The annual Canadian Birkie Ski Festival has races for all skill levels
By Katrina Turchin | February 10, 2022
Living in a winter city has its ups, including being only one of three cities in the world that hosts a Birkebeiner ski festival. The Annual Canadian Birkie Ski Festival is a cross-country ski festival of different length races allowing skiers of all skill levels to participate.
“The distances that people can do ranges from two to 55 kilometres,” says Delianne Meenhorst, media relations for the Canadian Birkebeiner Society. “You can also do the 55-kilometre race with a five and a half kilogram bag, which represents a baby, and that goes back to a legend in Norway.”
The first Canadian festival was in 1985 and takes place every year to commemorate a Norwegian legend that dates back to 1206. During a civil war, the infant prince Haakon Haakonsson of Norway and direct heir to the throne, was in danger and in hiding. Two Birkebeiner warriors rescued the prince and carried him by skis 55 kilometres over mountains and through valleys in the dead of winter to safety.
The in-person races at Elk Island Park are closed to spectators this year due to COVID-19, however, ski lovers can participate at their own pace during the Virtual Birkie from February 14 to 28. Ski, skate ski, snowshoe, skate or skijor for two to 55 kilometres on a day of your choosing and at your own pace.
“It isn’t really a race, but it’s nice to share your pictures of your surroundings where you ski or a walk,” says Meenhorst. “So that is very supportive and, of course, people can also upload their results themselves and see how they do.”
The Virtual Birkie is a new addition to the festival as of last year, when the in-person festival couldn’t go ahead. Over 1,110 participants from nine countries travelled a total of 22,000 kilometres.
If you have kids, they can try their hand at cross country skiing at the Silver Skate Festival where the Barnebirkie ski adventures take place. The distances are 500 metres, one kilometre and three kilometres. Expect many fun mascots, including vikings, and each child will receive a goodie bag.
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“Kids can race or ski with their families around because the track is very big, so there’s space to distance themselves,” says Meenhorst.
Register for the Virtual Birkieuntil February 28 and visit the Silver Skate Festival at Hawrelak Park for family-friendly skiing fun at the Barnebirkie on February 13.