This past Sunday I skied my first ever Birkie Tour. Due to a series of fortunate events (namely Nationals being in Michigan and snow arriving for much of the Midwest) I spent a good chunk of December and January at home. Not only did this mean a lot of time with my family, pets, and my own closet, but it also allowed me the chance to reconnect with a lot of my supporters in the Midwest. It is really easy to get wrapped up in traveling from point A to point B in a rush of packing bags, remembering passports, forgetting time zones, and of course ski racing. Because of that, it is always nice to stop in one spot for awhile, reset, and get pumped for the next adventure.
When I found out I was going to be able to help out at the Birkie Tour as an ambassador I was thrilled. Not only did I get to help out at a Birkie event, but I would get to meet hundreds of people who shared my values, happiness, and excitement for the sport. It was decided that I would be an ambassador for the 23 Kilometer loop, skiing along with and talking to the many participants. I didn’t know exactly what to expect, but as soon as I arrived I was greeted with my own “ambassador” bib, a group of other Birkie ambassadors for the day, and a lot of very excited Packer’s fans who doubled as ski enthusiasts.
The official start time for the 23K loop was 8:30. With my mom as my own personal paparazzo I headed out from the trail head. The first couple Kilometers I didn’t say much. I just skied in the accordion of skaters being careful not to step on anyone’s poles. It wasn’t until I passed an older man classicing that I asked my first question: “How’s the kick out there today?” He turned and gave me a big smile, and told me he had nothing to complain about. I skied with him for the next couple of kilometers until we got to an intersection and we caught up to some of his friends. I asked if I could take their picture, and two of the three men turned and gave me smiles. After waiting a couple seconds for him to turn around he said, “Oh, but this is my good side.”
A little while later I caught up to a woman skating. I asked her how she was doing and she replied, “Medium.” I asked why she was only medium, and she explained she had been having some sinus problems and hadn’t been able to train or breathe very well for the past couple weeks. Moving right along she asked me how I got to be an ambassador. I told her that I was a professional skier from Vermont, and had been lucky enough to fall in line with the Birkie Foundation. Stuck on the professional part of skiing, she asked if I was racing the Birkie. I told her that unfortunately I wasn’t, but I would be racing all around Europe starting in Kazakhstan. She looked at me with big eyes. “Oh! Well first off congratulations, how exciting. But be careful! Your parents must be worried sick!”
I then skied up on a man who was considering competing in his first Birkie this year. He asked me if the hills on the Birkie race got any harder than the hills we were currently skiing. I told him that if he could handle today’s hills, then he would have no trouble completing the whole Birkie. With a big relieved smile he said he just didn’t want to fool himself. As I was skiing off he called out to me. I turned around and he gave me the warmest “Thanks.” I told him good luck with the Birkie, and that he was going to do great.
After crossing the final line with a father and son duo, I went inside to get some chili. I ended up sitting down next to man who loved the Birkie so much he flew in from California every year to do the race, and had even bought a cabin in Hayward to train. He was so excited about my upcoming travels, and said he was going to start scanning the results for my name.
It doesn’t take a lot to connect with people. Skiing on Sunday with the Birkie Tour reaffirmed this. All I had to say to get a smile from an individual was “hello.” It was such little effort that I started asking almost every person I passed how they were doing, how often they skied, and how many Birkies they’d completed. Because I knew we had this shared love for skiing, I knew we would have something to talk about.
I left the Birkie Tour feeling rejuvenated. There are so many interesting people in the world, and what better way than skiing alongside them to make new friends is there? I can’t think of any. The community, the support, and the camaraderie the Birkie brings with it is unlike any other. So thank you for letting me be your ambassador, I am so lucky!
Thanks for reading! If you want more information on my afternoon with the Hayward Nordic Kids, check out my blog at Annie-Hart.com. Also, if anyone happens to see a pair of 187 Fishcer Carbonlite skate skis, mine went missing at the finish of the Birkie Tour. They were my favorite skate skis, and I’d love to have them back. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’ve seen them! And have a happy Wednesday evening!