Birkie Searches for Skiers to Re-Enact Journey of Birkebeiner Warriors

Birkebeiner Re-enactment 2009 - Al Subera phot

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is searching for two tough cross country skiers to dress as Birkebeiner warriors and ski the 54 kilometer journey from Cable to Hayward in Wis., on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010. The Foundation is also looking for a woman to represent Inga, the mother of baby Prince Haakon.

The three skiers will dress in authentic gear, ski on wooden skis, and depict the 800-year-old rescue of Prince Haakon, the baby who became one of the most popular kings in Norwegian history. Inga will ski either the 54-kilometer Classic Birkie or 23-kilometer Kortelopet before meeting up with the Birkie warriors and baby Prince Haakon at the finish line on Main Street in Hayward.

The Birkebeiner warriors became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity; and the historic rescue inspired the creation of three ski marathons – the Birkebeinerrennet in Lillehammer, Norway, launched in 1932 and skied on the same route as the famous rescue; the American Birkebeiner, launched in 1973 when the late Tony Wise looked to his Norwegian roots to create a high-profile event for Telemark, his ski lodge in Cable, Wisconsin; and the Canadian Birkebeiner, launched in 1985 in Alberta, Canada.

Inga and the Birkie 2010 warriors will serve as “ambassadors on the trail” encouraging both skiers and volunteers. The warriors will carry a baby doll along the course until Main Street where they’ll pick up a real infant “Prince” before skiing the last two blocks with Inga to the finish line.

“The reenactment has become a great tradition that our skiers, volunteers, and spectators look forward to every year,” said Ned Zuelsdorff, Executive Director of the ABSF. “We feel it is important to highlight the historic roots of the race with Inga, Baby Prince Haakon and the two Birkebeiner warriors. We are challenging skiers to find a friend, and tell us in 300 words or less why they would be the best Birkie 2010 warriors, Torstein and Skervald .”

Entries must show ability, passion and tradition and demonstrate that the pair is capable of skiing the 54-kilometer challenging course on wooden skis while wearing the warrior costumes, carrying weapons of the era, and transporting baby Prince Haakon.

“The Inga entries can be part of or separate from the warrior entries,” Zuelsdorff said. “We are looking for a 300-word essay that shows passion, ability and tradition and demonstrates why the entrant should be selected as the cherished mother of the baby Prince.”

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation will supply the Birkebeiner and Inga outfits and Birkebeiner weapons. Selected skiers must supply their own wooden skis.

To enter the competition, email a 300-word essay to (one essay per warrior pair and one for each Inga). The deadline is November 6, and men and women are encouraged to apply.

“Be concise and persuasive,” Zuelsdorff said. “The warriors and Inga winners from 2008 and 2009 will review the essays and select the winners who will ski as the 2010 Birkebeiner warriors as well as the winning Inga. All three winners will be announced on December 8, 2009.”

Bill Pierce, Hayward, Wis., and Johnny Ingdall, Minneapolis, Minn., replicated the rescue in 2003; Jim Vanden Brook, Madison, Wis., and brother Tom, Arlington, Va., simulated the rescue in 2006; Phillip Schaefer, Tomahawk, Wis., and son Michael, Cleveland, Ohio, re-enacted the historic trek in 2007; Thom Gerst, Coon Rapids, Minn., and brother Gary, Maple Grove, Minn., depicted the rescue in 2008; Jeff Cummisford, Waukesha, Wisc., and best friend Richard Pierce, Verona, Wisc., portrayed the warriors in 2009. All ten skiers remarked that skiing as one of the Birkebeiner warriors made that Birkie their most memorable.

Gail Moede Rogall and son Bjorn represented Inga and Prince Haakon in the 2008 rescue. Gail commented that portraying Inga and having Bjorn represent the Prince was a very positive experience and one that her and her family will never forget. In 2009 Lyndsey Lewis and son Piercen assumed the roles of Inga and Prince Haakon.

More than 7,500 skiers are expected to register for the 37th anniversary American Birkebeiner and Kortelopet. Another 2,500 are expected for shorter races and events. To learn more about North America’s largest and most prestigious cross country ski race and the Birkebeiner/Inga competition, log on to, email or call 715/634-5025.

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