets the crowd going.”

A couple of spectators donned cow costumes as they watched.

“What’s a Birkie without cow bells and what’s a cowbell without a cow?” said spectator Eva Reinicke.

While Kreuger said pulling off this year was demanding, it was worth it.

“Just kudos to the whole Birkie organization to do this. I have not heard a single person say a bad thing about this,” said Krueger. “Everybody is just overjoyed about how this got pulled off, how it’s happening.”