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About Us

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated, as reflected in the Birkie Mission Statement, to hosting one of the world's best cross country ski events, the American Birkebeiner, maintaining one of the nation's premier recreation trails, and promoting healthy lifestyles for people of all ages. The American Birkebeiner is made up of several events in addition to the 50K and 54K Birkie marathon races and the 23K Kortelopet race (the second largest ski race in North America).

The late Tony Wise who looked to his Norwegian heritage and patterned the ski marathon after the Birkebeiner Rennet, which had been held in Norway since 1932, founded the American Birkebeiner in 1973. Both events honor and re-create a historic Norwegian event when in 1206, two warrior soldiers, called "Birkebeiners" because of the birch-bark leggings they wore, skied infant Prince Haakon to safety during the Norwegian civil war. Prince Haakon subsequently became King of Norway, and the Birkebeiner soldiers became a Norwegian symbol of courage, perseverance and character in the face of adversity.

Over the years many thousands of people, both elite and "Citizen Skiers," have enjoyed the thrill of personal triumph crossing the finish line of the Birkie and earning their prestigious award medallions.

In 1978 Wise formed the Worldloppet League, which now unites the American Birkebeiner with 15 of the world's most prestigious ski marathons. In the trying days of the Cold War, Wise envisioned the exhilaration of marathon skiing as a conduit to international understanding. Today, skiers from many nations come to America to ski the Birkie. The Tony Wise Legacy Fund seeks to perpetuate his vision by creating an endowment to further the events and programs of the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation.

The American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation was formed in 1985 when Tony Wise lost control of the event in the bankruptcy of his Telemark Resort property and other interests. Since then the ABSF has endeavored to preserve his legacy in the Cable/Hayward area.

Promotion of cross country skiing and protection and maintenance of the American Birkebeiner Trail are two of our primary goals. Each year our Young Skier Fund awards thousands of dollars in grants to youth skiing organizations throughout the region and nation to foster young people making skiing part of their life.

Our Trail Fund was established to raise money to help offset our annual $130,000 trail budget. This money is used to pay for mowing and grooming the trail, repairing erosion, removing fallen trees, and providing signage throughout the year.

Please consider a donation into these funds. All donations to the ABSF are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.

American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation is a membership organization. Memberships are annual for individuals, families and businesses. The Foundation is lead by a 13 member Board of Directors with three permanent and several part time and seasonal staff. The three permanent staff includes an Executive Director, Director of Race Operations and an Office Manager.

The ABSF office is located in downtown Hayward, WI. The Board of Directors is elected to staggered, three- year-terms by Foundation membership at the Annual Meeting held each August.

We invite you to join skiers, the ski industry, and dedicated people in the Cable/Hayward area and the nation in perpetuating these uplifting ski events and the most life affirming sport on snow.

If you would like to stay up to date on the latest information about the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation and its events click here to subscribe to our Carpe-Skiem e-newsletter.