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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

American Birkebeiner Race

Beginning February 22, more than 7,000 amateur cross-country skiers, 2,000 volunteers and 15,000 spectators will gather for three days in northern Wisconsin for the 34th annual American Birkebeiner Race. Competitors from 19 countries and 49 states will take part in the 51-kilometer (31.6 mile) cross-country race from Cable to Hayward, WI. There’s an additional 23K race and events and races for kids and teens.

The term "birkebeiner" was originally a pejorative term for a 13th-century rebel party in Norway. It referred to the fact that its members were so poor they wore birch bark shoes. The U.S. race is modeled after a Norwegian version that celebrates the Birkebeiner’s rescue of an heir to the Norwegian throne in 1206 during a dangerous trip through perilous mountains and forests.

If you won’t make it to the hills and dales of the Badger State, enjoy the sport vicariously in the comfort of your armchair. Check out:

Backcountry Skier by Jean Vives.

Cross-Country Skiing for Everyone by Jules Older.

The Essential Guide to Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing in the United States by Charles Cook.

Long-Distance: A Year of Living Strenuously by Bill McKibben.

Wilderness Skiing and Winter Camping by Chris Townsend.

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