Each February thousands of cross-country skiers gather in Wisconsin to take part in North America’s largest and greatest ski race, the American Birkebeiner. Considered an iconic world-class sporting event, for over 40-years the Birkie has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of participants from elite athletes to recreational citizen skiers. To commemorate the legacy of the race and inspire future generations, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) created the Tony Wise Museum of the American Birkebeiner on August 5, 2016 in Hayward, Wisconsin.
The American Birkebeiner ski race was the vision of Hayward native Tony Wise, who discovered skiing as a soldier serving in Germany in World War II. After the war, Wise brought his concept home to found Telemark ski area, near Cable, WI, and later evolved the concept into a cross-country ski race through the north woods of Wisconsin. While the race originally began in Hayward and ended in Cable, WI, since 1993 the race has traveled north to south from the north woods of Cable to Main Street in Hayward, WI. The American Birkebeiner was patterned after the Birkebeiner Rennet ski race held each year in the forests of Norway. Wise’s vision shaped a community, a sport and brought the world together with the founding of the Worldloppet, an international sports federation of cross-country skiing marathons.
The Tony Wise Museum of the American Birkebeiner will transport you back to the origins of the American Birkebeiner through lively, state-of-the-art exhibits hands-on activities, a three-dimensional Birkie Trail model, electronic race scrapbook, numerous race artifacts, and memorabilia. Visitors will find a compendium of historic race film, photographs, and view oral history stories as told by founding skiers, longtime volunteers, and past Birkie staff. With something for all ages, youth can reenact the Birkebeiner legend by donning historic replica costumes in front of a diorama of the Norwegian mountains.
Throughout the museum, visitors will find an emphasis on the stories and legacy of Wise, the Birkebeiners, and the legendary Cable to Hayward Birkie race through the years. The Birkebeiners are popularly celebrated for having escorted the two-year-old Haakon Haakonsson, an heir to the Norwegian throne, to safety from Østerdalen to Trondheim, a long and perilous journey through the treacherous mountains and forests of Norway. Their determination is commemorated each year at the American Birkebeiner Ski Marathon as skiers recreate their courageous journey.
A mere sample of the many unique items in the museum include:
The Tony Wise Museum of the American Birkebeiner has received generous support from Johnson Bank, the Johnson Family Foundation, Marc Hodler Foundation of the International Ski Federation, Walmart, the Birchleggings Club, and more than 350 individuals. In addition, many memorabilia items were gifted to the museum from the family of Tony Wise, past Birkie champions, founding skiers, citizen skiers, and from gracious donors far and wide. Without their support the museum would not have been made possible.
Museum Founders – those who give $100 or more – will be permanently recognized in the Museum and receive a certificate and a beautiful embroidered patch. Help us reach our goal of 500 Founders.
Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm
Saturday, 10am to 4pm
There is no admission fee required to experience the museum.
The Tony Wise Museum of the American Birkebeiner is located in the front portion of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation offices and adjoins the retail store at 10527 Main Street, Hayward, WI, 54843
Should you be interested in a group tour, please contact email@example.com to make advance arrangements. Questions? Call 715-634-5025.
Become a Docent of the Tony Wise Museum of the American Birkebeiner. Sign up HERE!