Two-Year Lease Allows Access to Trails and Infrastructure for Events & Snowmaking
Hayward, WI (July 01, 2019) The year was 1973 when 35 skiers left Lumberjack Bowl in Hayward, WI, bound for Telemark and the finish line in the first-ever American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. For years, the Telemark property and trails, located east of Cable, WI, were at the center of Birkie events. While the race started with humble beginnings, the American Birkebeiner “Birkie” has since grown to become North America’s largest and most prestigious cross-country ski race. Given the legacy of the Birkie race and its historical connection to Telemark, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) is pleased to announce the recent signing of a two-year lease agreement to once again utilize the trails found on the 713-acre Telemark property.
The Telemark trails and property are adjacent to the American Birkebeiner ski race’s permanent start line and Trailhead venue, the gateway to the award-winning American Birkebeiner Trail. With over 100,000 visitors to the Birkie Trail each year, the area has become a mecca for silent sports enthusiasts. The Telemark property boasts approximately 30-kilometers of cross-country ski trails, 15-miles of mountain bike and snowshoe trails, and welcomed an estimated 55,000 users last year alone. Restoration work by ABSF trail staff has already begun on some of the Telemark property trails.
Another consideration in signing the lease is directly related to the ABSF’s snowmaking efforts. In 2018, after a successful capital campaign, the ABSF began their initial investment in snowmaking infrastructure, completing an over 2-kilometer manmade snow loop at the American Birkebeiner Trailhead. During this process, the ABSF worked collaboratively with property owners to utilize the well on the Telemark property. The lease allows access to additional water sources for snowmaking efforts and toward guaranteeing a Birkie race even in low snow years. Additionally, last year alone, 9 Birkie events utilized a portion of the Telemark trail system. Whether skiing, running, or biking, the Telemark trails have enhanced various Birkie event race courses as they connect to the current American Birkebeiner Trail system. With continued use of the property planned for future Birkie events and additional snowmaking infrastructure placed on the Telemark property, the ABSF Board of Directors determined it was prudent to sign the two-year lease.
While the ABSF is focused on developing the trails for future events and for use by silent sports enthusiasts, the two-year lease also contains an option to purchase the Telemark property. As such, the ABSF has begun a feasibility study, conducted by internal staff and with key stakeholders, to explore, research, and examine future possibilities for the greater property. This study will help to determine whether purchase of the Telemark property is viable and what the future could hold for this storied parcel of land. Any possible future development, beyond restoring the trails, would require the involvement of future partners, supporters, and would not be piloted by the ABSF.
“The Telemark property has been at the heart of the Birkie since the race’s inception. Having the opportunity to once again utilize the trails, to confidently install snowmaking infrastructure, and to make venue improvements is very exciting,” said Ben Popp, Executive Director, American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation. “While we don’t know what the future holds for this historic property, we do know that having access to the land will help the ABSF increase our ability to host events of all levels, to support an active outdoor lifestyle, and to ensure the long-term viability of Birkie events for years to come.”
While the property has many challenges including a shuttered and dilapidated lodge, overgrown trails, and old infrastructure, at their core the former world-class trails are second to none in providing excellent experiences for silent sport enthusiasts. The ABSF’s focus in signing the Telemark property lease is to gain access to the trails, the property’s infrastructure, and to create potential event spaces for skiers, runners, bikers, and others who utilize the area trail systems. The ABSF is committed to creating outdoor experiences that inspire and enable a healthy, active lifestyle for the entire community.