Way back at week “L” in November I was ski racing in West Yellowstone, Montana. My mom was out on the trails and ran into 27 time Birkie finisher Lori Steinbach who hoped to see Jacque Lindskoog as the feature. I had already committed to the Loppet Nordic Foundation, but promised Lori I’d be back with women of the Birkie for week W. Flash forward four months and I’m in the Czech Republic racing at Slavic Cups and putting together this week’s countdown. I emailed Lori to ask her to tell me about what it means to be a woman of the Birkie, and she gave me her answer plus so much more. Read on to hear about where being a woman of the Birkie has taken Lori, other organizations that help to empower women, and other women of the Birkie. This is just one woman’s story. I’d love to hear more. So shoot me an email at annehart.smsT2@gmail.com if you have other women you think should be featured, or if you yourself have a story. Also, don’t forget to check out the Fast and Female taking place on February 22 at Hayward High School from 10-12:30. Sign up your girls ages 9-19 at http://www.fastandfemale.com/programs/fast-female-champ-chat-birkie-hayward-wi/ , it’s sure to be a great time.
Age Group awards, 10K Skate, Craftsbury Vermont. (L-R) Nancy Bauer, Lori Steinbach, Abett Icks
How did you get involved and become a woman of the Birkie?
My story started in my first year of teaching high school math in 1973 (Egads – 42 years ago!) when two male science teachers planned to form an Outdoors Club and go “Up North” during semester break to try this new sport – cross country skiing. Well – they needed a female chaperone! Aha – the newbie on the staff!!! We all rented skis – with three pin bindings – donned knickers and knee-socks, or sweatpants, and skied on snowmobile trails. I was hooked! To ski in the woods, without a lift ticket, and enjoy the beauty of winter nature in solitude.
So – my summer biking buddies decided to try this thing – the Birkebeiner. “WHAT – ski with a CROWD of people?” My first registered year it was delayed 2 weeks due to warm conditions. Aha – I was off the hook!
We signed up the next year – I finished – proud to wear the engraved medal #14681 (the first year medals used to be engraved on the back!). And here it is – 27 Birkies later! I did classic style my first 10 Birkies, then switched to the “faster”, newer skate ski for 10, and now am back to classic due to the flow of the separate Birkie Classic trail.
How has being involved with the Birkie shaped your life?
The Birkie has been instrumental in establishing my lifestyle. I have a motto to live by: “It is easier – and more FUN – to STAY in shape, than it is to GET in shape. Be FIT year round!!”
Where else has the Birkie taken you?
My first year of retirement I went to Austria in October with Tom Duffy to participate in his Dachstein Glacier Ski Camp. Our coaches were two former Birkie Champions who live there – Rudi Kapeller and Manfred Nagl. The beauty of the area and the thrill of skiing with European national ski teams inspired me to return for seven different years – and establish a personal friendship with Rudi and Manfred.
The next intrigue was the Worldloppet – traveling to foreign countries, meeting foreign people – and skiing!! WOW!! At the ski expo in Japan for the Sapporo Worldloppet I heard two guys call out, “Hey, Lori!” Hans and Lars are from Finland who I met at the Transjurassienne in France three years earlier. Now that is special!
Meeting the director of the Estonian Tartu Marathon at a Worldloppet reception in Austria for the Dolomitenlauf. . .and having her present my medal and certificate for Master Skier for completing 10 Worldloppet races at the Engadin in Switzerland last March, 2014.
Traveling and hiking in Patagonia, Argentina this past October and upon arriving in Ushuaia meeting Pablo Valschoff, the director of the newest Worldloppet race – after my email title to him of “USA WL Skier”
The other ski arena of intrigue has been participating in both World and National Masters events at differing venues in the US and Europe. . . .all offering age group competitions, and another outlet for travel and a chance to see the world on skis! How inspirational to see the 85+ category of skiers. . .and FUN to reconnect with friends made. I look forward to seeing at every World Masters my friend from Greenland who skied next to me in a relay in Italy. The worldwide family of ski friends!
This is what the Birkie is all about. Thank you, (Birkie founder) Tony Wise, for establishing the WorldLoppet. He made it possible to not only ski across the country, but also to ski around the world!!!
What other organizations beyond the Birkie do you see as empowering women in sport?
Ski and Tea – headed by Linda Cook – is a support group for ALL women to follow their aspirations and dreams. What JOY for some to ski their first 10K. . .or Korte. . .or Birkie. ALL are Champions! Also Fast and Female – an inspirational camp for young girls directed by women ski champions to show them their potential and empowerment through sport.
Who are some other women of the Birkie?
Caitlin Compton Gregg ( along with husband Brian) are giving back to the children in their inner city neighborhood by introducing them to sports, having the children wear their race bibs from the Birkie and Olympics, running their first 1K race. What a JOY to see the smile on their faces and the sparkle in their eyes.
Amy Rowley – the enthusiastic, go-getter, spokesperson from the Birkie office for the Capital Campaign fund – always with a SMILE on her face and PEP in her speech.
Barb Klippel – an inspirational matriarch of the Birkie who persevered through set-backs to earn her Purple bib and entry into the Birchleggins Club.
And, of course – Jacque Lindskoog – the 1st female Birkie skier and one of the Founders. . . .still toeing that start line today.
This is what the Birkie is all about – the passion for skiing, its inspirational people, and the enthusiasm in the ski world of friends!
SKIYA at the Birkie!
Thanks Lori! Hard to believe it’s almost Birkie time once again. Make sure you have those skis waxed and your body fueled!